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!