Free public transport has been a priority for several countries for years in an attempt to either curb pollution or reduce traffic congestion. One by one, European nations such as France or Germany have announced ambitious plans to either reduce gas emissions, embrace electric vehicles or simply give citizens a free and more efficient alternative to driving. In July, the government of Estonia announced it will stop charging local resident public transport fares for most of its counties.
Now another European country is ready to make the transition to free public transport for all citizens. The government of Luxembourg says it will stop charging for trains, trams and buses beginning in the summer of 2019. The current coalition government made the announcement following Prime Minister Xavier Bettel being sworn in for a second term earlier in December.
“This is an ambitious and modern project,” Bettel said in announcing the project together with other measures.
The expansion of free public transit follows this past summer’s government announcement to provide free transportation for people under age 20.
The decision is significant since Luxembourg has one of the most congested cities in the world, notes the Guardian. Its 110,000 residents merge with more than 400,000 people who commute daily into the city for work, including 200,000 alone from Belgium, France and Germany. Drivers reportedly spend more than 30 hours in traffic jams a year, according to one study from 2016 cited by the newspaper. There are about 500,000 registered cars in Luxembourg and about 80 percent of residents choose individual transport over the public system.
Whether the moves taken in Luxembourg, one of Europe’s smallest nations and slightly smaller in geographic size than the U.S. state of Rhode Island, can be applied elsewhere remains an open question. Studies suggest the issue is less about reducing the cost of public transportation and more about raising the cost of driving individual vehicles.
Similar measures taken in other cities have produced positive results, but there is still no clear evidence that free public transport stops people from driving or incentivizes them to more frequently use buses, trams and trains. Research has shown that the people likely to use public transportation more extensively if it’s free are those already using the services. No impact has been found that shows widespread free public transportation reduces congestion or emissions, experts say.
The Bettel administration, which will be in office until 2023, also intends to curb economic inequality and increase its citizens’ guaranteed minimum income. The government recently voted to increase the minimum monthly wage by 22 euros (about $25) beginning Jan. 1.
De Mindestloun gëtt ab den 1. Januar em 22€ erhéicht. Dat ass eng vun den 3 Mesuren déi virgesinn de Mindestloun em 100€ ze ??. De revenu d’inclusion sociale an den Akommes fir schwéier handicapéiert Leit geet och an d’Luucht. Déi 2 Gesetzprojete goufen eestëmmeg gestëmmt. pic.twitter.com/TwIjWkI5uO
— Chambre des Députés (@ChambreLux)
The country’s social inclusion income, a plan focusing on lifting children and single-parent households out of poverty, as well as the allowance for severely disabled people will also be increased, according to the local newspaper L’essentiel, in writing about the reforms.
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