"Normal civic life has become an emergency"
Our post-lockdown economies and infrastructure can no longer meet the demands of ordinary life. What if we can never reopen again?
At the start of June, the German government introduced a three-month period of essentially free public transit. In exchange for a monthly ticket costing just nine Euros, you can take local or regional trains and buses anywhere. To the surprise of nobody, this has resulted in massive overcrowding on key routes, as our national railway company, Deutsche Bahn, has proven unable to increase capacity due to worker shortages and outmoded, decaying infrastructure. In an instant, we abandoned the artificially suppressed demand of the lockdown era, for the artificially enhanced demand of symbolic Green environmentalism.
I spent some time over the weekend near the Bavarian Alps, at various destinations popular with the nine-Euro-ticket club. The transit chaos is a thing to behold. At one point I boarded a regional bus with a sign begging passengers to avoid riding at peak times unless absolutely necessary, and apologising for the inability to run a more frequent schedule. There are just no more drivers to be had for love or money. Within a few stops, the bus was too full to accept further passengers; scores of people were left to wait an hour or two on the side of the road for the next one, on the off-chance they might be able to squeeze on then. These regional bus networks aren’t just for fun and sightseeing. If you live in rural Bavaria and you don’t have a car, this is how you go shopping, it’s how you get to the rail stations. At the end of the day, my train home was so unbelievably crowded, that I had serious problems getting out at my stop.