Bonn The Rhein-Sieg (VRS) and the Stadtwerke Bonn (SWB) public transportation companies want to improve their services for passengers. One example is that those who have purchased season tickets can ask for a refund during the corona pandemic.
As of May 1, the Rhine-Sieg Transport Association (VRS) is responding to changes in local transport which have been brought on by the pandemic. They want to improve services for customers, with all the local transport companies participating, including Stadtwerke Bus und Bahn (SWB). Here are the details about what is planned:
- Summer vacation: “Abokunden” (customers who hold public transport passes) can take along one additional adult and three children up to the age of 14 free of charge on their passes from July 3 to August 17. During this time, zone-bound “Abotickets” are valid for travel in the entire VRS network area from the Siebengebirge to Cologne or to the Oberbergisches. As VRS department manager Sascha Triemer explained, the initiative is being repeated as a thank-you for customer loyalty. Negotiations are still underway as to whether the summer initiative will extend to the whole of NRW.
- Refund rules: Under the new rules, as of May 1, customers who hold passes can apply for a refund without further justification if they do not use the ticket. This means that anyone who is not currently dependent on buses and trams, because she or he is working exclusively or largely from home during the pandemic, can send the ticket to the public transport company (in Bonn, SWB). Then it is no longer valid. The refunds are based on the number of days and the ticket value, according to VRS. This process applies to both permanent tickets purchased individually at ticket machines and for season tickets. As VRS spokesman Holger Klein told the GA, job tickets are excluded from this new offer. "This is because with job tickets, the contract is made between the transport companies and the employer, not with the private individual." SWB said the refunds also do not apply to bulk tickets and student tickets.
- Trial offer: As of now, new customers can take advantage of a trial offer, with the possibility of opting out made simpler. The cancellation period is reduced to one month as part of this offer. Also, according to the VRS, the difference charged outside of this promotion is omitted.
- Job ticket: As of May 1, the transport association is making companies a new offer. So far, the so-called solidarity model has applied to companies with 50 or more employees. The employer must buy job tickets for the entire workforce, regardless of whether all employees use them or not. This is a big hurdle for many companies. The obligation to purchase this amount of tickets would be eliminated as part of a two-year pilot project. In addition, the tickets would no longer be valid in the entire VRS area, but - correspondingly lower in price - only from home to the workplace. "Companies in which at least ten people purchase the job ticket can participate," says the VRS.
Need for new local transport solutions
Since October 2019, the city of Bonn, the Rhine-Sieg district and the Future Mobility Network NRW of the Rhine-Sieg Transport Association (VRS) have been trying to encourage commuters to switch from their cars to bicycles and local transport with the “Jobwärts” program. The idea of “Jobwärts” is to appeal to employers and find solutions to make this possible.
According to the city, people's desire for a "mobility turnaround" is palpable. In addition to Deutsche Post DHL, Telekom, the University of Bonn and the University Hospital, which have been involved in the project from the beginning, more than 20 employers are willing to participate. Despite the pandemic, in 2020 just under 1,200 employees would have accepted offers from “Jobwärts” and come to work by bike or bus and tram. Eighty percent of the participants surveyed said they considered their chosen mode of transport to be a realistic alternative to the car.
Originally, the federal government had funded the “Jobwärts” program. However, funding under Lead City, a test run for improving the air quality in cities, expired at the end of 2020. The city, district and Future Network extended “Jobwärts” with their own funding until the end of 2022, partly because of the pandemic. By then, 60 employers and 70,000 employees in Bonn and the surrounding area are expected to have participated in the program. The city is already taking stock of the fact that the reduced demand for local transport during the pandemic and the greater interest in home offices will have to lead to alternative models.
(Orig. text: Philipp Königs / Translation: Carol Kloeppel)