Is the BerlKoenig public transport project, which has been operating in Berlin for the past eighteen months, doomed? There has been no official decision to close it down, but media reports say that the project, in which Israeli company Via Transportation is taking part, is likely to close down by the end of April. The reports say that the political parties in the Berlin municipality ruling coalition have decided against using taxpayers' money to fund the project.
Via Transportation, together with BVG, the Berlin municipal transportation authority, has been carrying out a pilot in which vehicles bearing the BerlKoenig (King of Berlin) logo collected and delivered passengers according to algorithms. The cost of trips is a third less than taxi rides, and the efficiency of municipal transport rose as a result of the ridesharing. The project is similar to the Bubble service in Israel in cooperation with Dan Bus Company, and other ridesharing services launched by the company with bus companies in many other cities.
Via Transportation was founded by Israeli entrepreneurs Daniel Ramot and Oren Shoval. In September 2017, the company announced that it was cooperating with German auto giant Daimler to found a European company names ViaVan that would offer the ridesharing transport model developed by Via Transportation in large European cities. It was ViaVan that launched the Berlin pilot. The company has borne the cost of operating the vehicles and the drivers to day, but after in April, financing for the project is supposed to come from the Berlin municipality.
According to media reports, however, following discussions of the matter, the three political parties making up the Berlin ruling coalition are refusing to allocate the €43 million annual budget needed for the project. "If we allocated €43 million for BerlKoenig, we'll have to cut that amount from something else," a representative of the Social Democratic Party said, adding that this would be at the expense of existing transport options, including the subway, electric trains, and so forth. A representative of the Die Linke Party was more caustic, saying the amount required was too high for the cost-benefit ratio of public transportation in the city. A representative of the Green Party said, "The project has received no subsidy so far, and nothing will change." Berlin media reported that if no other financing is found, the service will be terminated at the end of April.
Via said, "The matter is currently being discussed with the Berlin municipality. The service gives excellent value for public transport in Germany and elsewhere. Given the current climate crisis and growing traffic loads in cities, public transport will be decisively strengthened by using on-demand technology. BerlKoenig has brought 1.5 million passengers to their destinations, and they gave the service a satisfaction rating of 97%. This is exceptional value for public transport in Germany and the rest of the world."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on February 20, 2020
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