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EU Urban Mobility Observatory
News article30 December 20211 min read

Cash credit scheme in exchange of going car-free

Even though Germany has invested huge amounts of money into public transport in the last three decades, this hasn’t been reflected in the country's modal shift. In fact, 75% of kilometres travelled in the country are by car, and only 25% are by public transport, cycling and walking, and it has been this way over the last 30 years. In addition, the country has one of the highest rates of car ownership in Europe and is home to some of the world’s biggest car brands.

In this context, the founder of Berlin-based NGO IUM-Institute for Urban Mobility, Tim Lehmann, is currently bringing an innovative campaign to the newly elected national government. He proposes to hand people a cash credit to use towards sustainable transport in exchange of giving up to the possibility of owning a car.

According to the proposal, anyone who does not own a private car and instead travels by foot, bike, public transport, or uses a sharing scheme, would receive an annual bonus of EUR 1,100, approximately the same amount as the cost of an annual subscription for public transport in Berlin.

Lehmann stated: “Usually, the bonuses that we discuss in Germany are that you have to get rid of an older car and buy an electric or more environmentally friendly vehicle…” “We simply want to reward people for not owning a car.” He believes the bonus could be financed with income from national CO2 tax, or a reduction in car ownership subsidies.

The practical technicalities are still being discussed. Resources like car registration databases, heavy fines or the creation of a digital purse (which would only allow the funds to be spent on alternative forms of transport) are being considered.

This concept is something which already exists in some cities and regions. West Midlands is currently trialling a scheme that provides credits to motorists who give up their vehicles. Other cities, including Barcelona and Vancouver have undertaken similar programmes. In Barcelona, residents who trade in older vehicles can receive a citywide free transit pass valid for three years, while in Vancouver, the city transit authority has partnered with non-profit SCRAP-IT to offer customers public transit passes when they scrap their old fossil fuel cars.


Original article published by Cities Today on 15 December 2021.



Publication date
30 December 2021
  • Urban mobility planning
  • Germany