Will cars wear down the streets at some point?

In many New Year's speeches it will be heard again that the Germans should curb their tendency to grumble and concentrate on the essentials. Germany is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, nowhere does the community function better. Despite all the criticism, one should be happy to be able to live in this country. Such appeals are understandable in times when the populists are fueling fears. However, dealing with migration in particular has shown that there is no point in using cheap words to cover problems that the state has not been able to get under control for years. Less anger, citizens, more moderation and middle please: In any case, the announcement on German platforms and streets will have the opposite effect.

If in the shortage economy of the Bundeswehr there are hardly any planes flying and tanks rolling, this is a worrying sign for the community, but does not affect people's everyday lives. The ailing condition of many schools, the lack of doctors, nurses and teachers can be accepted with fatalism. Years of neglect in transport policy are now literally driving millions of people every day to the brink of despair.

Deutsche Bahn can often only be endured with sarcasm in local and long-distance traffic because of its breakdowns and delays. Statistics show that more and more passengers are being violently attacked by the staff. The traffic jams on the streets are getting longer and longer, but many commuters still prefer the stress of traffic jams to the chaos of the S-Bahn. And now the year of the diesel driving bans is dawning, a historic turning point: Politicians are losing control of the roads.

Starting on January 1st in Stuttgart, diesel cars will gradually be locked out in German cities. The courts set the pace for the bans because governments have ignored air pollution from diesel cars for years out of consideration for the auto industry and drivers. Nobody knows exactly when which diesel is allowed to drive where and where it is no longer allowed, just as little as how the bans should be monitored. In any case, the government and industry want to make the bans superfluous as quickly as possible, and sometimes one has the impression that they want to circumvent them.

Hurting no one does not solve problems

In 2018 there was extensive debate about why the popular parties are losing so massively their approval. Beyond the refugee question, exemplary answers can also be found in a transport policy that does not want to hurt anyone, does not solve any problem, so that the future viability of the country is endangered and the citizens are frustrated. The state does not consistently hold the car companies responsible for the diesel dirt throwers that they have brought among the people, nor does it take seriously the city dwellers' claim to clean air. Politics undermines trust in the rule of law.

It is time for "radical answers" to the problems in Germany, says Greens boss Robert Habeck again and again. He seems to hit a nerve with this, his party is in the polls at 20 percent. In the field of transport policy, his analysis is undoubtedly correct. It's about the quality of life in cities, protecting the climate, tens of thousands of jobs and also about cohesion in Germany.

The dispute over diesel divides society. The gap runs between rich and poor, because only people with high incomes can now afford a clean diesel. And it runs between town and country. Multimobile city dwellers may make fun of the love that supposed provincials have for their tin cans. But in the country the car still means freedom, and individual mobility contributes a lot to prosperity in Germany. Almost a million people are directly employed in the industry. It is all the more important to create a consensus on the mobility of the future.

No alternative drives, but fewer cars

If some cities quickly buy e-cars in order to avoid driving bans, but cannot find suitable German models for them - then this sums up what has gone wrong in recent years. At future congresses, car managers like to talk about networked e-mobility, and in front of their own shareholders they still praise SUVs because of their returns. Politicians must no longer let them get away with that.

And one should say goodbye quickly to some of the life lies of transport policy. For example, from the belief that diesel could save the climate because it consumes less. Only electrically powered vehicles help the climate. E-cars, on the other hand, will not solve the traffic collapse in cities, nor will car sharing, autonomous driving or intelligent traffic management systems. There are simply too many cars on the road in the metropolitan areas. That is why politicians must encourage more people to switch from road to rail.

The current crisis at Deutsche Bahn may therefore even be helpful, because it becomes obvious that given its outdated infrastructure, the company needs an investment program of historic proportions. In order to finance the expansion of the U-Bahn and S-Bahn, Stuttgart's green mayor Fritz Kuhn has just brought up a local transport tax again: Anyone driving into the boiler should compulsorily purchase a ticket for public transport. As expected, Kuhn met with a storm of indignation. But who wants to bet that the levy won't come at some point? In Stuttgart, the birthplace of the automobile, built like no other German city after the war, nobody could have imagined for a long time that the first large-scale diesel driving bans would come into force there.