Money Side to Transportation

Being a New Yorker I almost started laughing after reading this article about fare hikes here in Hamburg, considering the past year’s worth and beyond of budget woes for the MTA.  Starting the 1st of January 2010 the price for a one way within the entire HVV zone is going up, from 2.70 Euro to 2.75.  5 cents.  Then a day pass for the full area will be an extra 20 cents, with an average increase across the board of 1.8 percent.  Fares went up last year, too, approximately 3.3 percent.

With the fare hikes the HVV and HochBahn are hoping to achieve more frequent bus service as well as implement a few new bus lines.  As already noted there are plans for a new tram, or streetcar line to connect some traditionally underserved neighborhoods.  There’s also currently an extension of the U-Bahn under construction to connect new development in the HafenCity project to the city center.  The Hafen City itself remains fairly controversial.  Other initiatives of the HVV and HochBahn include introducing hydrogen fuel cell buses into the fleet.

A few of the reasons cited in this article in the Hamburger Abendblatt include increasing personel and energy costs.  Fare hikes were also justified by referencing the public transit situation in Berlin, where trains had to be taken out of service due to brake failures and people often don’t know if there are going to be trains that day or not.  The situation in Berlin even makes the L Train look good.  Still, groups here equivelent to say, NYPRG Straphangers in NYC, cite the fact that cost of living in Germany has actually declined as reason to question the necessity of fare hikes.  I don’t understand the economics behind public transit so much so I’m not going to get into it here.  If it interests you feel free to read around Cap’n Transit, Transportation for America, or the Regional Plan Association to name a few resources.  HVV gets 60% of their budget from the fare box.

So what does that mean for the average person here?  Good question.  As a student one of the things included in your semester fees (not the tuition) is a Semester Ticket, good for all public transit within the area covered by the HVV.  Seeing as how semester fees are pretty low (here around 250 Euro) and the student receives the Semester Ticket irregardless of whether or not she/he is going to take transit, it’s pretty good incentive to not drive.  The modal split in Hamburg in 1991 (old data, I know) was as follows:

foot:  22%

bike:  12%

public transit:  21%

car:  45%

Those numbers come from a report by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für technische Zusammenarbeit, who do some interesting urban transit and land use work across Europe.  The modal share for cyclists is apparently currently around just 9%.  All that means really is that those whose primary means of transit is either on foot or by bike won’t be terribly affected.  Taking the train here daily is relatively easy, though there are definitely areas which remain disconnected from the public transit network even as the city spends and spends to help create the Hafen City, so only for those occasional users of HVV the fare hikes don’t mean much, it seems.  One good thing in my opinion is that as fares increase, it would appear there’s a slight increase (expected) in the level of service provided by HVV, which isn’t accompanied by policies that contribute to increased automobile use, unlike the distribution of user fees in New York.  Still, raising the fare means politicians and citizen groups are, theoretically, going to be that much more vigilant that the agency actually comes through on its promises.

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