Flex bus in the Merkur test: how reliable is the new call bus?
Created: 01/12/2023, 12:30 p.m
By: Volker Camehn
The journey in the minibuses can be used with the normal MVV tickets.
© Volker Camehn
Since mid-October, seven Flexbuses have been heading to almost 250 entry and exit points in the southern district of Munich - without a fixed timetable, entirely according to the wishes of the passengers.
Merkur reporter Volker Camehn tested the offer.
– This morning, the Flex-Bus is already waiting for departure at the Sommerstrasse car park in Sauerlach, right behind the S-Bahn station.
I want to go to Dürrnhaar, one of several test drives in the next few hours.
Because I want to know: Does the new on-demand service of the Munich Transport and Tariff Association (MVV), which is supposed to offer more public transport, work reliably at all?
Nothing works without registration
A few minutes earlier: Calling the service number 089/41 42 43 44 at around 9.15 a.m.
A friendly call center employee asks me if I'm registered.
The MVV has everything they want to know from me: first and last name, e-mail address, telephone number.
I had downloaded the MVV app to my smartphone a few days earlier.
So now my first Flex ride.
It is said to start at 9:36 a.m.
So about 20 minutes waiting time - I find that acceptable.
Booking at short notice seems to work.
The sign in Brunnthal clearly indicates the on-demand service.
© Volker Camehn
Since mid-October, seven minibuses from the Brunnthal-based company Geldhauser have been heading for almost 250 boarding and alighting points in day and night traffic - without a fixed timetable, entirely according to the wishes of the passengers.
The pilot project of the district of Munich and the MVV will initially run for two years, with the possibility of an extension for a further two years, as stated on the homepage of the district office.
The project is funded by the Free State of Bavaria.
Info by email
In any case, the white minibus, easily recognizable by the round "Flex" logo (blue lettering on a green background), is already ready for me at the Sauerlach train station.
Just ten minutes after I placed my order over the phone, I also received an e-mail ("Important notification for your booked ride in the FLEX/MVV RufTaxi"): The journey and arrival times would be "updated according to the expected occupancy", it says.
In addition, as a kind of confirmation: Departure (Sauerlach, 9.36 a.m.) and arrival (Dürrnhaar, 9.47 a.m.).
The system probably doesn't recognize that I'm about to leave earlier.
Low utilization, so no delays and updates.
No question: This MVV offer not only seems flexible, but also fixed.
The Flexbus routes at a glance: Night trips are marked in blue, day trips in green.
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Fancy a journey of discovery?
Basically, the driver should not talk to the guests while driving, as in the bus.
Because of the security.
I'm the only one to be promoted this morning.
My driver, who immediately finds me in the booking system (looks at the on-board computer: "Camehn?") comes from Croatia and has been living in Germany for ten years, as she tells me.
Her shift starts at 5 a.m., but she didn't have the first passengers until around 7 a.m. today.
Dada, as she is nicknamed, is friendly but determined: Ticket control, please, and buckle up!
Tickets also on the bus
No ticket, no ride.
I bought a day ticket for my test tour, zones 3 and 4, from the machine. For 8.80 euros I will be driven back and forth through the district in the next few hours.
I could have bought single tickets from Dada.
What is immediately noticeable: the minibus, which can accommodate up to eight people, is spotlessly clean inside and out.
This is how the Flexbus system works
In order to book a Flex ride, you have to register once in advance: either via the
(available free of charge in the App Store) or by telephone.
App users have advantages
: With travel inquiries and bookings online, you avoid the risk of not being put through in the hotline queue (Tel.: 089/41 42 43 44).
In addition, when booking via the app ,
all the necessary information
(e.g. a map view, current vehicle location) and changes to the departure times are directly available.
When booking by telephone, information about changed departure and arrival times will be sent to the email address provided.
However, it is advisable here
be at the boarding point five minutes before the specified departure
time, as you cannot – as with booking via the app – follow live whether the departure time changes.
When booking, the passenger is given the nearest stop for the start and end as the start or end point.
The well-known MVV regional bus
stops serve as such in the Flex pilot project
According to the MVV, there are also more than 100 additional entry and exit points, which can be identified by signs with the Flex logo.
The flex service can be used with the
usual MVV tickets valid in the respective tariff zone at no extra charge
Season ticket customers therefore do not need a separate ticket.
Up to seven vehicles are available for journeys with the on-demand service, two of which are suitable for transporting “people with restricted mobility”.
The on-demand system in terms of mobility is currently divided into two parts: Between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m., Flex supplements the MVV regional bus service in Sauerlach, in the southern part of Brunnthal and in Aying "and will become a new component of sustainable everyday mobility there," says the MVV.
“During night traffic between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., the area extends over Oberhaching and Unterhaching as well as Taufkirchen, west of the A8.
There is a connection to the Munich night network at the Ostbahnhof and Neuperlach Süd train stations.”
Flexbus drivers play it safe with navigation systems.
© Volker Camehn
After ten minutes you arrive in Dürrnhaar, S-Bahn station.
Shortly afterwards I take the train to Aying, that's one station. From there, however, it's supposed to be less express, the MVV flexibility in rural areas ends here for me for the time being.
It starts with the marking of the departure point: the Flex logo is only slightly visible in front of the somewhat dilapidated bus stop, you have to consciously search and look.
After all: a few meters away there is already a minibus ready – even if not for me, as I find out immediately.
The driver speaks English without exception, but his friendly willingness to provide information does not change the inevitable fact: he is not allowed to take me with him because I have not yet booked another route.
He would drive me, but... So I dial my service number, book the next trip, this time to Brunnthal, but I have to take the next Flex bus that I have booked separately.
Means for me: an hour waiting time.
My ride to Brunnthal arrives on time, which I reach about 15 minutes later.
Dada is back at the wheel.
Ticket inspection, buckle up.
It's not clear whether she's happy to see me again or just wondering.
She stays friendly.
Dada knows the district well, but it doesn't work without a navigation system.
"It's safer," she says,
However, the attempt to book a bus connection a little later in a Brunnthal café via the app fails due to the lack of network.
It only works when I'm out on the street, albeit a bit awkward: Although I'm standing at a bus stop (town center, Münchner Straße), my app sends me to Hachinger Weg, a few hundred meters away - to the next Flexbus pick-up point.
I'll wait here for a few minutes
The Flexbus symbol at the bus stop in Großeichenhausen indicates the offer.
© Volker Camehn
Offer is well received
From there the trip goes punctually to the somewhat remote Großeichenhausen, part of the municipality of Sauerlach and about 70 small inhabitants.
Grit Gfullner, for example, lives in this idyll. She works and is the mother of two 15-year-old daughters.
"The flex service is great," she enthuses.
Especially since the bus, line 226, runs to and from Sauerlach only every hour.
"The Flexbus sometimes saves the girls a lot of waiting time, especially if they come home from school a little later," says Grit Gfullner.
Even if her daughters wanted to go to the cinema in the evening, for example, "then I don't have to drive them extra".
A great thing.