Technology

Berlin to get single travel app for public and private services

So-called ‘deep integration' apps are seen as important for cities trying to prevent people from clogging up congested roads with their own cars.

Travellers in Berlin will soon be able to use a single app to switch seamlessly between public transport, rental bikes, car-sharing and taxis without signing up for each service individually.

Lithuanian startup Trafi said Berlin will be the first major European capital to get a transport app that handles billing for all services centrally and requires only a single login.

Similar services are already available in Vilnius, Rio de Janeiro and Jakarta.

So-called “deep integration” apps, which remove the annoyance of dealing with multiple providers, are seen as important for cities trying to prevent people from clogging up congested roads with their own cars.

“This goes in precisely the right direction,” said Andreas Knie, a mobility expert at the Social Science Centre Berlin.

“Transport services need to be connected, just like mobile phone networks, so you can easily roam from one to another.”

Berlin’s ageing transport system — a maze of underground lines, trams, buses and commuter rail – is straining as its population heads towards four million.

The capital’s left-wing government has struggled in recent years to integrate new services such as ride-hailing firms, car-sharing companies, free-floating bikes and scooters into the existing infrastructure, some of which dates back to the 19th century.

Mr Knie was sceptical that large transport companies such as Berlin’s publicly owned BVG, which counts more than a billion passengers a year, are willing to do anything that might endanger their business model.

It was not immediately clear whether smaller companies will get an equal footing in the app, including to valuable real-time data on how customers are moving through the city.

Two large car-sharing companies, Daimler’s car2go and BMW’s DriveNow service, and ride-hailing giant Uber are notably absent from the starting lineup, though more than a dozen smaller rivals are already on board.

Trafi said more are expected to join by the time the app, called Jelbi, launches this summer.

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