Public transport between public welfare and commerce

Client: Hans Böckler Foundation (HBS), Düsseldorf
Duration: 01/2020 – 02/2022
Partner: M-Five (Lead); IZT – Institute for Futures Studies and Technology Assessment, Berlin

Subject and objective

The project investigates the structural change of added value and business strategies in public transport when it is extended by new mobility services. The focus is on future options for action and design for corporate governance. This includes push factors, cause-effect relationships and potential for change in public transport as well as consequences for work and employment. The project is part of the research network “The Economy of the Future” at HBS.


Through automation, digitalisation, electrification and decarbonisation, public transport is currently on the threshold of massive change. Value creation is changing primarily through the networking of services and automation of driving, as well as through the reorganisation of mobility behaviour. The private sector has become an important factor of value-added change: transport service providers and Internet companies as well as numerous start-up companies are working on new mobility services and business models. Since March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has also caused a massive slump in demand, presenting both old and new providers with enormous financial challenges. The project deals with service innovations and new technologies in the context of the sectoral transformation of the mobility economy. It examines characteristic business models of public transport, sharing and platform operators and other market players. The consequences of the changes affect not only the actual value added but also the standards of “good work” and participation as well as ecological conditions.

Research questions

The central question is which actors and push factors are causing the transformation towards data and service based business models in public transport: Which quantitative and qualitative effects does this cause in the value creation of public transport? Specifically, we asked how new mobility services change the competition between providers in terms of benefit distribution and standard setting. The next question refers to the significance of transformation for regional, national and international value chains. Further sub-questions concern the specific consequences for providers, users and employees: To what extent, for example, are the gender conditions affected by the structural change? What should political recommendations for action and governance arrangements contain in order to identify undesirable developments and unintended consequences early on and to prevent conflicts?


The Technological Transition Model, also known as the Multi-Level Perspective according to Frank W. Geels, serves to identify transformation paths. This model describes the current situation of mobility providers in their transformation dynamics and assigns them to typical business models. Case studies provides exemplary descriptions of services, which we investigate in detail. Interviews will be carry out on the topics of corona effects, working conditions, participation, corporate strategy and standards. We will show the relationships between added value structures and the elements of the CANVAS business model according to Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur. The scenarios developed out of this describe the range of possible diffusion paths of the business models in the future market environment. The final step is a potential and risk assessment of the models with regard to socio-economic profit and burden distribution, which we will discussed with stakeholders in a workshop.


Kollosche, Ingo; Oehme, Rafael; Schade, Wolfgang; Scherf, Christian; Streif, Marcel; Thomas, Dirk: Der Wert des ÖPNV zwischen Gemeinwohl und Kommerz. Forschungsförderung Working Paper Nr. 255, Hans-Böckler-Stiftung, Düsseldorf 2022, available at: https://www.boeckler.de/de/faust-detail.htm?sync_id=HBS-08388.

Zwiers, Jakob; Büttner, Lisa; Behrendt, Siegfried; Kollosche, Ingo: Wandel des öffentlichen Verkehrs in Deutschland. Veränderung der Wertschöpfungsstrukturen durch neue Mobilitätsdienstleistungen. IZT – Institut für Zukunftsstudien und Technologiebewertung, Berlin 2020. Available at: https://www.boeckler.de/de/faust-detail.htm?sync_id=HBS-07934.

Further Information

Information on the research network by the HBS (in German): https://www.boeckler.de/de/die-okonomie-der-zukunft-18476.htm