German commuters return to public transport as operators implement health measures
German commuters are slowly returning to public transport following the coronavirus lockdown. The Association of German Transport Companies (VDV) said the positive trend is evident in the number of passengers on buses and trains, which have seen their capacity utilisation levels rise back to 60 to 70 percent nationwide. During the lockdown in March and April, capacity utilisation levels had dropped to around 20 percent of their usual passengers. According to a VDV survey, 78 percent of passengers who used local transport at least three days a week before the lockdown are again using metros and buses just as often. Some 20 percent of those surveyed stated that they were now using buses and trains more often again, due to the health protection measures taken in the public transport sector. The VDV states that while a lot of trust still needs to be regained, the measures taken by the industry are certainly helping to get customers back on board with a better feeling. The continuing “increase in passenger numbers is encouraging, but still far too little for adequate financing as well as for the important contribution that buses and trains are supposed to make to climate protection in transport", the VDV adds.
To boost passenger numbers, the transport companies are partnering with federal and state officials on a publicity campaign to encourage commuters to use public transport in the wake of the lockdown. Face masks are obligatory in German public transport, and wearing one has been a major focus of the campaign. “We want to strengthen trust in local public transport with health protection measures,” said transport minister Andreas Scheuer. “Even in coronavirus times, buses and trains bring people to their destination in a climate-friendly, reliable and, above all, safe way. With our campaign we are raising awareness and providing information on how transport companies and passengers can move forward together in the coronavirus pandemic -- of course only with a mask."
The corona pandemic has upended the transition to sustainable urban mobility around the world. While the fear of infection has put people off public transport and vehicle sharing schemes, it has boosted private cars, cycling and walking. Experts fear the crisis will continue to deter people from taking the metro, trams or buses, which they still consider the backbone of future transportation in our cities.