Wednesday, January 2, 2019
Luxembourg has made public transportation free. The change was made for environmental reasons.
Luxembourg has the highest per capita rate of vehicles per resident than any other European Union city. In many ways, Luxembourg is a work destination city with commuters coming from France, Belgium and Germany. The city population increases fivefold on workdays with few commuters ride sharing.
The policy of free public transportation is designed to reduce vehicle congestion and reduce emissions. Luxembourg is smaller than the state of Rhode Island, but the change will be a good start for reducing air pollution. Germany will test free public transportation in some cities. There is little data on emissions reduction for cities that provide free public transportation. The addition of German cities and Luxembourg will support research in how free public transportation supports human rights improvement.
Convincing US cities to provide free public transportation may be a bit more difficult. But economics should be convincing. Major US cities have failing infrastructures. The cost of yearly repair is significant. They suffer the same Luxembourg problem. Commuter traffic creates jams that can triple travel time and pollution that creates health problems.
Cities that wish to offer free transportation must be prepared to make an initial substantial investment in the systems. Anticipating increased ridership means increasing public vehicles as well as more frequent runs. Some immediate savings is accomplished through a reduction in staff needed to selling tickets and those who maintain related machines. For forward thinking cities, the reduced road maintenance costs and health costs related to pollution will reward budget planners who consider long term benefits.
There is a larger human rights issue at stake. Cities that charge for public transportation due so with set fees. Removing that financial barrier opens educational, work and health opportunities for those who might not be able to afford frequent trips on public trains or buses. Transportation as a human right previously has been a topic of this blog. Luxembourg's immediate need is to reduce commuter cars, but no matter what the motivation, free transportation expands the exercise of fundamental human rights.