Modernizing the Passenger Transport Act: The Reality
Last week, yet again we saw another hearing on the amendment of the Passenger Transportation Act (PBefG) by the BMVI, including the involved associations. Compared to former cornerstone drafts dated 19.06.2020 and 08.10.2020, certain cuts regarding digital aspects of on-demand transportation involving virtual stops have been dismissed. Nevertheless, while other parts have been disregarded in favor of the Taxi industry, one main observation in the current draft is striking: the additional empowerment of local licensing authorities and their role around enforcement.
According to the latest draft, instead of the state government, the licensing authority is now responsible for defining details for several approval guidelines such as the exceptions around the obligation to return for rental car traffic (§ 49 (5) PBefG) as well as pooled on-demand services. The licensing authority is given the regulatory competence to determine the obligation to return, pooling quotas, minimum prices, and other social standards (§ 50 (4) PBefG). Such local policymaking requires adequate monitoring instruments that current local authorities widely lack due to the very slow implementation of digital services throughout the country.
While long debates have watered down any innovative recommendation towards pooled services, the amendment of the Passenger Transportation Act makes another attempt at accelerating a more digital and technologically driven approach. According to the newly added Decree on the Provision of Mobility Data (“Mobility Data Regulation”) based on § 57 (1), mobility operators need to clearly state their static and dynamic data in line with corresponding metadata via the National Access Point. It implies that the data to be made available according to § 3a of the Passenger Transportation Act must be accessible, i.e. it must be possible to request or receive them at any time in a machine-readable format. The data shall be provided electronically in the electronic formats (..) in real-time.
This already leads to massive constraints on individual licensing authorities in Germany, who have not only divergent approval practices but also no digital infrastructure to receive such machine-readable format in real-time. Without a clear set of distributive and regulatory policy instruments, local authorities will continue to struggle at orchestrating market adaptation of their public infrastructure. The implementing bodies of these new policies will now face internal digitization challenges while simultaneously being forced to negotiate local regulations with highly technical experienced mobility operators. This would most certainly result in a war of interpretation around all aspects of these Mobility Data Regulations.
The need for clear standards around the levels of detailed data structure and data protection infrastructure for real-time data retrieval, storage, and analysis are crucial in order to develop the ability to obtain insights. For political decision-makers and almost 11.000 municipalities in Germany, these unknown factors will lead to impossible negotiations with private mobility operators trying to take advantage of more loopholes and “grey-areas”. Without either digital expertise or federal guidelines, local authorities will be forced to rely on mobility operators to provide readable insights from their operations’ data. The question of how local authorities want to orchestrate successful alternative mobility without raw data insights still remains unanswered.
While the new article on data provision had good intentions, the execution will result in false evidence-based policymaking for any future process, jeopardizing the eventual success of the German “Verkehrswende” with innovative digital business models.