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#162: U-Bahn vision, social housing, €29 tix, tax deadlines, Obama
Setback for anti-discrimination work?
Hey 20 Percent,
I’m a sucker for a shiny, slightly utopian vision of the future. I don’t even mean flying cars and folks on Mars. I’m talking about “Expressmetropole Berlin”, a concept paper by transport operator BVG leaked to the press over the weekend.
The plan envisions a massive expansion of the U-Bahn network by 2050. Inspired by Paris’ ambitious “Grand Paris Express”, Berlin would add 171km to its existing 150km. The U7 would extend to BER Airport. The U1 would reach from Warschauer Brücke to Antonplatz in Weißen See, which would be a new hub where an elongated U3 and a new outer ring wittily called the U0 would converge. For anyone who’s braved a human-packed tram from Weißen See to Alex, this makes some sense.
Expressmetropole looks like a cool way to get outer borough residents out of cars and into trains. We’d have cleaner air. And it would help Berlin cope with the hundreds of thousands expected to move here.
This being Berlin, though, the plan was immediately savaged from all sides. Passenger association IGEB called it a “special April Fool’s joke”.
“This is not only an unrealistic and megalomaniac project, but above all a nonsensical one, given a stock of some 150 km of metro lines built up over a period of more than 120 years and now often in need of renovation.”
Environmentalist NGO BUND says we should focus on expanding the tram network, because tram lines cost a fraction of U-Bahn lines. I like trams, but there’s something fuddy-duddy and unsexy about them. And they’re just slower.
I guess they have a point: we can’t even get bike lanes built at a reasonable speed, let alone trams and U-Bahn. I guess we’ll let the French have nice things.
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Back to 2023
But maybe first BVG should just get some new computers. As a 20 Percent Berlin reader, you might recall that the €29 AB ticket scheme runs out at the end of April. Fransiska Giffey (SPD), who is likely to play second fiddle in a coalition with CDU-guy Kai Wegner, says a seamless continuation of the €29 programme is a top priority. However, BVG says it might not be able to cope with the logistics of continuing the €29 subscription AND the new €49 Deutschland Ticket, valid from May 1, according to the Morgenpost. Both BVG’s sales tech and team are apparently dangerously over-stretched and just can’t handle one more ticket offer. Therefore, a continuation of the €29 ticket, which is, in fact, no longer offered on BVG.de, is “not realistically implementable until January 2024”. Fransiska, you need to fix this.
A more pressing problem in Berlin is housing. In their coalition negotiations, CDU and SPD have agreed to build 5,000 subsidised social housing units per year if they end up forming a city government led by the conservative CDU. “Cold” rents should be around €6.60 per square metre. The flats are urgently needed. As we reported last week, asking prices on the private housing market rose by an insane 27% between November and March.
Setback for diversity?
Meanwhile, 17 non-profit groups working to make the city more diverse and combatting discrimination have sent an open letter to the above negotiating parties. The signatories, which include Migrationsrat Berlin, Initiative Schwarze Menschen and Each One Teach One, say they worry that projects promised but not implemented by the outgoing red-green-red coalition will be neglected by the conservative CDU and the also-pretty-conservative SPD under Frau Giffey. For example, the Participation Law was drafted but never passed. This legislation aims to increase the number of immigrants and people from immigrant families in public sector jobs through various targeted measures. Specific programmes fostering inclusion of Roma, Muslim, Jewish and queer people could also be on the chopping block, the groups warn.
Public service announcement: 2022 tax deadlines
A lasting effect of the corona pandemic appears to be a permanent shift of German tax return deadlines. Income tax declarations for 2022 aren’t due till September 30. Since that date falls on a weekend, we actually have till October 2, according to Handelsblatt. If you use the services of a tax advisor, the deadline gets pushed back by 7 months (!) meaning you have till the end of February 2024 to submit your 2022 taxes.
On July 24, 2008, the young Senator Barack Obama held a rousing speech before tens of thousands of jubilant Berliners in front of the Siegessäule. He was back in 2013, this time with Angela Merkel at the Brandenburg Gate. He returns again: Berlin fans can bask in some of that presidential charisma on May 3 at an Evening With Barack Obama at the Mercedes-Benz Arena: “The 44th President will speak about the power of leadership, an equal society, and the responsibility of us all on how to deal with unprecedented times.” Tickets range from €83 to €501.😁
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