Column by Stefan Meierhans
Where is the vision for public transport?
“Those who have no vision are unable to fulfill great hopes or realize great projects.” This quote from former American President Wilson comes to mind when I think about the price structure of transport today.
Stefan Meierhans, Price Supervisor
Public transport is intended to play an important role in our country: it should make a significant contribution to the required reduction in greenhouse gases and thus become an important pillar of climate policy. As far as I know, no one has yet figured out exactly how this is supposed to work. But that’s exactly what I think is important now with regard to the price structure. Why?
The public transport industry has done important preparatory work in recent months to set the course for the two systems (zone price = francs for time and route price = francs per kilometer) in the future. A uniform tariff system is planned. Bravo!
A pricing system is also planned that digitally calculates what you have driven, retrospectively. The combination of these two elements can open us a whole world of new products with fair prices and discounts. In addition, costs can be saved, which in turn must have a positive effect on prices. There are great opportunities here to acquire new customers.
Unfortunately, there is a big “but” here: like all of us, the public transport industry has to cope with the circumstances that are currently prevailing. Electricity is scarce and the SBB, although they produce a lot themselves, also have to buy in. The electricity is therefore more expensive, and as a result the route prices rise. Who will bear the additional costs? The first reflex, at least with some delay, is to pass it on to customers. I oppose this resolutely, and with good arguments: If the train path prices are increased, then the increase should be borne by those who benefited from the train path price reduction in 2021. It wasn’t the customers, but the customers who ordered it, i.e. the cantons. Or to put it another way: fair play in both directions, please!
But that’s not my point at the moment. This example shows a major problem: On the one hand, public transport needs to be modernized and made fit to carry a large proportion of total traffic. But then you scare off the customers by announcing price increases. So you tear down what you build up at the front. All in all, it is more of a measure management than an orchestrated appearance.
In my opinion, there should be a vision for public transport that can be broken down into binding goals such as “You only pay for the seat you sit on”. Then it would be very clear what serves the goal, goes, what doesn’t serve the goal, you have to find solutions for that. No Hü and Hott, but towards the light. In my opinion, this is not the question of the industry for once, but that is the task of politics: Take over!