What good is the brave new world of electric buses if they no longer run on familiar routes where people live due to lack of reach or the willingness of politicians to share in the costs?
It’s pretty much one of the core questions that citizens in the Up de Heede district of Belm have been asking themselves since the beginning of the year, and which drove hundreds on the streets last week.
At the invitation of Silke Wortmannwho sits on the Belmer municipal council for the FDP, politicians from the district council and a member of the Bundestag introduced himself Matthias Seestern-Pauly questions of local citizens. And the citizens came in abundance!
In a letter to the editor about the disconnected bus connection, which our editors published in early April, there were about 1,000 affected citizens – it was probably not an exaggeration. A large number of these Belmer citizens, who have meanwhile been cut off from public transport, gathered on Wednesday evening at the now former end stop “Schloßstraße”.
Politicians were wise to give those affected the opportunity to first speak their frustration from the chest. In the process, some very specific problems quickly emerged, which explains the frustration.
Public transportation links were often crucial to land acquisition
For many newcomers to Belm, who in recent years have invested a lot of money in building plots and house construction on the outskirts of Belm, the connection from their new residence, which is experienced every 20 minutes as excellent to Osnabrück city center. or the main railway station, was an important criterion for the selection of the building site.
An angry resident calculated in a post that the surcharge for the more expensive property in Belm compared to a possible alternative in Vehrte or Osercappeln would have corresponded to the equivalent value of the then small car. But she still had to buy the car to get to her workplace in Osnabrück in all kinds of weather. Many citizens expressed great concern that rising energy costs, interest rates, inflation and, above all, petrol prices will soon no longer be manageable.
Has the municipality deliberately wanted to cheat the new citizens?
In retrospect, many newcomers to Belmer now feel that the municipality placed a well-designed terminus in the center of the new development area as a deception that was only deliberately maintained until all the properties were sold.
The rest of the school traffic only in the morning and often unreliable
Since the conversion of the metro bus line to Belm for electric transport, the last stop at Schlossstrasse is officially only served by three buses for school transport.
This is to ensure that in the morning at least the school road can start without a long walk. But there is obviously a lack of reliability here. Anyone who trusts the already extremely manageable number of school bus trips was left out in the cold several times last winter.
Sometimes one of the three announced buses did not come, sometimes it was already so crowded at the second stop that school children were left standing at the bus stop. In the absence of a connection to the regular route network, students either had to continue walking through pouring rain and snow to the next fixed stop or hoping for a “helicopter mother” who arranged an ad hoc car ride to school. The first lesson had already been missed.
The residents of the settlement find it particularly perfidious that the three morning and unreliable (diesel) school buses only simulate a connection to the city bus network, because no buses are made available on the way home.
The path to the new bus stop is dangerous and not cleared
A young woman brought another aspect into the discussion, which mainly affects the dark winter months.
To get to the stops that the city buses continue to use, she has to use a footpath that is not cleared in the winter and also leads past a dark place that is just “scary”, “the perfect place for bad intentions “.
Even she would only take this path after dark if she could keep in touch with a friend on her cell phone.
How serious are the Greens in particular with the traffic change?
Especially a lot of headwind was needed Gunther Westerman plug in, who sits on the circuit council for the Greens.
“I thought I was living in a world where bus transportation is expanding,” summed up a Belmer woman whom many in her neighborhood cannot understand.
The municipality had “not contractually guaranteed” the connection to public transport, and why the affected did not come to the municipal council meetings, “there were plans already discussed at several meetings in 2020”, argued the representative of eco-party, he will on his election campaign website prevent A33 North and calls for a “sustainable traffic concept for Osnabrück and the Osnabrück district”.
The statements from the Greens, which were probably expected to be more involved in public transport, caused some frustration.
A number of citizens reminded Westermann that the crucial municipal council meetings in 2020 would have taken place at the height of the corona pandemic, and that people – also to pay the cost of buying land and housing – had often been at work while the locals. politicians have taken a stand on the public transport link in their residential area.
Green politicians refer to costs that Belm does not want to bear
During the discussions, Westermann mentioned several figures that explain the price that Belm municipality is not willing to pay in order for the status quo in public transport to be maintained.
According to this, the municipality currently has to pay an annual amount of around 650,000 euros to Osnabrück’s public utility company, so that Belm remains integrated into the city bus network.
After Stadtwerke Osnabrück decided to gradually electrify its bus fleet, there was a requirement of around 250,000 euros a year for the two stops in the Up de Heede construction site to remain connected – that was the price Belm was not willing to pay. Instead of where people live, the charging station for the e-buses planned for Belm will be built on Bremer Straße.
And at least according to the green politician who tried to keep a formal level: According to his calculations, the extra footpath is only 600 meters long and not 900 meters long that the citizens have presented.
How long is the extra distance with the legs of a primary school student?
The discussion about how long the extra walkway was was a steep template for the critics from the building area. A school bag that a 1st class had brought with them, and an example of applied art, such as those you often bring home from school, were held out to the politicians. “And then imagine how you get home after school and the bus ride with the short legs of a seven-year-old.”
To demonstrate how difficult and long the road to school is for the little ones, Belmer invited party representatives to walk a path to school together.
A practical test that the green Günther Westermann, who preferred to rely on Google Maps to assess the situation, avoided. FDP politician Matthias Seestern-Pauly, on the other hand, dared to experiment through the settlement.
At the end of the joint walk, it was 12 minutes that a primary school student must from the construction site to the next bus stop, which is still used regularly – in summer temperatures, without heavy rain and snow.
Seestern-Pauly: “The subject moves”
“The subject is moving, normally I would not have expected so many people,” said the FDP member of the Bundestag at the beginning of the meeting with the citizens of Belm, summing up his first impression. After the joint practical test drive, Seestern-Pauly stressed that he would work to find a solution.
Michael Lührmann (CDU), who as deputy district administrator also accompanied the practical test drive through the settlement, emphasized that “local public transport like broadband supply” is a “priority task” for the Osnabrück district. But you can not play Hasbergen against, for example, Belm, but now you have to find a good solution for everyone – and now also for Belmer.
Matthias Seestern-Pauly (FDP), Michael Lührmann (CDU) and Silke Wortmann (FDP) finally stressed that so many big and small Belmers came to this site visit.
Lührmann was so impressed that he described the lively participation, especially of the children, as “a lesson in democracy”. For the learning effect, especially among the young Belmer, to be lasting, it is probably up to politics now.
[Persönliche Anmerkung des Redakteurs: Der Vertreter der Grünen war am Ende des Spaziergangs durch die Gemeinde schon lange nicht mehr gesehen, er musste wohl weiter daran arbeiten die A33 Nord zu verhindern… Vielleicht hatte er auch einfach nur einen schlechten Tag?
Aber den Bürgern, die mit Nachdruck „ihren Bus“ zurückhaben wollen, zu entgegnen, sie hätten doch die Gemeinderatssitzungen besuchen sollen, das erinnert mich ganz persönlich sehr an das erste Kapitel von „per Anhalter durch die Galaxis“; lesenswert nicht nur in diesem Zusammenhang]