The city of Montpellier in southern France plans to offer free public transport.
It will launch the plan, making it the largest French metropolis to do so.
Locals will be able to use a free transportation pass on the city’s bus and tram network starting on December 21, 2023. The plan intends to lower emissions, lessen pollution, and increase accessibility for citizens of the city.
From September 2020, Montpellier has been testing free weekend transportation. This was expanded in 2021 to include weekdays for those who were under 18 and over 65.
“By introducing free transport, we are bold in taking a great measure of social justice, of progress, which works for the ecological transition.”Mayor of Montpellier, Michaël Delafosse
The city’s €150 million push for zero carbon mobility involves investments in cycle lanes and the development of a low emissions zone, as well as the additional extension of the program.
Where else in France offers free public transport?
Montpellier is not at all a trailblazing city. In fact, since the decentralization of the nation’s transportation management in 2015, French towns and cities have started implementing such programs.
Yet, less than 150,000 people live in the bulk of these.
Dunkirk, which has approximately 200,000 residents, is now the biggest city to adopt free transportation. Following the introduction of fare-free bus lines in 2018, the number of passengers rose by an average of 85%.
The Mobility Payment levy, which already applies to public and private businesses in France with more than 10 employees, would be slightly raised to help pay for the program.
39 regions in France have comparable policies, including the western commune of Niort, the port city of Calais, and the Aubagne neighborhood of Marseille.
The biggest city to implement this plan so far will be Montpellier.
Free transportation programs, according to supporters, improve purchasing power, bring people to urban areas, decrease car use (and thus pollution and emissions), and democratize access to transportation.
Some worry that it might stifle development and investment in the transportation sector and that the costs might be borne by the general public.
While similar programs across Europe have not always demonstrated to reduce car use, the increased demand brought on by ticket-free travel may also strain infrastructure in congested urban areas.
Could Paris receive free public transport?
Paris, the capital of France, relies more significantly on transportation ticket sales than other French cities, thus the idea might not be as simple to implement there.
According to Vie-publique, ticketing only accounts for 10% of the funding for transportation in several medium-sized municipalities. It ranges from 25 to 40% in major cities like Paris, Lyon, and Marseille.
These communities are more likely to stick with partly free access to transportation that prioritizes lower income demographics including children, retirees, and jobless individuals.
To assist pupils in returning to school, free transportation for those under 18 was implemented in the French capital in 2020. In 2021, Nantes made weekend travel free. Also, the Occitane area of southern France will test providing 30 free train trips per month to young adults (18 to 26) in 2021.
How may a free Montpellier transport pass be obtained?
Through the M’Ticket app, Montpellier locals can sign up for a free transportation pass. You must provide a photo ID and evidence of residence.
Your smartphone will then display the pass, which needs to be confirmed each time you board a bus or tram.
Which other nations in Europe provide free public transport?
Two European nations stand out for having ground-breaking free transportation policies.
In 2013, the capital of Estonia, Tallinn, made public transportation free. 2020 saw the elimination of all public transportation fares, becoming Luxembourg the first nation in the world to do so.
In an experiment that will last until the end of the year, Spain is offering free rail tickets for short- and medium-distance trips. It seeks to lower CO2 emissions while lessening the effects of the cost of living crisis.
A subsidized national public transportation pass was implemented in Germany between June and August of last year in a manner similar to this. For only €9 a month, it offered visitors unlimited access to local and regional services.
This summer, France and Germany are collaborating to provide 60,000 young people with free rail tickets in order to promote cultural interchange.
More than 50 European cities and towns have now made public transportation free, citing social equality and climatic goals as their main drivers.