Munich’s transport system: infrastructure development, multimodality and tariff reform

Posted: 25 February 2016 | Alexander Freitag, Managing Director, and Markus Haller, Head of Conceptual Design at The Munich Transport and Tariff Association (MVV) | No comments yet

The Munich Transport and Tariff Association (MVV) is one of the most successful transport associations in Europe. The continually growing passenger numbers – in 2015 they reached for the first time an estimated 700 million – have clearly confirmed this. Yet, there is no time to sit back. To further build on the success of the second oldest German transport association, Alexander Freitag, Managing Director, and Markus Haller, Head of Conceptual Design, explain that intensive work is urgently needed on several fronts, with particular focus on three topics: infrastructure development, multimodality and tariff reformation…

Munich: infrastructure development, multimodality and tariff reform

In 2016, the MVV entered its 45th year of existence. Since its initial 360 million annual passenger numbers in 1973, a steady increase has been seen to now approximately 700 million per year. This success is rooted in the single MVV tariff, and in the comprehensive suburban rail network (S-Bahn) with 12 branches and 150 stations, which has an outreach of up to 45km in the region and provides direct connection to Munich city centre every 20 minutes. Another factor of success is the modern U-Bahn underground transport system which began in 1972 with three underground lines serving a route network of 13.5km and has now developed into a complex system with eight lines, nearly 100km of tracks and 100 stations, with 390 million customers2 served in 2014. Last but not least, the continuous increase in resident population and jobs in the Munich region, which now has almost 2.9 million inhabitants, has also led to the record number of public transport passengers. According to the latest forecasts, the population is expected to increase by more than 300,000 inhabitants by 20343.

Urgently needed infrastructure development

Yet, precisely these growth rates in the boom region of Munich pose major challenges for the entire public transport network. The primary focus lies in developing the rail infrastructure; especially the S-Bahn system which is known as the engine of growth in the MVV area, and has now reached its capacity limit. The S-Bahn major trunk route serves all S-Bahn lines running to the heart of the Bavarian metropolis, and with up to 30 journeys per hour and direction, it is one of the most frequently travelled railway routes in Europe. Even minor disruptions have highly detrimental effects on the operational stability and punctuality. Approximately 800,000 S-Bahn passengers are affected almost every day.

The solution to this predicament is called ‘the second major trunk route’ – a 10km-long S-Bahn section running parallel to the present major trunk route, with a 7km-long tunnel and three new stations up to 40m-deep. The planning has been ongoing for nearly 20 years and is a mammoth project of the Free State of Bavaria and Deutsche Bahn AG, in cooperation with the MVV. However, now the breakthrough in the financing negotiations for this more than €2 billion project seems to be within immediate reach.

It will not only mean that disruptions to the S-Bahn network will be handled better, and faster, but the second major trunk route is also an infrastructural prerequisite for the development of the entire S-Bahn system, and of new operational concepts such as the introduction of express lines which will draw the region up to 15 minutes closer to the capital. The second major trunk route thus represents a fundamental rail investment for the next 50 years.

Major investments are also imminent in the U-Bahn sector, passed by the City of Munich and the Munich Transport Company (MVG): examples of which are the comprehensive development of the Sendlinger Tor underground station (construction start scheduleed for 2017), one of the most important underground transport nodes in Munich, and the extension of the westbound Line U5 towards the district centre Pasing, as decided by the City Council of Munich in 2015. There are also plans for the so-called ‘U9’ – an approximately 6km-long line that will bring congestion relief between the lines with highest demand in the capital. Last but not least, the large numbers of visitors at football matches in the Allianz Arena, or during the Oktoberfest, could thus be managed in a significantly better and more flexible way. This large-scale project, however, is still in an assessment phase.

From transport association to mobility association

Major challenges are not just imminent for the railway system; the transport association is going to redefine itself and establish a broader position. This is against the background of a fast-growing market for new, innovative forms of mobility. Multimodality is the magic word in modern transport: Park+Ride (P+R) and Bike+Ride (B+R) sites are bursting at the seams. New car-sharing providers such as DriveNow, Flinkster or Car2go are springing up like mushrooms – currently, Munich has four different providers from the ‘new generation’ with a total of around 1,300 passenger cars4. Additionally, around 450 passenger cars from the organisation ‘STATTAUTO MÜNCHEN’, established in 1992, are available at 115 stations in Munich and the region5 and there are also some smaller local providers in the districts.

The bike rental systems are booming, too. In addition to Deutsche Bahn’s ‘Call a Bike’ with 1,200 bikes in Munich, the Munich Transport Company’s ‘MVG-Rad’ alone should cover 125 stations with a further 1,200 bikes by the end of 2016. Furthermore, there are various innovative ride-share opportunities, on-call scheduled taxi services and on-call scheduled bus systems in the entire MVV area.

Common to all these new forms of mobility is that these systems can function optimally in the everyday transport only together with an efficient public passenger transport. The public passenger transport is the necessary foundation for multimodality. Therefore, the strategy of the MVV is not to distinguish ourselves from the possible competition in the mobility sector, but rather to become active in this area as ‘princeps inter pares’, with the public passenger transport at the forefront in promoting the development of sustainable mobility.

At the beginning, this would essentially involve the development of a uniform and most notably a non-discriminatory information platform representing all services and providers. For today, the customer – like in the times before transport associations existed – is torn by the various information services, websites and apps. To clear the paths through the information jungle, the MVV has already designed the essential components for upgrading its public passenger transport information system6 to a mobility portal: a map-based electronic journey planner was introduced in 2014, which can visualise the new services such as P+R, car-sharing and bike-sharing. In 2015, a multimodal bicycle journey planner was integrated in the existing journey planner. And already in 2016 there will be further improvements of the P+R routing and the integration of new car-sharing organisations.

The next step to embark on the path to the mobility association would be the implementation of a single booking and pay platform for all mobility services. Inevitably, the aspect of revenue sharing will play an essential role.

Other topics in the area of multimodality are a unified brand appearance, cross-company marketing and coordinated planning of numerous mobility services, which would complement the public transport. First considerations for a concept of bike rental sites at suburban rail stations are already in progress. Many issues, however, are a long way off, especially as the funding remains often undetermined.

Tariff reform and metropolitan ticket

The third main topic of the future concerns the challenges of tariff management. The huge success of all transport associations is based mainly on the establishment of uniform tariffs and harmonised terms and conditions of transport. Whereas two or three tickets were necessary for one journey before the transport association existed, ever since it has been founded, the slogan ‘1 Network, 1 Timetable, 1 Ticket’ applies – in MVV for more than 40 integrated transport companies.

However, resting on one’s laurels is not an option. Both the market and the public transport authorities have continually increased their demands upon the tariff system. Thus, in the past several years, new types and modifications of tickets such as the ‘student ticket’ or the flexible monthly and weekly tickets were developed. Also, the introduction of the new sales channel for online and mobile tickets has improved customer convenience to a large extent. The high level of acceptance and the above-average growth rates of these new ticket products in the online and mobile ticket sales are an impressive confirmation of the necessity of these tariff and sales improvements.

And yet, the politics wants even more: in 2015, the association received the task to implement a comprehensive reform of the tariff structure in order to render the ticketing in MVV even simpler and more convenient. Finally, the possibilities for an electronic tariff will be explored as well; not a simple endeavour, since the tariff triad ‘simple, fair and yielding’ must still apply. A feasibility study later in 2016 in cooperation with the transport companies should define this project in greater detail.

On the other hand, parallel to the previously mentioned increase of resident population in the Munich metropolitan region, there has been significant spatial expansion of the transport relations. The tariff area of the MVV no longer corresponds with the real transport relations. The commuter flows from many districts outside the MVV to Munich, but certainly also in the opposite direction, are constantly on the rise. The daily commuter traffic with 60km or more has already become the norm. In order to keep pace with this development, the MVV is trying to gradually adjust its tariff area into the existing tariff system. Thus, in December 2015, for the first time in more than 20 years, a new railway line was integrated in the MVV network.

However, only in individual cases and within a narrower radius does it make sense to expand the present, mainly radially-based, MVV tariff model to new commuter belts. Many players, joined together in the union ‘Europäische Metropolregion München’ (‘European metropolitan region Munich’, EMM7), are working intensively on a comprehensive solution that will cover the entire southern Bavarian area. The first result from the feasibility study, the so-called ‘umbrella tariff’, may be available earliest in 2019 and extend the tariff advantages of the transport association to the entire Munich metropolitan region – a region three times as big as the MVV, and make the motto ‘1 metropolitan area – 1 ticket’ come true.


  1. The final values were not available by the editorial deadline.
  2. Source: MVG information for the media from 26.06.2015
  3. Source: Bavarian State Office for Statistics and Data Processing
  4. Source: The daily newspaper Münchner Merkur, 28.12.2015
  5. Source:
  7. Further information:


Alexander Freitag graduated in Economics and then served as an officer in the 1st Mountain Division of the German Army until 1986. Between 1987 and 1994, Alexander assumed various leading positions at the then Bundesbahn before he became Regional Manager of the Deutsche Bahn for the Munich and Augsburg regions. He then moved to the Munich Transport and Tariff Association (MVV) as Authorised Signatory. Since 1997, Alexander has been Managing Director of the MVV.

Markus Haller has been working at the Munich Transport and Tariff Association (MVV) since 1998. Initially, he was Head of the Consulting Department, but since 2006 has been an Authorised Signatory and Head of Conceptual Design. The main focus of Markus’ responsibilities is conceptual transport planning and passenger information.