Public transportation is a huge expense for many people who live in or commute to cities regularly for work. From bus fares to metro fees and many other transportation costs, the fees quickly add up, leading many city-goers to opt for other means of transportation, mainly via a personal vehicle. This greatly adds to traffic congestion and increases the carbon footprint, neither of which are desirable attributes!
In response to these things, Luxembourg set out to become the world’s very first country to make all of their public transportation free. Xavier Bettel, the newly re-elected prime minister, along with the coalition government have recently announced that they plan to lift all fares on buses, trains, and trams by summer of 2019. (1, 2, 3)
Luxembourg Traffic Congestion Issue
Partially in an effort to solve inconvenient traffic problems and also with the hopes of reducing the impact of cars on the environment, this small European country has officially announced its plan to become the very first nation ever with a public transportation system that is completely free. While many of the finer points of the plan have yet to be completely organized, leaving a few questions unanswered – including whether or not trains will have first and second class compartments, and if so, will those have charges? -Luxembourg is fully confident in their ability to follow through by summertime. (1, 2, 3)
According to some, traffic congestion is a huge issue in Luxembourg since it sees multiple hundred thousand cross-border commuters from neighboring countries on a daily basis. Commuters pass through Luxembourg on their way to and from France, Belgium, and Germany, leading to many packed roadways and long commute times.
A 2016 study suggested that Luxembourg City drivers spent an average of 33 hours stuck in traffic jams every single year. To many Americans, this might not seem like a long time at all, since the study also revealed that inhabitants of Los Angeles spent 104.1 hours in traffic jams and New Yorkers 89.4 hours. While Luxembourg City might consider adjusting their definition of “congested traffic,” their goal of offering free transit is entirely admirable! (4, 5)
Luxembourg Frees Public Transit
The Luxembourg coalition government, comprised of Bettel’s centrist Democratic party, the left-wing Socialist Workers’ Party, and the Greens campaigned majorly on their promises of delivering an increase of environmental protection as well as an improvement of public services. Hoping to stay true to their campaign promises as well as to encourage commuters to take buses and trains rather than their own vehicles to work, the government and Prime Minister, Bettel, are taking huge steps. Children and people under the age of 20 have already been allowed to ride freely on public buses, trams, and trains within Luxembourg due solely to a policy update Bettle’s government introduced early in 2018. These new and upcoming changes for the summer of 2019 are only meant to add to preexisting motions. (1, 6)
These Luxembourg changes might sound too good to be true for Americans who are accustomed to paying substantial fees for bus fare, metro tickets, and parking meters, but Luxembourg residents are apparently well adjusted to paying fixed low rates for transportation. According to a United Kingdom newspaper, fares for public transit are capped around $2.20 for two hours of travel time, which covers most trips within the small country, and apparently, that number is only going to get lower. (1, 7)
Beginning in 2020, Luxembourg plans to have all tickets abolished in order to reduce their carbon footprint, lower traffic congestion, and save on the collection of fares and the policing of ticket purchases. Is this too good to be true or will Luxembourg make free-public-transit history?