May 27, 2019

Luxembourg to Become the First Country to Offer Free Mass Transit for All

Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, introduced free mass transit for residents in 2013. A year into the project, usage grew 14 percent, but it was mostly pedestrians, not drivers, who made the switch

Traveling by mass transit in Luxembourg is already free for many residents, including students. And the government offers subsidies for others to reduce trave costs.

But the governing coalition said it planned to overhaul tax breaks for commuters, a benefit that has been available based on the distance traveled and not the mode of transport.

This year, Luxembourg budgeted nearly €900 million in public money for its mass transit system, but recovered around €30 million in ticket sales, the prime minister’s Democratic Party said in its manifesto. The savings made on selling and controlling tickets could finance some of the cost of free travel, the document added.

Free mass transit will be available from the beginning of 2020, said Dany Frank, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Mobility.

People around the world greeted the proposal enthusiastically on social media. Helena Rivera, an architect, said on Twitter, “A day to dream about in London.”

Others pointed out that Luxembourg operated a relatively small network and that the country could be crossed in less than an hour.

While there are advantages to free travel — such as cutting emissions when fewer vehicles take to the road — a 2002 report by the National Center for Transportation Research at the University of South Florida noted that larger transit systems that cannot afford to operate at a loss saw drawbacks, including a rise in vandalism, revenue shortfalls, slower service over all and increased crowds.

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