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Why this German city plans to make public transport free

A small city in western Germany plans to offer free public transport.

Why this German city plans to make public transport free
A bus in Monheim, North-Rhine Westphalia. Photo: DPA

Citizens in Monheim will be able to ride buses without a ticket from April 2020, regional newspaper the Rheinische Post has reported.

The radical plan is a bid to reduce air pollution by encouraging more people to ditch their cars and take public transport.

The move comes after the German government last year said it was considering free public transport “to reduce the number of private cars”.

Since then, five German cities – Bonn, Essen, Herrenberg, Mannheim and Reutlingen – have been earmarked to offer significantly cheaper transport tickets, with the government poised to subsidize the projects with €128 million to help cover the income shortfall.

SEE ALSO: Your reactions to Germany's 'free public transport' idea

Monheim, which has a population of over 40,000 and sits on the banks of the river Rhine, south of Düsseldorf, will be the first in the state of North-Rhine Westphalia to offer ticketless travel to its residents and visitors.

Officials say an incentive is badly needed: around 55 percent of citizens still use their cars, while only 20 percent get on their bike or take public transport.

The plan comes after the city made five of its bus routes free to customers for a week in November last year. However, RP Online said interest was limited due to confusion over which lines had to be paid for and which were free.

But major Daniel Zimmermann said strong action was needed to combat climate change.

“In our climate strategy, we have committed ourselves to reducing emissions,” he said on Monday during a public presentation of the proposals.

The plan would see the local authorities pay between €2.5 and €3 million to the transport subsidiary “Die Bahnen der Stadt Monheim”, so that customers can get from A to B without a ticket.

Overall, public transport is highly popular in Germany, with the number of journeys increasing regularly over the past 20 years to reach 10.3 billion in 2017.

But critics have warned that it were free, more investment and planning would be needed to accommodate the extra passengers on journeys that are already crowded in busy hubs.

SEE ALSO: German government plays down 'free public transport' plan

What is Germany doing to cut down on air pollution?

Germany is trying to think of ways to reduce air pollution to reach EU air pollution targets.

Air quality has surged to the top of the agenda in recent years due to pressure from climate change activists and Volkswagen's devastating emissions cheating “dieselgate” scandal in 2015, which unleashed a wave of anger at the auto industry, a huge part of German industry.

Meanwhile, environmentalists have brought court cases aimed at banning diesel in city centres, creating polarization on the topic across Germany.

Cities, like Tübingen in Baden-Württemberg, offer initiatives such as free bus travel on certain days of the week in a bid to get people to leave their cars at home.

Yet, according to the Federal Environment Agency, car traffic increased by 18 percent between 1995 and 2017, resulting in more pollutants being emitted than ever before despite cleaner car engines.

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LIVING IN GERMANY

REVEALED: The most commonly asked questions about Germans and Germany

Ever wondered what the world is asking about Germany and the Germans? We looked at Google’s most searched results to find out – and help clear some of these queries up.

Oktoberfest
Hasan Salihamidzic, the sports director of FC Bayern, arrives with his wife at Oktoberfest in full traditional dress. Photo: picture alliance/dpa |

According to popular searches, Germany is the go-to place for good coffee and bread (although only if you like the hard kind) and the place to avoid if what you’re looking for is good food, good internet connection and low taxes. Of course, this is subjective; some people will travel long stretches to get a fresh, hot pretzel or a juicy Bratwurst, while others will take a hard pass.

When it comes to the question on the bad Internet – there is some truth to this. German is known for being behind other rich nations when it comes to connectivity. And from personal experience, the internet connection can seem a little medieval. The incoming German coalition government has, however, vowed to improve internet connectivity as part of their plans to modernise the country.

There are also frequent questions on learning the German language, and people pointing out that it is hard and complicated. This is probably due to the long compound words and its extensive grammar rules, however, as both English and German are Germanic languages with similar words in common, it’s not impossible to learn as an English-speaker.

Here’s a look at some of those questions…

Why is German called Deutsch? Whereas ‘German’ comes from the Latin, ‘Deutsch’ instead derives itself from the Indo-European root “þeudō”, meaning “people”. This slowly became “Deutsch” as we know it today. It can be a bit confusing to English-speakers, who are right to think it sounds a little more like “Dutch”, however the two languages do have the same roots which may explain it.

And why is Germany so boring? Again, probably a generalisation, especially given that Germany has a landmass of over 350,000 km² with areas ranging from high rise, industrial cities to traditional old town villages and even mountain ranges, so you’re sure to find a place that doesn’t bore you to tears.

Perhaps it is a question that comes from the stereotype that Germans are obsessed with strict about rules, organised and analytical. Or that they have no sense of humour – all of these things being not the most exciting traits. 

Either way, from my experience I can confirm that, even though there is truth to German society enjoying order and rules, the vast majority of people are not boring, and I’m sure if you come to Germany you’ll meet many interesting, funny and exciting people. 

READ ALSO: 12 mistakes foreigners make when moving to Germany

When it comes to the German weather, most people assume a cold and cloudy climate, however this isn’t entirely true. While the autumn and winter, especially in the north, comes with grey skies and sub-zero temperatures, Germany can have some beautiful summers, with temperatures frequently rising above 30C in some places.

Unsurprisingly, the power and wealth of the German nation is mentioned – Germany is the largest economy in Europe after all, with a GDP of 3.8 trillion dollars. This could be due to strong industry sectors in the country, including vehicle constructions (I was a little surprised to find no questions posed on German cars), chemical and electrical industry and engineering. There are also many strong economic cities in Germany, most notably Munich, Frankfurt am Main and Hamburg.

READ ALSO: Eight unique words and phrases that tell us something about Germany

Smart and tall?

Why are Germans so tall? They are indeed taller than many other nations, with the average German measuring a good 172.87cm (or 5 feet 8.06 inches), however this may be a question better posed to the Dutch, who make up the tallest people in the world.

Why are Germans so smart? While this is again a generalisation – as individuals have different levels of intelligence in all countries – this question may stem from Germany’s free higher education system or their seemingly efficient work ethic. Plus there does seem to be some scientific research behind this question, with a study done in 2006 finding that Germans had the highest IQ in Europe.

So, while many of the questions posed about Germany and Germans on Google stem from stereotypes, we can confirm that some aren’t entirely made up. If you’re looking to debunk some frequently asked questions about France and the French, check out this article by our sister site HERE.

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