The Nine-Euro Ticket

A three-month experiment has just ended: the 9€ monthly, valid on all local and regional public transport in Germany. The results are sufficiently inconclusive that nobody is certain whether they want it extended or not. September monthlies are reverting to normal fares, but some states (including Berlin and Brandenburg) are talking about restoring something like it starting October, and Finance and Transport Ministers Christian Lindner and Volker Wissing (both FDP) are discussing a higher-price version on the same principle of one monthly valid nationwide.

The intent of the nine-euro ticket

The 9€ ticket was a public subsidy designed to reduce the burden of high fuel prices – along with a large three-month cut in the fuel tax, which is replaced by a more permanent cut in the VAT on fuel from 19% to 7%. Germany has 2.9% unemployment as of July and 7.9% inflation as of August, with core inflation (excluding energy and food) at 3.4%, lower but still well above the long-term target. It does not need to stimulate demand.

Moreover, with Russia living off of energy exports, Germany does not need to be subsidizing energy consumption. It needs to suppress consumption, and a few places like Hanover are already restricting heating this winter to 19 degrees and no higher. The 9€ ticket has had multiple effects: higher use of rail, more domestic tourism, and mode shift – but because Germany does not need fiscal stimulus right now and does need to suppress fuel consumption, the policy needs to be evaluated purely on the basis of mode shift. Has it done so?

The impact of the nine-euro ticket on modal split

The excellent transport blog Zukunft Mobilität aggregated some studies in late July. Not all reported results of changes in behavior. One that did comes from Munich, where, during the June-early July period, car traffic fell 3%. This is not the effect of the 9€ ticket net of the reduction in fuel taxes – market prices for fuel rose through this period, so the reduction in fuel taxes was little felt by the consumer. This is just the effect of more-or-less free mass transit. Is it worth it?

Farebox recovery and some elasticities

In 2017 and 2018, public transport in Germany had a combined annual expenditure of about 14 billion €, of which a little more than half came from fare revenue (source, table 45 on p. 36). In the long run, maintaining the 9€ ticket would thus involve spending around 7 billion € in additional annual subsidy, rising over time as ridership grows due to induced demand and not just modal shift. The question is what the alternative is – that is, what else the federal government and the Länder can spent 7 billion € on when it comes to better public transport operations.

Well, one thing they can do is increase service. That requires us to figure out how much service growth can be had for a given increase in subsidy, and what it would do to the system. This in turn requires looking at service elasticity estimates. As a note of caution, the apparent increase in public transport ridership over the three months of more or less free service has been a lot less than what one would predict from past elasticity estimates, which suggests that at least fare elasticity is capped – demand is not actually infinite at zero fares. Service elasticities are uncertain for another reason: they mostly measure frequency, and frequency too has a capped impact – ridership is not infinite if service arrives every zero minutes. Best we can do is look at different elasticity estimates for different regimes of preexisting frequency; in the highest-frequency bucket (every 10 minutes or better), which category includes most urban rail in Germany, it is around 0.4 per the review of Totten-Levinson and their own work in Minneapolis. If it’s purely proportional, then doubling the subsidy means increasing service by 60% and ridership by 20%.

The situation is more complicated than a purely proportional story, though, and this can work in favor of expanding service. Just increasing service does not mean doubling Berlin U-Bahn frequency from every 5 to every 2.5 minutes; that would achieve very little. Instead, it would bump up midday service on the few German rail services with less midday than peak frequency, upgrade hourly regional lines to half-hourly (in which case the elasticity is not 0.4 but about 1), add minor capital work to improve speed and reliability, and add minor capital work to save long-term operating costs (for example, by replacing busy buses with streetcars and automating U-Bahns).

The other issue is that short- and long-term elasticities differ – and long-term elasticities are higher for both fares (more negative) and service (more positive). In general, ridership grows more from service increase than from fare cutting in the short and long run, but it grows more in the long run in both cases.

The issue of investment

The bigger reason to end the 9€ ticket experiment and instead improve service is the interaction with investment. Higher investment levels call for more service – there’s no point in building new S-Bahn tunnels if there’s no service through them. The same effect with fares is more muted. All urban public transport agencies project ridership growth, and population growth is largely urban and transit-oriented suburban.

An extra 7 billion € a year in investment would go a long way, even if divided out with direct operating costs for service increase. It’s around 250 km of tramway, or 50 km of U-Bahn – and at least the Berlin U-Bahn (I think also the others) operationally breaks even so once built it’s free money. In Berlin a pro-rated share – 300 million €/year – would be a noticeable addition to the city’s 2035 rail plan. Investment also has the habit to stick in the long term once built, which is especially good if the point is not to suppress short-term car traffic or to provide short-term fiscal stimulus to a 3% unemployment economy but to engage in long-term economic investment.

52 comments

  1. Matthew Hutton

    I went to a train museum this weekend and saw some old rail timetables. The fastest train from Norwich to London in the late 1930s took 2 hours which is comparable to the ~1h45 it takes today. Additionally there was no train to arrive in London for work in the morning.

    However the big change since then is that the service has improved dramatically with a consistent 30 minute frequency taking about 2 hours to do the journey.

    Given the roads are dramatically better that the railways haven’t collapsed is probably mostly down to service improvements.

        • Borners

          The Great Eastern Mainline’s corridor rapid population growth in the 20th century, especially in Essex with the New Towns like Brentwood. Before then it was pretty to just have Colchester, Ipswich in between. I’ll wager express services between London and Norwich have way more stops now a days so much of the speed upgrades from electrification are absorbed there.

          • Matthew Hutton

            That’s true. Current trains are Norwich-Diss-Ipswich-Maningtree-Colchester-London Liverpool Street rather than Norwich-Ipswich-London Liverpool Street for the fastest train in the 1930s.

  2. R. W. Rynerson

    A bonus from improvements to off-peak service is that it tends to create better work shifts, with fewer split days. Filling peak-only work requires costly wages and operators are still stressed.

  3. Martin

    A part of the modest impact may also be that Germany already has quite generous monthly transit passes of different types. The impact would likely have been larger in an environment with higher transit costs.

    The long-term elasticity for car owners shifting to transit is also likely larger, as so much of car ownership is a sunk cost, at least for something like a 5-10 km work commute. For regional travel, one image the mode shift to be more immediate, as variable costs are a larger share of a long car trip. Then Germany only included rather slow intercity trains.

    • Tiercelet

      I think this is really hitting the issue here–the fixed costs of car ownership are so high relative to the marginal costs of any particular trip, even at today’s fuel prices, that I’m impressed there’s much modal shift at all.

      I don’t read German so I can’t dig into the meta-analysis Alon linked to, but the headline 3% reduced car traffic doesn’t really say much of anything about modal split–that could easily just be reduced elective/leisure car trips. Whether that’s consolidating the errands or skipping the beach day or whatever.

      Doing some Google-based back-of-the-envelope stuff, assume a Volkswagen Golf (apparently the most popular model in Germany), which gets something like 30 mpg combined. Gas prices seem to be about 8 Euro/dollar per gallon (we’re about at parity right now) so you get roughly 4 miles per Euro spent. That’s against maybe $50 monthly car insurance, and (assuming a $30k car–an eyeball median for Golf models–financed for 5 years at 2% annually) a $525 monthly loan. So, assuming no repairs or service is required at all, you’d need to drive 2300 miles / 3700 km per month before the fuel costs exceed the fixed costs of car ownership. And of course, the $575/mo sunk cost is completely wasted if you don’t actually use the car; the cost per mile of usage (given that you have the car at all) drops precipitously for low numbers of miles driven, and doesn’t even really start to flatten until you get to around 200 miles/320 km per month, at which point fuel is still only 10% of your total cost of ownership. I’m inclined to think that the more interesting question is not fuel prices but how much parking costs at the areas served by transit–not something you can easily summarize across an entire country but probably already quite steep, no? Certainly more than a monthly rail pass?

      In any case, all of this is consistent with the idea that people who could commute by rail, mostly already did, and the discount was only going to make a little movement at the margins. Also, it’s pretty hard to imagine anybody making a serious long-term change of transit strategy (i.e. reducing car ownership) based on a temporary discount. Maybe a permanent discount would have more effect? But there’s still the parking issue.

      So I think Alon is absolutely correct that this money is better put toward investment–frequency, sure, but also good TOD stuff, expanding networks, improving housing availability near existing stations, etc.

  4. df1982

    What are your thoughts on the proposals for a nationwide 365-ticket (€365 for a year’s travel, valid all over the country, modelled on Vienna)? This seems to strike a balance between encouraging mode shift and retaining fare box revenue. Anecdotally, one of the biggest benefits of the €9-euro was allowing trips that were previously prohibitive due to straddling the boundaries of Verkehrsverbünde, and this would help with that issue.

      • df1982

        What do you mean by “fair”? If you mean enough to cover operating costs, then maybe (Berlin’s monthly ticket is presently around 80 euros, so nearly €1000 a year). Although trying to make public transport profitable is in many cases a receding horizon: the more expensive you make fares, the fewer people use it, so it still won’t be profitable.

        But there is another definition of fair which recognises the tremendous social and environmental benefits of using transit rather than driving, and thus sees government subsidy to fares as acceptable. If the goal is to maximise the use of public transport, then very cheap periodicals are a good idea.

        Nine euros a month might be too low, as Alon argues, since the revenue foregone could well have been better used to increase services. On the other hand as a snap short-term measure it is a lot easier to implement than increasing off-peak frequencies, which needs significant advanced planning to introduce on a nationwide level.

        But long-term I think a euro a day strikes a reasonable balance if it locks people into regular transit usage.

        • Matthew Hutton

          A euro a day would come across as communism that would only benefit the big cities for people in the suburbs and countryside – so politically it probably isn’t viable at that price.

          This is especially true as it would be very expensive to offer service improvements in the countryside and suburbs (such as something similar to https://www.cpre.org.uk/resources/every-village-every-hour-2021-buses-report-full-report/) so that they benefit too.

          €100-150/month with discounts for the poor, young and elderly probably covers enough of the public transport costs that it would be politically viable in my opinion.

          • Alon Levy

            Berlin was breaking even at 86€/month – you don’t need London pricing levels unless you have London’s overbuilt western branches (on 77% more route-length than Paris, and with longer trains, London has slightly less ridership and worse peak crowding on the most crowded segments).

          • Matthew Hutton

            Alon you’re proving my point!

            Presumably by the “overbuilt” lines you mean the metropolitan line beyond Harrow on the Hill towards Amersham? Well all those stations have at least a million riders a year, and many have two million riders a year or more. By mainline standards it’s all very respectable.

          • Alon Levy

            Not just the Met – the western branches are consistently less crowded on other lines too. The Central line’s worst segment is from the east to Central London at rush hour.

          • Matthew Hutton

            Alon you are such a creature of the big city 😄.

            In order to be politically viable in the UK I believe the ticket price would need to achieve the following:
            * Cover the cost of the two main lines to each of Oxford and Cambridge.
            * Cover the cost of the long distance express services from London to Exeter, Cardiff, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

            Now to an extent you could cheat and charge more, perhaps €200/month, to cover peak travel into London – but Oxford only has double and Cambridge triple the passenger numbers of Amersham – and both are much further out from London – plus the intermediate stops are mostly weaker – although they are strong by national standards.

          • Alon Levy

            What do you mean? I grew up in two medium-size cities and live in a third. London and its commuter belt have more people than all three combined (esp. all three combined as of when I lived in the first two).

          • Phake Nick

            @Matthew 1-2 million ridership a year mean about 2700-5400 riders a day. Assume a normal distribution in segment length, this would mean a “transportation density” as used in Japanese rail stat of about 1350-2700. Japanese lines with ridership of this level are usually loss leaders.
            Like the Otaru to Yoichi line segment near Sapporo which have a “transportation density” of 2144, it have already been decided to close down because the cost to continue to run the line by local government is deemed unafforadable and the railway operator do not want to continue suffering this losses amid the upcoming extension of Hokkaido Shinkansen, and it is concluded that such level of passenger can be sufficiently covered by buses.

          • Matthew Hutton

            The West Coast mainline north of Preston probably has ~10 million passenger boardings a year over 300km of track – and a lot of the more rural lines will be lower than that and get an hourly service or so.

            Compared to that the Aylesbury/Amersham/Watford lines getting ~30 million passengers a year over ~60km of track is pretty good.

          • Phake Nick

            @Matthew: The math does not work this way. Assuming all the passengers ride e.g. 20 km on average, 10 million passengers over 300 km track would mean a transportation density of 913, while 30 million passengers over 60 km track would mean a transportation density of 13700.

            10 million passengers over 300 km track is equal to an average of 2 million passengers over 60 km track.

          • Matthew Hutton

            20km as an average is probably reasonable for the Aylesbury/Amersham line. 150km as an average is probably more reasonable for the north west coast mainline. Most people will be coming from at least Manchester if not London or Birmingham – on the north section only it’d probably be an average of 100km or so.

          • Phake Nick

            I have did a quick calculation. Using figure of Japan’s Soya Main Line (https://www.jrhokkaido.co.jp/corporate/region/pdf/8senku/8_04_actionplan.pdf) which I posted in one of the comment of this blog not too long ago, this line being 259km long carried 2.8 million people. As of 2017 the northern part of the line had a transportation density of 352 while southern part is 1452, combining both segments together would result in a transportation density of 675. In 2017 the line earned a total of 1.102 billion Yen, however it cost a total of 6.693 billion Yen to maintain and operate, thus it have a merely 16.5% of fare/revenue recover ratio, and JR Hokkaido also declared this line as one of the line that they will not be able to sustain on their own, although they have recently ruled out abandoning this line as Japanese government is now subsidizing the company’s operation directly and expected to continue until Hokkaido Shinkansen’s opening which will in turn take over as the main money generator to cover these losses.

            3 million passengers a year over 300 km line is actually a bit worse than this example I cited.

          • Phake Nick

            @Matthew I missed your 09:22 comment but yes, only average distance traveled within the specific line section matter in this calculation since it is density that is being calculated

        • Phake Nick

          By fair cost I mean achieving same level of farebox recovery ratio as now.

          A national ticket can allow more longer distance trips which would mean more operating cost than a city ticket, so it would be more sensible for the cost of a national ticket to be higher than a city ticket, even tho most people using such ticket probably aren’t riding across the nation every week.

          As for the benefit of using transit over driving, the ticket even if they are price at ~80-160 EUR a month is still going to be cheaper than driving so the motivation in term of cost already exists. Note that the goal is to reduce car travel not increase transit usage, aka making existing transit riders making more trips is not part of the goal here.

          Short term measure isn’t really that much capable of moving people away from private cars, since those who are owning their own cars have a very big sink cost that would have been simply be wasting if they weren’t using it. If meaningful change is desired then it can only be expected with any significance to come with long term improvement.

          And I won’t say an exact number is good for long term. Like if 365 EUR is determined as a good number in year 2021, then due to inflation and corresponding increase in wage and other costs the equivalent level of fare in 2022 should be 400.

          • df1982

            Alon, by breaking even do you mean that Berlin had 100% farebox recovery ratio? That would be news to me, I thought the BVG had a hefty public subsidy and I wasn’t aware of any European city that managed that (London got close prior to Covid).

          • Alon Levy

            The U-Bahn did, the buses got subsidies. VBB in general operated around two-thirds farebox recovery before corona, including buses and suburban S-Bahn tails.

  5. Matthew Hutton

    A VW Golf even with the new flexible service schedule will still need to service it every 30,000km or two years, so people who drive more than 15,000km a year will need to service it more frequently than other drivers. Plus insurance costs as well as wear and tear to tyres and brakes are typically mileage dependent.

    And if you drive more than approximately 15,000km a year that the car will wear out with miles rather than time so the depreciation becomes mileage dependent too.

    It’s only electric cars where you only service it every 2 years with unlimited miles between services.

    • Tiercelet

      Assuming this is meant to be a reply to my Golf example earlier.

      You’re right that I’ve left out a few somewhat distance-dependent wear-and-tear items; I’d left them out because I didn’t think they substantially alter the (admittedly very very rough) analysis, for two reasons.

      First (and weaker), they aren’t fuel-price-dependent, so to the extent the 9-euro ticket is a response to fuel costs, these are things that car owners probably already took into account.

      More importantly, in low- to moderate-distance contexts, these wear/maintenance issues wind up behaving more like fixed costs. Suppose the car needs to be serviced every 30k km or two years. The flip side of that is until you drive 1250 km per month, your per-km cost is actually decreasing with more km driven. (And realistically, most people after hitting that break-even point probably just delay the service a little bit and keep pushing the per-km costs lower.) Tires and brakes, similarly, wind up aging out before wearing out in the low-distance context (though I won’t attempt to guess-quantify that; I’m just noting that there’s somewhere on the curve where if you don’t drive enough, they make each km more expensive than if you drive more).

      (Aside, on the overall vehicle depreciation issue, I think you’re expecting too little–I’d consider a vehicle to be failing prematurely if it’s totally depreciated below 160k km (and hopefully you’d get a lot more than that)–which is over 10 years at 15k km yearly, probably more toward the “wearing out with time” side of things.)

      Long story short, it’s not unreasonable to suppose that for many car owners, even theoretically distance-dependent maintenance constitutes a wasted investment if the car isn’t used, since their per-km cost also goes up when you drive less. And while I don’t have any sense of how much Germans drive, I do note that 15k km is something like 125% of the total length of the German highway network, so I am assuming most people don’t hit that. And anybody who managed it mainly off commuting would be driving around 60 km per workday, so I imagine they’d be seriously considering mass transit already if they could.

      All that said, realistically I expect people are making habit-driven decisions rather than carefully thought-out cost-benefit analyses for this; and to the extent they’re doing CBA, the costs for commuters are probably dominated by parking, at least for anybody commuting to a place with sufficient jobs density that transit would be a realistic option in the first place. (Though I am of course making a lot of assumptions here and reasonable people may differ.)

      • adirondacker12800

        If you don’t drive someplace your cost per mile/kilometer is 0 because you drove 0.

        • Tiercelet

          Cars aren’t free, even when unused–if you drive 0 miles, your cost per mile is infinite.

          • adirondacker12800

            Driving them isn’t free either.
            If I drive 10,000 miles a year and it cost me $6,000 that is 60 cents a mile. If I drive so much my costs are 50 cents a mile, an 800 mile round trip to Washington D.C. costs $400.

          • Matthew Hutton

            I was just looking at some cars me and my parents own/used to own that I can remember the numberplate for and they did the following distances over the last year I can see details of their mileage on gov.uk (one of them is pre-Covid as they haven’t had two post Covid MOTs yet and the car is still going):
            * 54k km
            * 19k km
            * 17k km
            * 13k km
            * 17k km

            Some of those cars are pretty old too to be fair – but clearly doing 15k km a year isn’t particularly unusual.

          • Tiercelet

            @Matthew Hutton

            Interesting. Thanks for sharing these–as an American, it’s hard for me to estimate European travel habits (you know the joke, that the British pack an overnight bag to go a distance that an American would drive just for tacos).

            To me this suggests that 15k/year isn’t unusual; but also that the yearly mileages are close enough to the break-even that the owners are probably just using the same default 2-year maintenance spacing we were talking about.

            (Thinking it over more, from a manufacturer’s perspective it would kind of make sense to set the maintenance intervals so that the break-even between quoted distance and quoted time is roughly in line with typical usage.)

            In any case, to me this suggests that maintenance/wear aren’t mileage-dependent enough for most drivers to change behavior as a result, though I acknowledge others may have a different read on that.

          • Matthew Hutton

            I mean at a certain amount over the 2 year mileage you’d have to get the car serviced or you’d be in breach of the warranty.

            Sure maybe you wouldn’t a small amount over such as 1-2k km but I still think their marginal miles are more than the fuel cost.

          • Henry Miller

            The cost of an oil change works out to less than a penny per mile if you change on schedule. Tires are about a penny per miles. When the car gets old and other things start breaking so you have non-routine maintenance your costs go up a bit, but then your cost of buying the car is very low as such cars aren’t really worth much. In the end the cost of fuel is the only real variable worth calculating for someone who has a car. The other costs are either fixed – you pay it even if you don’t drive, or are tiny and so not worth talking about.

            If your transport system is good enough that someone can get rid of a car completely (not necessarily all cars – most people live in a family situation where more than one person could own a car if they wanted, so you ca keep one to pull your boat), then we can talk about the substantial savings that public transport can bring. However a transport system good enough that you can get rid of a car is expensive. Such a system needs to run 24×7 with good service all day and enough that you can get someplace during the wee night hours. Such a system needs to give you a lot of options for places to go.

            Be very careful when talking about fares in relation to owning a car. Are you talking about fares to get someone to leave their cars at home, or fares that gets someone to not own a car in the first place. Those are very different numbers.

          • Matthew Hutton

            If you want to argue that for people who drive between 10k km and 15k km a year that for them the marginal cost of the fuel plus a little more for tyres etc dominates their driving cost, sure I agree.

            And if you want to argue that the range is more like 8k km to 18k km then whatever.

            However for drivers who do less than 8k-10k km a year most likely they don’t drive far so public transport is better from that perspective. And for people who do more than 15-18k km a year their driving cost includes the car depreciation as it will depreciate on miles for sure.

          • adirondacker12800

            Such a system needs to run 24×7
            No it doesn’t. The few times a year you can’t get by with one car in the household, you use a cab. Or an an Uber or borrow a car or have the neighbor pick you up or rent one.

          • Matthew Hutton

            Assuming a reasonable level of off peak service, say 6am-10pm Monday to Friday plus 7am-11pm Saturday and Sunday, then I frankly struggle to see what the scenario for needing a second car would be – because to need the second car you’d have to have two members of the household out after 10pm *separately*.

            And sure if you had zero cars then if you were out after 10pm you’d need a taxi, but then you’d need one occasionally anyway – or a rental car – to go to places the public transport was weak to.

          • Henry Miller

            You only need one regular trip that is not reasonable on transit to justify a car, and all the fixed cost of owning a car. If transit runs, but only once an hour it is not useful for anything even though in theory you could make the trip. If transit runs every half an hour it is reasonable for getting to work, but not for going to church (which I try to be no more than 15 minutes early and never late – YMMV). It doesn’t matter how few KM you put on (though on the low end maybe you should get an e-bike), you have to have a car for an trip where you find transit is unreasonable. Once you have the car the only cost of more trips is fuel, which is very cheap.

            Of course the more useful transit is, the more likely it is you can drop one car. If you live in the typical US suburb transit is so useless (if you even have any) that every adult must have a car, and often it is worth having a spare car as backup as well. As transit gets more useful in your city eventually you can own less cars. @Matthew Hutton reduced schedule is good enough for a lot of people, but it leaves out some (this might be a good compromise even will continue to argue for 24×7 service)

          • Oreg

            More than 50% of households in Zurich, Switzerland, have no car. Public transit is excellent, but not 24/7: trams, trains and buses take a 4.5-hour break in the early morning. (There’s a special night service on weekends.) In the rare cases when people still need a car they use car sharing or one of the other options Adirondacker listed above. Taxi fares, however, are the highest in the world.

            New York City has similarly low car ownership, but it’s a different case. It does have 24/7 transit within the city but much worse service outside. Low car ownership predates the availability of car sharing and Uber but taxis were always cheap and abundant (except when it rains).

          • Matthew Hutton

            @Henry – depends what regular is. Depends if it needs a $10 taxi or a $50 taxi with public transport.

            I moved out to the countryside where the public transport doesn’t run late (I.e after 10-11pm) and I’ve only needed a taxi twice in 3 years. Now sure corona has dampened things – but still.

            I do own a car – but after drinking obviously can’t use it.

    • Matthew Hutton

      If public transport is going to be successful it has to work well enough that older middle class homeowners will use it – because those people make up the bulk of the voters.

      If making public transport free just means that the homeless sit on it all day being disruptive to the other passengers that is actively bad – and the middle class older homeowners won’t feel safe and will drive instead.

      And yeah the government should make much more effort to fix their interactions with the poor so they feel less excluded from society but that’s a different issue.

    • Alon Levy

      They’re specifically enrolling welfare recipients, but working-class travel is dominated by the working poor. This is relevant because the other side of that tradeoff – increasing off-peak service – is really important for people working irregular shifts. For non-work travel, there’s the cheap monthly pass; American agencies dislike it and claim that poor people can’t pay for a monthly in advance (hence the love for monthly caps), but workers are rarely day laborers, they get paid biweekly and therefore a biweekly pass has none of the in-advance problem and a monthly pass barely does.

      • Matthew Hutton

        Better off peak service also benefits the elderly, parents with young children and teenagers/young adults.

        • Henry Miller

          Peak only service assumes that everyone is working a strict 9-5 schedule. This is the next step above working poor – you are making enough to live an okay life, but are still on the lower middle class end. Everyone else doesn’t work a fixed shift. The richer will have office core hours, but that means any 8 hours so long as you are here from 10-2 (and there is a lunch break in the middle) – and they think it is normal to leave to watch your kid’s 4th grade choir concert. The richer will tend to pick a shift and stick with it, but it is their choice and they will sometimes stay late or come in early for something. The poorer are working “flexible hours” which really means you know what hours you will work one week in advance, adjust your life to fit.

          Off peak service brings peace of mind even to the few people who still work a 9-5 shift, and is critical to everyone else who doesn’t know for sure what hours they will work.

          Not to mention off-peak service is for anything that doesn’t mean going to work. Ever want to eat (of course you do)? Ever want to go shopping? Do you play in a local sports league? Do you watch the local team play their game? Do you go to concerts? Do like any other form of entertainment I didn’t list? Do you attend church of some sort? Do you have family or friends to visit? If you answered yes to any of this you want good off peak service.

    • Phake Nick

      1. This is added demand, those people weren’t travelling by cars before. So it wouldn’t help shifting the mode.
      2. The amount of people who couldn’t travel as much on transit as they wished to are probably quite limited, let say for example the poorest 1%. The most sensible solution would then be offer transit aids to these people, like I heard that in some cities there are specific transit cards being handed out to those who are receiving government help so that their transit usage cost get rebated. It wouldn’t make sense to subsidize 100% of the population because the poorest group cannot afford the already comparatively low transit usage cost, as doing so would cost the transit agency or government 100x more.

      • Matthew Hutton

        Agreed.

        There’s some controversy in the UK about subsidising energy prices by maintaining them at their summer 2022 levels even though the energy price increases are an issue for most of the bottom ~85% of citizens who aren’t on a particularly favourable fixed deal.

  6. Oreg

    Great article. Just to avoid a misunderstanding: The fuel subsidy that just ended applied only to gasoline and diesel, i.e., cars, whereas the new VAT cut applies only to natural gas, i.e., heating.

    I talked to some German transit activists recently who don’t seem to understand the tradeoff between spending available funds either on such a ticket or on improving the product. They seemed too impressed by the popularity of the nine-euro ticket to give it up.

    It seems to me that the ticket was popular not so much because it was cheap but because is was easy to use. Public transit is difficult if you’re not familiar with it, with zones and different operators and all the different ticket options etc. People enjoyed that they could just hop onto any vehicle and go anywhere without worrying about buying the right ticket. It would be great if that experience could be continued without draining transit funds.

    • Henry Miller

      I have long said local transit operators should use % of riders using an “unlimited rides family pass”. This reduces friction, just get on with whoever of the family is with you, when you want to leave. No reserving a seat (this implies that at peak trains still have 10% of the seats empty, and off peak even more empty seats!). No thinking is it worth spending the cost.

      the above is about local, trips that are less than an hour in total time. Intercity transit is rare enough that most people wouldn’t use it enough to make a monthly pass worth it, and in general people will plan those trips and so having to get a ticket isn’t as big a deal. However even then a flat rate does decrease friction so it might be worth it.

      • Matthew Hutton

        You could make the monthly pass have one free intercity trip a month. That would be enough for all but the most extreme users. I only have ~10 intercity trips a year – mostly by car – especially if you allow rollover.

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