Tuesday, April 3, 2018

German cities to trial free public transport to cut pollution

German cities to trial free public transport to cut pollution
Plan to be tested in five cities in effort to meet EU air pollution targets and avoid big fines
By Philip Oltermann, The Guardian, Wed 14 Feb 2018 
 

Public transport is hugely popular in Germany, with 10.3 billion journeys being made in 2017. A plan to trial free public transport is part of an effort to reduce road traffic. [Photograph: Alamy Stock]

“Car nation” Germany has surprised neighbours with a radical proposal to reduce road traffic by making public transport free, as Berlin scrambles to meet EU air pollution targets and avoid big fines.
The move comes just over two years after Volkswagen’s devastating “dieselgate” emissions cheating scandal unleashed a wave of anger at the auto industry, a keystone of German prosperity.
“We are considering public transport free of charge in order to reduce the number of private cars,” three ministers including the environment minister, Barbara Hendricks, wrote to EU environment commissioner Karmenu Vella in the letter seen by AFP Tuesday.

 “Effectively fighting air pollution without any further unnecessary delays is of the highest priority for Germany,” the ministers added.
The proposal will be tested by “the end of this year at the latest” in five cities across western Germany, including former capital Bonn and industrial cities Essen and Mannheim.
The move is a radical one for the normally staid world of German politics – especially as Chancellor Angela Merkel is presently only governing in a caretaker capacity, as Berlin waits for the centre-left Social Democratic party (SPD) to confirm a hard-fought coalition deal.
On top of ticketless travel, other steps proposed Tuesday include further restrictions on emissions from vehicle fleets like buses and taxis, low-emissions zones or support for car-sharing schemes.
Action is needed soon, as Germany and eight fellow EU members including Spain, France and Italy sailed past a 30 January deadline to meet EU limits on nitrogen dioxide and fine particles.
Vella gave countries extra time to present further pollution-busting measures or face legal action.
“Life-threatening” pollution affects more than 130 cities in Europe, according to the commission, causing some 400,000 deaths and costing €20bn euros (US$24.7bn) in health spending per year in the bloc.
Countries that fail to keep to EU limits could face legal action at the European court of justice, the EU’s highest tribunal, which can levy fines on member states.
Even without the pressure from Brussels, air quality has surged to the top of Berlin’s priorities over the past year.
Suspicions over manipulated emissions data have spread to other car manufacturers since Volkswagen’s 2015 admission to cheating regulatory tests on 11 million vehicles worldwide.
Environmentalists brought court cases aimed at banning diesels from parts of some city centres, and fears millions of drivers could be affected spurred Merkel into action.
Titans like BMW, Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler or the world’s biggest carmaker Volkswagen agreed to pay some €250m euros into a billion-euro fund to upgrade local transport.
The government “should make sure that the car manufacturers finance the emergency measure” of free transport, Greenpeace urged, adding that more parking and road tolls in cities could help reduce urban traffic.
On their own account, the auto firms have stepped up plans to electrify their ranges, with a barrage of battery-powered or hybrid models planned for the coming decade.

Public transport is highly popular in Germany, with the number of journeys increasing regularly over the past 20 years to reach 10.3 billion in 2017.
In comparison with other major European nations, tickets can be cheap: a single ticket in Berlin costs €2.90, while the equivalent on the London Underground costs £4.90 (€5.50 or $6.80).
But cities were quick to warn that more planning was needed if free travel was to succeed.
“I don’t know any manufacturer who would be able to deliver the number of electric buses we would need” to meet increased demand if transport was free, Bonn mayor Ashok Sridharan told news agency DPA.
Meanwhile, the Association of German Cities chief, Helmut Dedy, warned that “we expect a clear statement about how [free transport] will be financed” from the federal government.
Other attempts around the world to offer citizens free travel have failed, including in the US city of Seattle.
Ministers “should think again during a ride on the U6 [underground line] in Berlin at 7.30 am,” Die Welt newspaper commented.
“The conclusion would be clear: more carriages, more personnel, and maybe even more tracks and lines would be needed. Where would the billions for that come from?”

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Ridership up sharply as town in France makes buses fare-free

European cities consider making public transport free to tackle air pollution : "Niort in western France has been running free buses since last September for its 125,000 inhabitants.

The scheme has been an enormous success, boosting passenger numbers by 130 per cent on some routes, slightly reducing the number of cars on the roads, and costing the town little more than when people had to buy tickets, said mayor Jérôme Baloge."

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Rēzekne, Latvia, free rides lead to 40% rise in ridership

Jūrmala mulls free public transportation for locals / Article / LSM.LV: "The scheme operational in Rēzekne, however, provides free rides for people who earn less than 90% of the average national monthly wage. 

"The number of passengers has increased 40 to 50%.. Pupils and students have started to use this opportunity quite actively," says Rēzekne mayor Andrejs Rešetņikovs (Harmony). The scheme costs €320,000 to €340,000 for the city. "

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Miami Beach free trolleys

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Children ride public transport free in Cascais, Portugal

sol.sapo : "Today, in a municipality like Cascais, the network is free of charge for all children up to 12 years old and has symbolic prices for those over 65. The growth of the network will be accompanied by universality and free access."

Monday, February 19, 2018

Resort towns love the fare-free idea

Whistler tempts drivers to stay off the road | CTV Vancouver News: "Getting drivers of the road is exactly what the Resort Municipality of Whistler is trying to do.

The town has introduced an incentive program to cut down on commuter traffic by hiking municipal parking rates in exchange for free public transit at peak times.

Whistler's mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said the initiative is supposed to cut down on commuter traffic by encouraging locals to walk or take public transit and encouraging tourists not to drive and take shuttles instead. It’s part of an effort to have less cars on the road to cut back on congestion.

Whilhelm-Morden said she's received complaints before about people who aren't used to driving in the inclement conditions seen on the Sea to Sky Highway, and improving that could be an added bonus in addition to cutting back on congestion.

The initiative has been going on for about a year and a half, and although Wilhelm-Morden said it's too early to provide numbers, she thinks the feedback has been largely positive."