Luxembourg is set to become the first country in the world to offer free public transport. From summer 2019, tickets will be abolished for buses, trams, and trains in the small EU Member State. The Grand Duchy’s public transport system apparently costs €1 billion to operate each year, but fares anyway amount to only €30 million (i.e. just 3% of the total operating costs).

Free tickets for all will be paid for partly by removing tax breaks for commuters (encouraging people driving cars to instead switch to public transport). The costs of processing and collecting fares and fines will also be saved. However, critics argue that if Luxembourgers make the switch to public transport en masse then either the running costs of the transport network will go up (because of the necessary expansion to cope with all the extra passengers) or the quality of service will go down.

On the one hand, the Paris riots show how sweeping transport policies can be very controversial. The ‘gilets jaunes’ (yellow vests) in France nominally began as a protest movement against increased taxes on diesel fuel designed to encourage motorists to get rid of their diesel vehicles in favour of cleaner alternatives.

On the other hand, could there be costs associated with not encouraging people to take public transport? In purely economic terms, climate change risks making the 2008 crisis look like a Sunday afternoon picnic. Traffic congestion and air pollution are growing problems, leading to lost working hours and serious public health issues. Could making public transport free for all help tackle these issues?

Should public transport be free everywhere? Would it help fight climate change, and reduce traffic congestion and air pollution in cities? And who would pay? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: (c) BigStock – TeroVesalainen

51 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar

    Nothing is for free, only in your socialist/communist dreams.

    • avatar

      Cars aren’t free either. Traffic, pollution, environmental damage, public health (from sedentary lifestyles), climate change, etc., these all have to be paid for. So, nothing is free (including cars), but perhaps public transport (even free public transport) is cheaper than the alternatives.

    • avatar

      Free as in state funded.

    • avatar

      Pirvulescu State funded means tax payers money aka funded by the money of the average working people. The state by itself doesn’t produce anything.

  2. avatar

    Could be paid by apps running over the infra. Like commercials pay the public tv.

    • avatar

      Wann pay for it? Someone has to so why not you. p.s nothing is for free.

    • avatar

      How can you possibly choose to engage in this discussion yet forget about the fact that we are paying for it through taxes and markups? Get a grip.

  3. avatar

    Yes less cars, less pollution.

  4. avatar

    It’s not free though. They’ll just raise or add taxes.

    • avatar

      Yes, but the alternative isn’t “free” either. It might be that free public transport saves more money in terms of public health, lost working hours (stuck in traffic), climate change, etc.

  5. avatar

    Yes and maybe then eople will want to use it instead of cars so we solve a big problem!

  6. avatar

    Should? Definitely and without question.
    Can? No idea but am sadly doubting the viability of it…

  7. avatar

    What about promoting car less days? Some countries don’t have the best public transport and it takes time to create. Also, public transport should be affordable but it would be a bit unrealistic to expect it to be provided for free. Just my opinion.

  8. avatar

    They should be paid by the taxes already collected. That’s “free”. If we are to pay more taxes for this “freedom” I’ll use my car for which I pay taxes already.

  9. avatar
    EU Reform- Proactive

    NO! A rather “disingenuous” question (again)- where the basic answer was given by the EU years ago- indirectly! Why?

    The EU Commission in 2000 issued a Communication on the “PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE” (“Vorsorge Prinzip”) Paragraph 2 of article 191 of the Lisbon Treaty states, that the:

    “Union policy on the environment shall aim at a high level of protection taking into account the DIVERSITY of situations in the VARIOUS regions of the Union. It shall be based on the precautionary principle and on the principles that preventive action should be taken, that environmental damage should as a priority be rectified at source and that the polluter should pay.”

    Luxembourg being a “dwarf” of only ~500k people considered and easily reached consensus to implement (don’t know how) that principle- without a revolt!

    In contrast to a big country like France- where rioting against the same philosophy of the “polluter pays principle”= tax= “precautionary principle” – recklessly caused by an arrogant political leader/government, a lack of broad democratic deliberations and obtaining majority consent from voters before implementation!

    There exists several widely accepted principles- like:

    “User pays” (to finance road & freeway infrastructure projects etc-with toll)

    “Beneficiary pays” (e.g. retirement, pensions & insurances)

    “Polluter pays” (e.g.environment)

    One shouldn’t shout & demand a clean environment but comes “payday”- nobody is prepared to carry the costs in the disguise of taxes! Some countries (e.g. France) struggle with political arrogance on one hand- while some voters barely survive financially, coupled with a degree of political immaturity (e.g. steeped in bygone radical or Marxist ideology) on the other hand.

    Politicians need to treat their voters as “adult” & with “respect”- not rule over them like all in their opinion are political imbeciles to be squeezed endlessly. Provide options!

    Another urgent call for: -“direct democracy”- now!

  10. avatar
    catherine benning

    Should public transport be free everywhere? First of all, where is everywhere? Which continent are you addressing here?

    What you are really asking is, should we, the public, pay for all and sundry who use public transport. This will include illegals, tourists, commuters and so on.

    No, I don’t think the working tax payer should have to foot this bill. And the reason I feel it is an imposition is, the taxes will be collected and used foolishly elsewhere. As is presently the situation.This then dramatically increases the bill for working people, in order to pad the coffers for use elsewhere, rather than the intended purpose.

    That raised, I am for the concept of ‘free’ transport at the point of use. And how this should be funded is through adding pennies, in a transaction tax, to every digital financial deal taking place daily. This would include share transactions and all financial deals, made relentlessly in the billions throughout 24/7.

    This idea, floated before, was a great way to fund all sorts of necessary public services without one person feeling any kind of pinch. Take this way to raise our civil expectation and you will broaden the horizons of every thinking citizen. However, other taxes must not be touched, thereby reducing benefits already in practice. The collection must be monitored in such a way as to insure it cannot be fiddled, or, misused, for some empty political gig or so called charity effort. And it must not be used to Rob Peter in order to pay Paul. That is delusional economics.

    And use it for European infrastructure, not to increase funds in numbered Swiss bank accounts of despots world wide. Or, even despots inside of Europe. Fix our roads, increase the level of education as an unpaid by the user right. The way it was until very recently. Bring, a free at the point of use healthcare, to the whole of Europe. Only for the use by European residents. Feed our own before we turn charity outside borders. Our homeless are just as needy and just as hungry. We have a duty to keep European populations functioning, without lining up at food banks with their children in order to stay alive. They starve too.

    Don’t just think about it. Do it. It will ‘do no harm.’

  11. avatar

    This scheme is easy in a tiny little thiefdom like Luxembourg were you can virtually jog from one end of the country to the other in twenty minutes.But how would this work in countries the size of Germany or France with hundreds of trains and buses running every day?.Taxes would have to be raised to pay the transport staff.

  12. avatar

    There are no free meals. Someone has to pay. I prefer the rule of “user-pays”

  13. avatar

    We do pay taxes. That would be a sign of respect from the institutions.

  14. avatar

    Yes. Let the vehicle owners pay for that.

  15. avatar

    no, I prefer lower taxes and less things ”for free”

  16. avatar

    I don’t want others to pay for what I consume, or me to pay for others consumption. If I would need financial help one day, I am able to beg for it, because good people will surely help me, and I know it’s charity not entitlement. We have to pay what we consume, this is not a post-scarcity world. And I prefer to keep what I earn and decide myself what services I want to buy, not a benevolent bureaucrat far away in a cozy office who thinks he knows better then me how I should live my life. So, in this reality, it’s actually in my own interest that public transport should not be free.

  17. avatar

    Free public transport in small states is a very good idea. It should be able to discourage the use of private cars thus reduce pollution and pressure of land use in the urban area. I think free public transport can be a way to facilitate government planning for regional and even national development as a whole. Its application should be tailor-made to achieve the purposes. Money paid for free public transport would definitely earn back from expenses such as medical care, and input for environmental protection and degradation of the ecosystem, etc. It might be able to curb the rocketing land price in big cities. What is required for free public transport to function better might need a better mass transportation network linking cities as well.

  18. avatar
    George Yiannitsiotis, PhD

    Free is elusive. Somebody has to pay for the cost. In Luxembourg, at the centre of the EU, there is no problem (capital flows are rich). Not the case for the EU periphery (the PIIGS can not afford it).

  19. avatar

    + less polution, people realizing public transport is fast and safe, pozitive opinion towards public transport increases.
    – without payment infrastructure required for public transport would be in bad shape, the swap from fossil fuel transport to transport on gas/electricity/other greener sources would be slower.

    To sum up: prices should be low enough to changed people opinion and slowly their habits of using public transport. However a small payment would benefit faster transition to environment-friendly public transport.

  20. avatar

    I use a service, then should pay. If everything is for free what is offered by a state, it will not be valued anymore.

    • avatar

      At least in germany the public transport is so expensive that commuters are better off taking the car ;-) if I had no students ticket (~200€ for 6 months) I also would not use public transport. 37€ for 80 km per day are for many commuters not affordable and taking into Account that it is not reliable and not on time only a free ride would many people move from wheels to tracks.

  21. avatar

    There is no such thing as a “free lunch”.

  22. avatar
    Phil Ward

    There is a conflict between reducing pollution in city centres by encouraging people to change to electric vehicles, and reducing Global Warming by limiting the production of motor vehicles of all types.

  23. avatar

    Yes. And WIFI. Imagine how much more happy and productive society would be with free travel and internet!

  24. avatar

    At least cheaper than private one

  25. avatar

    Never, socialism has never worked long-term, offering the government more power is a bad thing. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

  26. avatar

    To me it is the only solution to avoid air pollution as long as there are no affordable apartments in the city.

  27. avatar

    Nobody follows this page, thus when you look at the comments, the negative ones use logic to explain itself, yet the pro ones do not explain free public transport at all. I wonder why…

  28. avatar

    shure, in my poin of vue we spend a lot of money in taxes, they most be sufisant to make it free for al

  29. avatar

    Yes. Free. Even though no, it isn’t actually free. Let’s call it free of charge for the users. Because if it is there, the users already paid for it. They should enjoy the benefits of their own system.
    I would never let public interest in the hands of a private organisation. The end goal is not the same. And leave it at that. Not the purpose of this discussion.
    Yes. Maybe the EU shoukd directly invest in public transportation throughout Europe. Make it a real alternative to other means. For all Europeans. Why not see this at a larger scale? Make train a viable way to get around Europe! That would be great! Make train the main way for getting stuff around the continent! Stop trucking altogether…

  30. avatar

    Cheap, yes. Free? Never! I hate everything that pretends to be free. It should be cheap if we really favor private competition.

  31. avatar

    It should, so I can stop using my diesel car.

  32. avatar
    Iris and Sofia

    We think that public transports souldn’t be free because drivers work to receive a salary and if the tickets are free they would be paid by the state causing an increase in taste.then everyone would move en masse through public transport which would become a dangerous place where there could be dangerous people.We are againist to this.

  33. avatar

    Free does not exist. Someone has to pay the bills. This is populist voting attracting propaganda.

    • avatar

      That’s true! On the other hand, myself as a car lover, I don’t mind that so much, because it means that people who need to comute and do not insist in using a car for that, will more likely move to the buses and the streets will be less congested for me and my car :-) . Also, the states pay much more stupid and useless things from our money…

  34. avatar

    No.. Service must be paid by the user not by the tax payer

  35. avatar

    We get free education, right? So, free does exist. Free public transportation promotes energy saving and prohibits global warming. The real question is, is it financially feasible to sustain this?

  36. avatar

    So, how would this work for a country that’s not a tiny, u imaginably wealthy tax Haven for multinationals? With the money that Luxembourg skims off of other countries treasuries, they could afford not just ‘free’ public transport but caviar, strippers and a free Lamborghini for every citizen.

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