The secret to the success of digitalizing public transport in Germany

Apr 21, 2021

Today, residents of big German cities prefer to use public transport. Over the past fifty years, the number of bus, tram, and subway passengers in the country has quadrupled. The German authorities are interested in such positive dynamics because this improves the ecological situation. We will tell you about the latest digital solutions in German urban transport, which have made it popular and recognized by local citizens.

A few facts about transport in Germany

Over the past ten years, budget contributions from fares have grown by 35%. Statistics say that thanks to the use of public transport, the number of trips by private cars in Germany has decreased by more than 20 million per day, and one regular bus replaces 17 passenger cars.

An important fact for the environment: this way, carbon dioxide emissions are reduced by 1.8 kilograms per kilometer. And if we take into account the total length of roads in the country, we get a tremendous figure.

According to Andreas Scheuer – the Minister of Transport and Digital Infrastructure of the Federal Republic of Germany – in 2021, the German authorities are planning to increase the amount of investments in the development of public transport from 332 to 665 million euros. Within the framework of the “Program for the protection of the environment 2030”, starting from 2025, investments in this sector will amount to 2 billion euros annually. Part of the budget will also be allocated for innovative ecological software solutions for urban transport.

Trends towards digitalization

Public transport digitalization opens up new opportunities for its development and an increase in the flow of passengers. Germany has an alliance of public transport companies and organizations –  Fraunhofer – established for studying urban transport. The main goal of the alliance is to identify areas for the development of innovative software technologies for transport.

Thanks to the joint efforts of the alliance members and cooperation with international initiatives, Fraunhofer can now offer relevant solutions: programs for navigation, ticket purchase automation, and full passenger support. Let’s talk about where the technologies developed with the support of this association are applied.

Navigation technologies for public transport

Sometimes tourists and even city residents find themselves in an unfamiliar area and can’t immediately figure out which bus or tram they need. To solve this problem, there are special applications that provide passengers with the necessary information about transport, its route, or changes in the schedule. Such programs use digital navigation. The simplicity of the apps is captivating, which makes people prefer public transport over private cars or taxis.

Among such solutions is the Smart Way technology that provides passengers with real-time information about the movement of vehicles. Another development is Guide2Wear that presupposes users wearing special devices such as smart watches or glasses – this makes it easier for passengers to interact with the application, the task of which is to navigate and accompany them during trips by train.

It is also worth mentioning RadAR+ – a software solution for transport, created with the support of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. This mobile transport assistant uses the technology of Augmented Reality. The app with special glasses helps to correctly identify the lines of the metro transfer, tell the user how long it will take to get to the next stop, and in which direction to go to the departure terminal at the airport.

Ticket purchase automation

One of the solutions for improving the level of passenger comfort is the automation of ticket purchasing.

Paper tickets are giving way to electronic tickets with a more convenient payment process. In addition, Germany has been using electronic tariff management for several years. Districts and suburbs of big cities are divided into zones, and the fare depends, among other things, on how many zones the passenger crosses, how many transfers they do, and what types of transport they use. If you calculate the fare on your own, you can easily make a mistake. Special software solutions do the necessary calculations for passengers.

In Germany, this technology is used in the eTicket Germany and HandyTicket Germany systems. To get the necessary information, the passenger only needs a smartphone with the appropriate application. The user sees the schedule and changes in traffic and tariffs of public transport throughout the country and can easily and quickly buy tickets for any type of transport online.

Such applications are gaining great importance in today’s conditions when contactless ticket purchase has become a necessity.


The use of digital software solutions makes life easier for passengers and increases their loyalty to public transport. At the same time, the ability to analyze travel data makes it possible to draw conclusions and improve electronic services for even greater user satisfaction.

We can only guess what the main reason for the German love for public transport is: rationality and economy, or a conscious approach to the ecology issue. Most likely, both reasons are valid. Anyway, the number of passengers in buses, trams, and subways is growing every year, which is facilitated by all new initiatives and innovative technologies.


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