Achim Walder

Mobilität für Menschen - Ökomobil in der Zukunft !

Rural Transport 2000
Transport Solutions to Sustain the Rural Economy

International Conference at Mancaster University, Thursday 6th an Fridax 7th April 2000
Differentiated forms of service in Germany, Achim Walder, Krokusweg 1, d-57223 Kreuztal

First of all, a Review

Public transport in Germany is categorised according to the following principle. At the heart of the product range is the traditional public service network, which will have to continue to be provided unchanged for the majority of passengers as a mass transportation system. This can be 'topped up' with services for target groups large enough to warrant the use of buses, for examples express buses, disco buses. In areas where, and at times when, the demand is low it can be supplemented with demand-based services using minibuses, taxis, hire cars et cetera. Special services expand the product range and differentiate it. The types of service are often distinguished by the geographical differentiation of the routes. The main types are: 'Linienbetrieb' (regular services), 'Richtungsbandbetrieb' (semi-fixed route, but with optional deviation within a fixed range from the route) and 'Flächenbetrieb' (flexible service without a fixed itinerary and timetable). The categorisation of transport services in Germany can be visualised in a table. The following categories are distinguished:

fixed semi-fixed on-demand
regular PT §42
- bus, train, ship
- line taxi
- neighbourhood bus
- line service with rented car
exempted school service organised carpooling·
- occasional carpooling·
- neighbourhood carpooling
on-demand bus §42
flexible service with taxi-sharing
- 'fork'-service
- holiday taxi-sharing·
- reservation taxi-sharing
- event taxi-sharing
allocated carpooling
transport associations·
- passenger car, bus
arranged carpooling
- event carpooling·
- kiss-and-ride
flexible PT
- express service
- quick service
- intermittent service
- telescope service
- combination service
occasional transport
- taxi §47
- rented car §49
- rented bus §49
- telephone bus §42
- women-night-taxi
- connection taxi
- association taxi
- pub taxi
- bus journey §48
spontaneous carpooling
- hitchhiking
special PT §43
- school, market,
theatre service
- disco bus
- commuter service
individual transport
- passenger car, motor, bicycle
- car-sharing
- park-and-ride
- bike-and-ride
- rented car
special organised services pedestrian
professional professional non-professional

This categorisation is based on differences concerning spatial, temporal and concession aspects. The concessions are established in various sections (§) of the PBefG (Law on Passenger Transport in Germany).

An Overview: Differentiated forms of service

The following form of service which have been realised in Germany: Ruftaxi, Theater-Sammeltaxi, Frauen-Nachttaxi, Linien-Taxi, Anruf-Linien-Taxi, Anruf-Sammel-Taxi, Ruf-Bus and BürgerBus.

Ruftaxi (connection taxi)

This is a service provided by almost all bus companies. The bus driver orders a taxi by radio to pick up the passenger at the bus stop of his / her choice. The bus company does not charge a fee for this service, and the passenger pays the normal taxi fare. Usually this service is not merely restricted to late night journeys, but is available all day. Experience has shown that an all-day service is considerably more lucrative. In Hannover between June 1986 and April 1987 6,500 passengers made use of this service, 57 % of them women.

Theater-Sammeltaxi (theatre taxi-sharing)

The introduction of theatre taxi-sharing in Solingen in 1978 can be seen as the start of a differentiated local public transport service. It was the first new utilisation of taxis in local public transport and must therefore be regarded as the forerunner of AST. This service is now provided in man towns. Usually, journeys need to be booked and tickets bought during the interval. Then the demand can be ascertained. This type of service is often initiated and financed by the cultural authorities of the town. In Solingen 83 % of the passengers are women, 70 % over 50 years. Considering the positive uptake of such taxi-sharing services which are tailored to demand, it is surprising that the bus companies do not operate theatre taxi-sharing schemes of their own.

Frauen-Nachttaxi (FNT) (women-night-taxi)

Various towns have experimented with women-night-taxis since 1984. Responding to objectively and subjectively perceived dangers that women are exposed to at night at bus stops and when walking home, various pilot schemes were introduced, providing night-taxi services exclusively for women at reduced fares. The example of Bielefeld, where in April 1986 the 200,000 DM subsidy was used up after two and a half weeks was the most publicised of these experiments.
In the town of Maintal near Frankfurt women and girls over 14 can pre-book a night-taxi for a standard fare of 2.50 DM. The service operates until 5 a.m. In Flensburg after 10 p.m. young persons accompanied by an adult can use the women-night-taxi for 3.00 DM. Other potential user groups, such as senior citizens, are now also calling for a night-taxi service.
This form of service, however, cannot cover its costs, as is demonstrated by all model calculations and visibly by the first Bielefeld pilot scheme. Problems also arise because women-night-taxis contravene public transport obligations contains in the PBefG (Passenger Transport Act) and also the principle of equality defined in the German Constitution.

Linien-Taxi (route taxi)

On routes with few passengers and narrow roads, bus companies use so-called route taxis. Taxi firms are contracted to operate routes to a fixed timetable and at public transport fares. Mostly cars with 8 seats and sliding doors are used.

Anruf-Linien-Taxi (ALT) (route taxis on demand)

These are used by bus companies on bus routes at times of low demand. Passengers must book their journey telephoning the bus company 30 - 60 minutes in advance. The taxi replaces the bus on the normal bus route, but for reasons of capacity picks up only pre-booked passengers. Normal bus fares are charged. A flexible service, that means reaching areas off the normal bus route and at flexible times is, however, not achieved.

VWS-ALT (Foto: T.Reincke)

Anruf-Sammel-Taxi (AST) (flexible taxis on demand)

AST is an additional service to the normal route network. Some bus companies switch from normal buses to AST at times of low demand. Others use AST to serve thinly populated parts of towns or rural areas, which otherwise can only be reached by long, meandering bus routes. Special fares normally apply, including a 'convenience supplement'. I will return to the topic of AST later.

AST Dürener Kreisbahn (Foto: A.Walder)

Ruf-Bus (dial-a-bus)

This is similar to AST, with the difference that buses are used rather than taxis and that large a route corridor is served. Slight deviations to set down passengers or pick up pre-booked passengers are possible. Usually normal bus fares are charged. These services are in most cases provided all day in areas of low demand.

BürgerBus (People's Bus)

Following foreign examples, various People's Bus projects have been started in Germany. In North-Rhine-Westphalia these bus services are operated by various voluntary groups. That is to say, everybody involved in running the service works without pay, as a service by the people for the people. Running costs are covered by the fares taken, by subsidies from the 'Land' and by advertising and revenue.
As chairman of the society 'BürgerBus Kreuztal', I am particularly familiar with this form of public transport. In our town of 35,000 inhabitants, using one vehicle, we transport about 10,000 passengers every year, for example, mainly elderly women travelling from the outskirts to the town centre on shopping trips or for visits to the doctor.

People's Bus Kreuztal (Foto: A.Walder)

Now let's have a closer look to AST
First'ly Advantages for the Passenger


AST journeys have to be booked. For this a special AST service number is provided. In order to arrange the punctual supply of necessary vehicles, booking normally has to be made 30 minutes before the desire departure time.

Departure Points

Passengers are picked up at designated departure points. Usually these are initially bus stops along existing routes. Additional pick up points are set up where the housing structure is sufficiently dense in areas previously not served by public transport. They also are introduced in places inaccessible to normal buses for topographical or other similar reasons.

AST-Departure Point Raststadt (Foto:A.Walder)

Destination area

Within the destination area given in the timetable (this is usually within the local district boundaries), passengers are driven to the destination of their personal choice, that is if they wish, to their own front door. The aim is to transport passengers with similar source-goal relations. The serving of individual destinations is facilitated by the use of smaller vehicles (e.g. taxis).


The AST service is represented in a timetable which gives certain times when the service can operate, if required. Uniform departure times are given for pick-up points within small-enclosed areas, in order to maintain flexibility of service. Consequently, it is possible that within this system slight delays of a few minutes can occur when several passengers need to be picked up at different stops. Passengers are however informed about this possibility in the information material.

AST-Timetable Bonn (Foto: A.Walder)


Fares are usually structured in a separate AST fare zone system and are higher than regular bus fares. They are, however, well below standard taxi fares for similar journeys. The higher fares are justified by the convenience of the door-to-door service. In the fare regulations of the public transport authorities, AST journeys are subject to a special tariff which is not fully integrated in the overall fare structure, i.e. when changing to another form of transport, an addition fare must be paid.


AST routing is determined by the AST service centre according to the departure / destination points of the pre-booked passengers. The route is not the shortest possible, but begins at the first pre-booked stop. The next passengers are 'collected', hence the German name 'Sammeltaxi' (collecting taxi). By means of skilful combination, travel time and distance can be kept to a minimum. Each AST passenger pays his / her fare and the last passenger signs a receipt for the taxi driver.

Possible depature Points

Special cases

Some towns have developed special offers for AST users, e.g. tickets containing vouchers which can be redeemed in shops and other retail outlets.
Also special fares for young people have been introduced, to enable them to get home safely and at a reasonable price, especially in the evenings at weekends.

How does AST work in practical terms? Two fictitious examples:

Frau Meier wants to go with her friend to a senior citizens' meeting at the community centre. She knows where the nearest AST pick up point is to her feat. In the AST timetable she looks up the appropriate AST departure time and calls the AST service number. There she books an AST for two persons to the community centre, giving the pick-up point and time. Since she knows when she has to be back home to make lunch, she also books her return journey for one person, as her friend wants to stay there longer. When the journey has been confirmed, both of them get themselves ready, put on their coats and make their way to the AST pick-up point. When the AST arrives, there is already a woman inside. The two ladies get in. The AST, however, doesn't go directly to the community centre, but first to the hospital which is on the way and is where the first woman is heading for. But then the AST drives directly to the community centre. They pay the AST fare and sign the taxi driver's receipt.

An now an important second example:

Daughter Sonja wants to go to the disco with her friends. Dad drives the three young ladies there. As the disco usually goes on till long after midnight, however, he doesn't feel like watching TV till two o'clock in the morning to pick them up again. He knows that his daughter will take the AST home. The taxi brings her right to the door, so she won't have to walk home, through the estate from the bus stop.

Now AST for Operators
AST companies

AST journeys are usually carried out by the taxi and car rental companies which possess the necessary infrastructures. The operate under contract to a passenger transport authority. Modalities of operation and payment are regulated by contract.
AST journeys, due to the timetable commitment, have priority over normal taxi journeys. Through well co-ordinated use of their vehicles, taxi companies can achieve advantages, e.g. reducing standing times or empty journeys.

Operating costs bus / AST

In many places AST operations cover only 20 to 30% of their costs. Despite this low percentage, however, AST costs are lower than for a comparable bus service.
The taxi company's operating costs are covered by fare revenue and payments to the contractor.


AST operations have to be authorised according to PBefG (Passenger Transport Act in Germay). Usually the concession to operate bus routes is granted to a local bus company. If a local district authority then wishes to set up an AST operation, the conditions and costs have to be regulated by contract with the bus company.


Which of the various operating forms I have presented is best suited to any individual case, depends on many details. However, it is often the case that AST offers distinct advantages.
For reasons of cost and capacity, there can be limits to the possible use of AST.
In each individual case, all the relevant factors, need to be considered so that the most suitable system can be selected.
Local district authorities who take their citizens' mobility seriously can contract AST out to the bus company / companies operating in their area, or they can act as operator themselves. The operating subsidy (which AST always requires) is then paid out of the local authority's budget.

(Translation from german to english, Phillip Mothershaw-Rogalla)

More Readers for Information:
BürgerBus Kreuztal
StadtBus, Anrufsammeltaxi, BürgerBus

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Achim Walder
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