The district of Euskirchen is located in the southwest of the German federal state of North Rhine–Westphalia, on the border with Belgium. Around 188,000 people live in the five cities and six communities that comprise the district of Euskirchen. The biggest city and administrative centre is Euskirchen, which has a population of 55,000. With the exception of the city of Mechernich (with 26,000 inhabitants), the other cities and communities have far smaller populations. The district of Euskirchen is in a rural, agricultural area and features around 36 percent woodland and two big water reservoirs used for water supply and power. Sustainable tourism is another important sector.
Like many European regions, the district of Euskirchen faces the challenge of a shrinking and ageing population. By 2030, its population will decrease by an estimated 4.2 percent, the proportion of elderly people (aged 60+) will increase by an estimated 46.9 percent, and the proportion of young people (17 or under) will decrease by an estimated 21.8 percent.
The district of Euskirchen is a partner in the German traffic association Verkehrsverbund Rhein-Sieg GmbH (VRS GmbH), which covers the south of North Rhine–Westphalia, with the cities of Cologne, Bonn and Leverkusen, and six rural districts comprising 62 communities. Uniform tariffs and timetables are applied on all means of transport, making it straightforward for customers to use the service.
The backbone of the public transport system in the district of Euskirchen comprises two railway lines that provide connections to the city of Cologne ( the "Eifelstrecke" from Cologne via Euskirchen and Kall to Gerolstein and Trier); and the city of Bonn (the "Voreifelbahn" from Bonn via Meckenheim and Euskirchen to Bad Münstereifel).
Complementing the railway lines are a number of bus lines, the timetables of which are based predominantly on the needs of pupils and commuters. Where the bus routes serve a railway station, the timetable is also harmonised with the railway timetable. On the main routes, public transport is line based. Since 2002, line-based call buses (“TaxiBusPlus”) have been in operation in addition to the regular main buses and during off-peak hours. The AnrufSammelTaxi is in service in some communities.
There are also seasonal public transport offers specifically aimed at tourists (hikers and cyclists).
Changing from line-based public transport to call buses helps to generate a wide choice of public transport offers for customers, but is limited in terms of acquiring new customers. Within the SmartMove project, the district of Euskirchen undertook communication-based activities in order to achieve the project’s objectives of “optimising awareness of public transport“ and "increasing the use of public transport feeder systems".
Activities also included passenger training events for elderly people, mobility checks to help reduce barriers to pedestrians, citizens audits, and workshops to raise awareness of the problems faced by elderly and disabled people. These active measures were accompanied by an AMC campaign. Brochures and an information flyer were published and distributed.
The framework conditions did not change in the focus area. Therefore it can be assumed that changes in passenger demand can be attributed to the SmartMove campaign.
On the TaxiBus lines of the villages participating in the SmartMove campaign as much as 15% increase was observed in passenger numbers. As a comparison, in the same time frame usage of TaxiBuses in the other villages sank by around 2%.
Based on interviews with the campaign participants the following results were collected:
As a result of these changes, there was an annual reduction of 13.2 tons of CO2 emissions. This key figure demonstrates that the campaign has resulted in significant success and it confirms that the original concept of the campaign was viable in practice. There is now evidence that the use of Active Mobility Consulting, together with accompanying measures is a viable approach to promote public transport in rural areas.
Photo credit: VRS