Anyone that’s lived in Berlin for more than 5 years will have probably noticed that the fares for the BVG / VBB seemingly increase like clockwork every April. While we’ve been “blessed” with the temporary introduction of the €9 and €29 Ticket, and a pause in price hikes in 2022 during the peak corona “wave” – the year 2023 greets us with a steep price increase for all public transport fares in Berlin. As we were curious how the public transport fares have increased over the years in Berlin, we decided to dig a little deeper and create a nice little overview how things have changed.
Table of Contents
Origins of the BVG
Many will know that Berlin has has a multitude of “public” transport companies – dating as far back as 1868, but each did their own thing, with their own prices and timetables. With the creation of “Groß-Berlin” (Berlin with the boundaries that we know today) – this was set to change. The city had swelled to a size of 900 km², but still did not have a unified transport system.
On the 9th of March, 1927, the Berliner Straßenbahn Betriebs-Gesellschaft (Trams), the Hochbahngesellschaft (Metro) and the Allgemeine Berliner Omnibus AG (Bus) contractually agreed to share a common fare system, allowing passengers to transfer to 1(!) other service provider with the same ticket. While the Trams were state subsidized, the private buses and metro were not, which lead to some lopsided financing and investments.
To balance this out, the Berliner Verkehrs-Aktiengesellschaft (BVG – a stock company) was founded on the 10th of December 1928, with a fund of 400 million Reichsmark (thats about 1.6 billion euros in todays money) – which is the namesake and precursor of the BVG we know today.
The West BVG and the Ost BVB
After the end of the second world war and the division of Berlin, West Berlins public transport continued to be run by the (West) BVG. Public Transport in East Berlin was also managed the (Ost) BVG until 1969, when the GDR renamed it to the more fitting VEB Kombinat Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe – BVB in short.
Post Reunification BVG
After german reunification, both the BVG and the BVB continued to operate as separate entities, until they were merged together as the Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG) on the 1st of January 1992.
What’s the difference between the BVG and VBB?
Quite a few people are confused when they travel (or move) to Berlin and realize that it seems like there are two different transport service providers, the BVG and the VBB. Both of them have their own apps and their own ticket machines, but what exactly is the difference between the BVG and the VBB?
The VBB – Verkehrsverbund Berlin-Brandenburg (Transport association Berlin-Brandenburg) is a transport association, which is run by multiple transport providers in Berlin and Brandenburg. It was founded in 1996, and enables Berlin and Brandenburg, as well as 14 counties and 4 independent cities to have a cohesive pricing structure and public transport network. So the BVG is part of the VBB as one of the multiple transport companies that run the association.
Special Mention: The Berlin S-Bahn
The Berlin S-Bahn has the unique feature that it is not part of the BVG. It is run and operated by a seperate company – since 1993 by the Deutsche Bahn (technically by a subsidiary but it’s still the DB). Like the BVG, the S-Bahn has its own ticket machines, though it shares them with the VBB, as it is part of the VBB. Speaking of the Deutsch Bahn – have you ever asked yourself what those jingles are that they play on trains in Berlin and Brandenburg?
What is the difference between the U-Bahn and S-Bahn?
Both the U-Bahn and the S-Bahn might be quite similar, but they. do have distinct differences. While many will chime in and say that the Schnell-Bahn drives above ground, while the Untergrund-Bahn drives underground, they have obviously never been to Berlin where the contrary is clearly observable.
The main difference is as follows: The U-Bahn has its own network of tracks which is exclusively uses, while the S-Bahn shares its tracks and infrastructure with other trains.
As mentioned above, in Berlin, both the U-Bahn and S-Bahn are operated by different companies, the former by the BVG and the later by the S-Bahn Berlin GmbH, a subsidiary of the DB Regio AG (aka Deutsche Bahn).
VBB | BVG Ticket Prices 2023
So now that we’ve got the history part behind us, here’s where we start digging into some data. The VBB, as the main transport association, announced in the fall of 2022 that it would be raising ticket prices – by an average of 5,62% – in 2023. The initial increase announcement was postponed as the country was gripped by the introduction and continuous debate around the €9 ticket and its successor – but as of mid February 2023, we now officially know what public transport ticket prices are going to look like for 2023. We’ve only selected the most common/popular prices, for a full pricing list check out the VBB announcement.
|Price since 1.1.2021
|Price from 1.4.2023
|Single Ticket AB
|Single Ticket ABC
|Short Trip Ticket AB
|24 Hour Ticket AB
|24 Hour Ticket ABC
|Monthly VBB-Umweltkarte AB
|Monthly VBB-Umweltkarte ABC
Before we break down the historical ticket data, it’s important to mention a few key events which influenced the pricing structure of the BVG / VBB.
1) 1992 – both the BVG and BVB are merged into the BVG
2) 1997 – In preparation for the new VBB, a new tariff system is introduced – which also brought with it the introduction of the Zones A and B in Berlin.
3) 2002 – Introduction of the Euro as Germany’s official currency
4) 2010 – No price increase as compensation for the poor service offered by the S-Bahn in 2009
5) 2022 – Introduction of the €9 for 3 months Germany
6) 2022 – Introduction of the €29 Ticket in Berlin, valid from October 2022 until March 2023
Some tickets that we have today did not exist in their current form 30 years ago. We decided to focus on the following Ticket Types, Single Ticket AB (Einzelfahrkarte AB), Short Trip Ticket (Kurzstrecke), and Monthly AB Ticket (Monatskarte AB) with data reaching as far back 1997 and 1991. Ticket prices before the introduction of the Euro in 2002 have been converted as accurately as possible.
PS: Yes, I know the graphs are ugly. If you want to make me some nicer ones, let me know 🙂
Short Trip Ticket Prices – 1997 to 2023
The Short Trip Ticket (Kurzstrecke) is the cheapest ticket available and has also been one of the most price stable as well, avoiding many of the price hikes that the single ticket has encountered over the past years. On average the short trip tickets has seen a price increase €0.05 per year since 2002 (the same as the single ticket!), with the largest price hike occuring in 2020 and 2023 with €0.20 each. Overall, short trip tickets have gotten €0.80 more expensive in the past 10 years, and €1.00 more expensive in the past 20 years.
Here’s a full list of Short Trip Ticket prices since 1997.
Single AB Ticket Prices – 1991 to 2023
While the AB Zone was introduced in 1997, we decided to include Single Ticket prices dating back to 1991. Single Tickets (Einzelfahrkarte) have seen an average price increase of €0.05 per year since 2002, with the largest price hikes occuring in 2011, 2013 and 2023 with €0.20 each. Prices were decreased in 2004 by €0.20, but at the cost of losing the ability to travel “back” stations. Overall, single tickets have gotten €0.80 more expensive in the past 10 years, and €1.10 more expensive in the past 20 years. Interestingly enough, compared to prices in 1991, todays tickets are only €0.34 more expensive.
Here’s a full list of the prices since 1991. Prices since from 1991 to 2002 have been converted from Deutsche Mark to Euro.
Monthly AB Ticket Prices – 1997 to 2023
Last but not least, here’s to data for the Monthly AB Ticket (Monatskarte AB). Monthly AB Tickets (purchased monthly, not yearly) have seen an average price increase per year of €1.67 since 2002, with the largest price hike occuring in 2004 with €5.50, followed by an increase of €5.00 in 2003. Overall, Monthly AB Tickets have gotten €14.00 more expensive over the past 10 years, and €35.00 more expensive in the past 20 years.
As with the other tickets, here’s a full list of prices for the Monthly AB Ticket.
While the price increase for the Short Trip Tickets and the Single Tickets feel more like “death by a thousand cuts”, the price increase for the Monthly Ticket is very noticable. While not many will balk at an increase of 10 cents, most will feel like a fare increase of €5 for the monthly ticket is somewhat excessive, ignoring the fact that with a monthly ticket you are essentially paying €3 per day for an 24 hour ticket – and spread out over 30 days, the €5 increase isn’t actually that much.
While im all for affordable (ideally free for all) public transport in Berlin – im also realistic enough to see that with the current business model – the VBB / BVG need money to run its service, pay its staff, and service its fleet. During the Covid outbreak, the VBB saw a 3,4% decrease in passengers (2021 vs 2022), and they are continuously bleeding long term ticket subscribers.
The VBB saw a 25% drop in earnings in 2021 compared to 2019, and this is a trend that’s likely to continue. Both the BVG and VBB are unable to sustain themselves on their own “profits”, and rely heavily on state subsidies, with the VBB receiving 53% of its budget through public funds, and the BVG gets roughly the same.
While Berlin’s public transport is fantastic (feel free to compare it to any other major european capital) – it has massive issues which cannot be ignored. Racial profiling through the BVGs external/subcontracted staff, lack of security, failed long term investments in its rolling stock (im looking at you S-Bahn) and neglected line expansions and station renovations coupled with the dysfunctional Berlin (and German) Governments car centric policies – have made Berlins public transport quite an unappetizing experience for the cities inhabitants.
Improvements take time and is only really visible in hindsight (but it doesn’t feel like long term investments are being made) but there are hardly any short term fixes being implemented either. To bring this long winded rant to a somewhat coherent end – people would be more understanding with price increases if they could see the positive effects of the fare increase, but instead they are confronted with rude and racist staff, massive delays, the dreaded “Ersatzverkehr” and broken elevators and escalators.
The sad reality is that the amount of money needed to fix the current situation in Berlin is probably more than anybody is willing to admit or pay for. At face value any financing proposal would be immensely popular online, the reality is that it would face strong backlash and be torpedoed by the usual boomers that live in this city demanding that we should spend the money on building another Autobahn through somebody’s summer garden.
tl;dr – Ticket prices are going up, but in theory it’s not that dramatic. Public Transport is still a hot mess in Berlin though. It’s also unclear how transport companies are going to change their individual pricing modules with the overlapping “Deutschlandticket” or “D-Ticket” which is set to be introduced in May 2023, which will allow everyone to travel all over Germany for just €49 a month.