Press release | 30 August 2022 | sn

“Driving Has To Be Made Financially Unattractive”

Research project “Pull & Push – Good & Bad” seeks to identify transportation policy strategies to stimulate the struggling mobility revolution in Germany and achieve a move away from providing subsidies for cars

The mobility revolution is not making headway in Germany. According to the Federal Environment Agency, reductions of only 10 percent in CO2 emissions were achieved in the transport sector in the thirty-year period covering 1990 to 2020. At the start of this period, emissions were at 164 million tonnes, falling by just 18 million to stand at 146 million tonnes in 1990. Last week, an advisory board of climate experts rejected the transport minister’s climate emergency plan as inadequate. “It is doubtful if the German government will achieve its goal of reducing CO2 emissions in the transport sector to a maximum of 85 million tonnes by 2030,” says Professor Dr. Oliver Schwedes, head of the Chair of Integrated Transport Planning at TU Berlin. 

This realization has prompted him to initiate “Pull & Push - Good and Bad” with funding provided by the German Research Foundation. “The project addresses one of the most serious errors of German transport policy, namely the parallel funding of public transport and private cars. This is preventing the progress of the mobility revolution. The simultaneous introduction of a 9-euro ticket for public transport and a discount on gasoline was a classic error of German transport policy. Why should a car driver switch to using public transport if their gasoline is being subsidized at the same time? They won’t,” says Schwedes. This practice of parallel financing has meant that German transportation policy has been treading water for years. The reasons for this are the lack of political courage to consistently combine attractive offers (“pull” measures) designed to persuade car drivers to switch to public transport and trains with regulations that will hurt motorists (“push” measures). Or to put it another way: to make driving financially unattractive. “The times where the car takes precedence over all other forms of transport are over,” he concludes. Until now, politicians have shied away from confronting motorists with this truth. 

There is consensus in the scientific community that attractive offers, such as reduced-rate transport tickets and increased frequency of services, must be flanked by unattractive measures for drivers, such as city tolls, to persuade drivers to leave their cars behind and enable a real mobility revolution to take place. “Unfortunately, this realization has not got through sufficiently to politicians and perhaps the scientific community also has to hold its hand up for having failed to persuade them,” says Schwedes.

The goal of the research project is to use science to explore which pull and push measures politicians can use in combination with each other to achieve the best results as well as which will only serve to cancel each other out. “We want to use all our findings to create action strategies for policymakers as a basis for shaping a sustainable transport policy that benefits climate change rather than motorists.” According to Schwedes, this means abandoning the policy of providing financial incentives for motorists such as tax rebates for commuting, subsidizing diesel and the option for companies to offset the costs of company cars against tax.