European cities where public transportation is free

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The Lisbon city council has recently overwhelmingly approved a plan that will provide free transportation to all citizens under the age of 18, students up to the age of 23, and elderly people over the age of 65, Reuters reported. This move will allow the aforementioned categories to use the subway system, public buses, most rail lines, and the yellow trams in the Portuguese capital completely free of charge.

Mayor of Lisbon Carlos Moedas said the decision was crucial in the fight against climate change. Lisbon is not the first European city that has taken such a decision and several other European cities have also implemented this measure in the past. Which other European cities have introduced free public transportation and can this encourage more residents to give up on their cars and opt for buses or trams?

Back in 2019, the European Parliament endorsed a resolution proclaiming a climate and environmental emergency in Europe and around the world, just ahead of the UN COP25 Climate Change Conference in Madrid. The repercussions of climate change are already being seen around the world, with Earth’s temperature rising, rainfall patterns shifting, and sea levels rising. Furthermore, more floods and droughts are being caused by climate change, which is having a significant impact on the world’s water systems.

The time to react and prevent some of the most devastating impacts of climate change is running out, and European cities are taking more steps in combating climate change. There are numerous ways this can be achieved. Because transportation is seen as one of the main sources of pollution, encouraging alternative mobility methods remains crucial. An increasing number of bikes or e-scooters are now present on the streets of European cities. However, more initiatives are needed to encourage people to switch to public transportation, as this method alone will not suffice in reaching the climate targets that countries and cities have set.

Luxembourg is considered a pioneer in free mobility, having established the world’s first nationwide free public transportation network back in 2020. Everyone, including residents and tourists, has been able to use public transit for free since February 29, 2020. This policy was implemented with the goal of encouraging Luxembourg residents to use public transportation and reducing frequent traffic issues in the small Benelux state.

According to Eurostat, Luxembourg has had the highest motorisation rate among the EU Member States for at least 30 years. There were 681 passenger cars per thousand people in that country back in 2019. The introduction of free public transportation was, therefore, seen as a very important step toward reducing the number of cars. At the same time, because public transportation allows a large group of people to travel in one vehicle at the same time, CO2 emissions are reduced.

At the beginning of the previous decade, a similar measure was implemented in Tallinn, Estonia’s capital. In this Baltic city, however, free public transportation is limited only to people who are officially residing in Tallinn. The Estonian capital implemented the measure following a successful public referendum in which 75% of the city’s residents voted in support of fare-free public transportation.

The French city of Dunkirk, located near the Belgian border, also introduced a new, completely free bus system in 2018. According to France 24, a 2019 study proved that the initiative was not only revitalizing the city center but also benefiting the environment. In a town where two-thirds of inhabitants previously relied on their cars to get around, half of the 2,000 passengers polled indicated they use the bus more or considerably more than before the measure was introduced.

Livigno, a ski resort in the Italian Alps, is another European city which you can easily visit without a car. This picturesque city provides free bus service to all visitors, which runs from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. and is divided into two lines. In addition, skis, snowboards, and other sporting equipment can also be transported free of charge.

There are more cities in Europe that are currently trying out free public transportation, either for specific categories of residents only or for everyone. Their motives range from environmental concerns to tackling traffic jams. In any case, introducing free public transportation can certainly be an effective strategy to boost the utilization of public transport services, which can subsequently have a positive impact on reducing emissions. (photo credit: pch.vector/Freepik)