THE German Aerospace Centre’s (DLR) Institute for Transport Research has found that the introduction of the 9-euro monthly ticket offering unlimited regional rail travel between June and August had as big an impact on passenger numbers as the Covid-19 pandemic, but in the opposite direction.

The institute conducted a survey of 2500 people between the end of June and beginning of July, as part of a wider study into the effects of the pandemic on travelling habits. Nearly 50% of respondents said they travelled without using a 9-euro ticket, while 28% used the ticket, 20% travelled on existing season tickets which were subsidised as part of the initiative, and 4% planned to buy a 9-euro ticket.

The study is the sixth of a series examining which transport modes were used before, during and after the pandemic. The first four surveys, which interviewed the same 1000 respondents, took place between April 6 - 10 2020, June 29 - July 8 2020, November 25 - December 4 2020, and April 28 - May 10 2021. The fifth and sixth surveys, conducted between November 25 - December 8 2021 and June 27 - July 11 2022, were expanded out to 2500 respondents to gather a sufficient number of cases for relevant subgroups.

“The 9-euro ticket shows that mobility behaviour can be changed with a simple and clearly understandable offer, low prices and the extended nationwide validity,” says DLR Institute for Transport Research director, Professor Meike Jipp. “At least in the summer months, the trend caused by the pandemic to increase car use has been stopped. For this change to continue longer-term and to include more everyday journeys in addition to leisure time, we need to have good and equally simple public transport services in the future.”

DLR says 98% of respondents had heard of the 9-euro ticket due to the level of publicity around it, although a third said they had no plans to make use of the offer. Respondents were more likely to use the ticket in future when they had already used it in the past.

While regular season tickets are disproportionately used by young, highly educated people working or studying full-time, users of the 9-euro ticket more closely reflected the average population in terms of age, education, occupation and gender.

“So we can say that the 9-euro ticket has reached the middle of society and is therefore an offer for everyone,” says DLR project manager, Dr Claudia Nobis.

This is less the case with the location of ticket users, with those using the pass more likely to live in larger cities, while those who didn’t plan on using the ticket were more likely to live in rural areas.

There has also been a visible effect on transport habits, with half of respondents with a 9-euro ticket not regularly using public transport before the pandemic. Most respondents not using a ticket had not used public transport before the pandemic or in the six months before the campaign period. “A certain amount of previous experience with public transport is an important factor,” Nobis says. “Frequent and even sporadic use of public transport encourages the purchase of a 9-euro ticket. For people who never use public transport, however, the entry barrier is very high.”

At the time of the survey, 36% of respondents had already used the 9-euro ticket for one to four journeys; 20% had made five to nine journeys; and 35% had made more than 10 journeys. Only 8% had bought the ticket but not used it yet.

The ticket was most used for leisure travel, with 60% of respondents using it for excursions and leisure activities at the weekend, 34% for leisure travel during the week and 21% for holiday travel. The ticket was also frequently used for private tasks and shopping trips.

The ticket played a smaller role for commuters, with 18% using it to travel to their place of work or study, meeting the federal government’s goal of easing the cost of travel  in the face of rising fuel prices.

While the 9-euro ticket could be used throughout Germany, 75% of respondents had stayed within 50km of home when using it, while 25% used it exclusively for longer distances.

Long-term effects

While the 9-euro ticket has had a major impact on travel over the summer, it may have less of a long-term effect with only 9% of respondents with a 9-euro ticket expecting to use public transport more often after the offer comes to an end on August 31. Another 38% expected their public transport use to remain the same, 40% wanted to travel less and 14% didn’t expect to keep using it at all.

“It shows that the more journeys a person has already made with the 9-euro ticket, the more they want to use public transport after the ticket ends,” Nobis says. “This suggests that the low-use users have specifically purchased the 9-euro ticket for certain journeys that will no longer be made or will be made by other means of transport after the campaign expires.”

The overall concept of the ticket was well received, with 70% of respondents thinking it was an attractive offer with clear and easy to understand conditions. More than 60% said the ticket was a good reason to leave the car at home, but only 39% said they would now use public transport more often than before.

Only 25% said they were not interested in the 9-euro ticket as they would not use public transport anyway. The promotion received the highest approval among those who hold a 9-euro ticket, followed by passengers holding normal season tickets.

DLR says that specifically among those who purchased a 9-euro ticket, there is no willingness to buy a regular season ticket at the normal price, which means further use of public transport is dependent on the price point. 41% of 9-euro ticket holders said that they would only use public transport during the promotional period.