VVS annual ticket holders enjoy free statewide travel in late summer

The university town of Tübingen is only 45 minutes by regional express train from Stuttgart central station, or about an hour from Böblingen, home to Panzer Kaserne.

Story and photos by Bardia Khajenoori
USAG Stuttgart Public Affairs

Stuttgart community members with local transit subscriptions will enjoy a generously expanded definition of “local” this summer, courtesy of a unique customer appreciation campaign.

Under the “bwAboSommer” program agreed to between the state government and transportation providers, an annual subscription in the VVS service area has statewide validity between July 30 and September 13 (a vacation period for German schools). This means that the same annual ticket that normally takes you from Böblingen to Stuttgart for work can take you to Heidelberg, Ulm, or the Bodensee for no extra charge.

Not Venice, but Freiburg — a vibrant city at the edge of the Black Forest, in southwest Baden-Württemberg. It’s reachable in as little as three hours from Stuttgart main station.

The offer is very similar to—but not exactly the same as—a Baden-Württemberg ticket and allows travelers to use their local transit subscription card as a pass valid for regional trains (IRE/RB/RE), S-Bahn, U-Bahn/Tram, and bus services throughout the entire state. Intercity (IC) and Intercity Express (ICE) trains are not included.

The program is “the biggest thank you campaign for public transit commuters” in the state’s history, according to a press release by the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Transport.

“We want to thank the regular customers who did not cancel their subscriptions during the Corona period and continue to travel by public transport,” said Transport Minister Winfried Hermann, who added that the initiative is also intended to encourage residents to discover their region and take pressure off the road network in an otherwise busy period.

Some conditions apply—for example, only annual subscriptions count (not weekly or monthly tickets), and those with a subscription valid only after 9 a.m. on weekdays must continue to abide by those restrictions wherever they are. Customers with a “TicketPlus,” which allows them to bring an additional passenger for free within the VVS area at certain times, do not enjoy the same privilege in the statewide offer.

Children up to 14 years old, however, can be taken with a parent or grandparent for free if you are using an annual ticket under this promotion, according to the VVS. Additional answers to frequently asked questions are available (in German) at the VVS link.

Reaching historic Heidelberg with regional transit takes just over two hours from Stuttgart main station.

Don’t have an annual transit pass, but want to take a day trip to a destination within Baden-Württemberg, outside the VVS service area? Consider buying a Baden-Württemberg Ticket, available from any ticket machine and online/on the DB Navigator app. Tickets cost 24 euros for one person, and up to four additional travelers can be added for six euros each. As with the annual ticket promotion, the ticket only applies to regional trains, not IC or ICE trains, and usage must begin after 9 a.m. on weekdays; it is valid all day on weekends and German holidays.

To ensure you only use allowed forms of transportation for the “bwAboSommer” program or the Baden-Württemberg Ticket, the free “DB Navigator” app allows you to select “Regional Transport Only” (in the Trip Planner, tap the area between the date/time and the search button; tap “Options”; tap “All Means of Transport”; tap “No” on the line reading “Regional Transport Only” to switch the option to “Yes”; and tap the checkmark on the top right of the screen; this will exclude long distance trains that are not allowed). The specific routes and areas of validity are represented by the yellow lines on this map.