Leipzig’s public transport promotion: show your driver’s licence!

Public transport Leipzig

Imagine the following: you live in Leipzig (Germany) and every morning you commute to work from Seehausen in the north of the city, all the way through to Connewitz in the south (about 20 kilometres). Normally, you don’t ponder your mode of transportation: you take the car because it’s quick, flexible, and comfortable. But are there any other business mobility alternatives as convenient as your car? Walking is definitely too slow and cycling is uncomfortable on the bumpy roads of Leipzig’s inner city. You finally decide for public transportation, and in Leipzig that can turn out to be a great idea.

Leipzig’s pioneering model to push public transport

The reason for this is that, following this year’s Easter holidays, the city of Leipzig organised a public transport promotion week. Under the slogan “Down with the petrol price insanity – it’s time to switch” everyone with a valid driver’s licence was allowed to use public transport within the city’s limits for free. All you had to do was show your driver’s licence to the conductors and even your spouse and children could travel with you. Mr. Middelberg, CEO of Leipzig’s public transport operator LVB, explained: “as we can provide a real alternative to car commuting we want to tell motorists to leave their car at home and change to public transportation.” [1]

gas prices

The idea came into being as a response to ever-increasing petrol prices, particularly as they went up before vacation periods. But is the incentive big enough to use a potentially cramped tram instead of an air-conditioned car, even when free of charge? The promotion week did give a glimpse of how innovative projects could change people’s mobility choices. During the four-day offer, the LVB registered a substantial boost in public transport use. Mr. Middelberg further claims, “with the promotion we hoped to acquire some new costumers, our main goal, however, was to point out the advantages Leipzig’s public transport has over driving a car.”[2] The advantages, according to Middelberg, are less emissions, fewer traffic jams, and lower petrol prices.

Now is the time for other cities to try out similar innovative offers!

Business mobility must be quick and that’s where public transport can hardly ever score. Waiting for the tram, bus, or underground to arrive, changing at stations, and thereafter covering the final distance by foot all takes its time. Those who are not scared off by these limitations should make use of it. Owning a car is generally expensive and petrol prices are climbing again during the summer holidays due to higher demand. If other cities have an interest in following Leipzig’s promotion they should do it now – it is highly likely to be a success. Whether a one-week promotion can make a change in the long run, however, is questionable. After Leipzig’s promotion had ended, they recorded only a slight increase in overall public transport use in the following weeks. Nevertheless, although tram, underground, and train are not as flexible and comfortable as cars, they will remain an integral part of business mobility.

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