The district of Wittenberg has an area of 1,930 km² and is situated in the federal state of Saxony-Anhalt in eastern Germany. It is one of the most sparsely populated regions in Germany, and its population is declining (decrease from 147,000 inhabitants in 2005 to 129,000 in 2014). Demographic projections forecast a population of only 108,000 inhabitants by 2025 and a population density of 56 inhabitants per km². In addition, demographic shifts towards an older and less active population are expected. However, the number of pupils is expected to remain constant in the medium term.
Related to these demographic dynamics, there has also been a decrease in public transport use. However, this trend was attenuated by introducing more flexible forms of public transport. In accordance with Wittenberg’s local public transport plan, a combination of public transport with fixed rides and flexible transport offers (call buses) was introduced.
The rail network and main bus lines are the backbone of public transport in the district of Wittenberg. Demand responsive bus lines ensure a feeder service. The operating time of the public bus transport in the district of Wittenberg is between 5 a.m. and 11 p.m.
During the SmartMove project, an AMC campaign has been implemented with a main focus on three bus lines – one of them is a main line with regular hourly rides and the others offer hourly on-demand rides. The on-demand busses act as feeder lines to the rail network and to main bus lines.
In course of the campaign, two leaflets were distributed to households in the catchment area of the three bus lines. They contained prepaid reply cards on which the information need could be signalized. The first leaflet “Test rider wanted” offered as incentive the chance to win a monthly ticket for the public transport in the whole region. The second leaflet explicitly called on inhabitants to express their opinion about the public transport.
Besides written communication, personal talks during market days and citizen audits (“How to use public transportation in rural areas”; “Elderly people – stay active and mobile”) were organized and boosted our campaign in terms of notoriety and participation.
Participants with information need were asked for the desired materials either by phone or face-to-face. Following the conversations, individual information materials were produced and handed over to the participants by mail or face-to-face if possible.
The following exemplary personalized information materials have been created in Wittenberg:
All in all, 130 households wanted to receive personalized information. The rest of the 209 participants got their urgent questions answered directly during the event or on the telephone.
A telephone survey after the delivery of the information material resulted in the following feedback:
The SmartMove project has been a success for all participants. On the one hand, the awareness of public transport and its usage have increased in the rural area of Wittenberg. On the other hand, all involved regional partners (e.g. district of Wittenberg, Nahverkehrsservice Sachsen-Anhalt GmbH, transport operator Vetter GmbH) gained valuable methodological insights of how to get in contact with people in rural areas effectively.
The Transport Association “Nahverkehrsservice Sachsen-Anhalt GmbH (NASA)” is a subsidiary of the German state of Saxony-Anhalt. The NASA plans, orders and pays for the rail passenger transport (regional rail) for a route network of 1,680 kilometers with 321 stations on behalf of the State of Saxony-Anhalt. In addition, NASA supports the authorities for the public bus service in the planning and financing of bus transport in the regional grid system. Thereby NASA aims to design a sustainable, user-oriented and integrated public transport by linking rail backbone lines with bus feeder lines.
In Saxony-Anhalt that is the goal: train, bus and flexible operating forms (eg. call bus) are to be used in each case according to their economic necessity. In addition, NASA has a variety of tasks in the organization and promotion of public transport in Saxony-Anhalt (developing competition in the rail transportation, developing the clock schedule system, supporting transport companies in launching alternative transport forms, promoting the development of passenger buildings and equipment, operating jointly with the transport companies the national transport information system INSA etc.)
Photo credit: Panoramio