Free Public Transportation For All to Be Introduced in Luxembourg

“La gratuité des transports publics sera introduite sur le territoire du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg durant le premier trimestre 2020, en parallèle avec une réforme des frais de déplacement forfaitaires, déductibles des impôts. Dans cette optique, plus aucun déchet de recettes ne sera dû entre opérateurs des transports publics. La réforme des frais de déplacement tiendra entre autre compte des besoins spécifiques de personnes travaillant en dehors des heures de service.”

Free Public Transportation For All to Be Introduced in Luxembourg

Luxembourg

Photograph ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

At the bottom of page 42 of his report titled Accord de Coalition 2018-2023, Xavier Bettel — who is the current prime minister of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg — declared the aforementioned paragraph in French, which means in English that free public transportation will be introduced to the small country during the first quarter of 2020 — simultaneously with a reform of fixed tax-deductible travel expenses. Revenue will no longer be wasted between the operators of public transportation. The reform of travel expenses will — among other things — take into account the specific needs of people who work outside of the hours of service.

In other words — if Xavier Bettel has his way, as protecting the environment is a top priority to him — Luxembourg will become the first country in the world to eliminate charging passengers fares on all modes of public transportation, which includes buses, trams and trains.

You can currently travel up to two hours using the public transportation systems in Luxembourg for two euros. If you are younger than 20 years of age, you get to use the public transportation system free of charge, which became effective during the summer of 2018.

Almost 185,000 people commuted every day from other countries to work in Luxembourg in 2017 — with approximately 58 percent of them to its capital city, which is also known as Luxembourg — resulting in the country to be amongst the worst in Europe in terms of both traffic congestion and overcrowded trains. Higher salaries — almost 40 percent greater than what is offered for similar jobs in France — is one of the reasons as to why Luxembourg is a popular country in which to work and an attractive option for residents of France, Belgium and Germany.

The removal of a current tax break for commuters — which is based on the distance traveled and not the mode of transportation — is expected to fund some of the cost of the initiative of offering free public transportation to all. Another source of funding is the savings of the money which is spent on selling and controlling tickets to the public transportation system while simultaneously policing its commuters: in 2018, Luxembourg budgeted almost €900 million in public money for its transportation system; but it recovered approximately €30 million in ticket sales.

The population of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg in 2019 is estimated at 613,000 people.

Is Free Public Transportation Truly Beneficial?

Luxembourg

A winding road in Luxembourg. Photograph ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

“This, surely, is just the kind of radical action the world needs if we are ever to escape the tyranny of the motor vehicle and make our cities green, pleasant and quieter” is what Susanna Rustin wrote in this article for The Guardian about the initiative of free public transportation for all to be implemented by Luxembourg. “Just imagine being able to hop on and off buses, trams or trains at will, without scrabbling around for coins or tickets. Picture the reduction of traffic that would surely result from shifting the incentives so dramatically: the buses whizzing down uncongested streets, the less stinky air and less stress-inducing crossings, without the queues of cars pressing to squeeze through before the light turns red, their impatient drivers huffing and honking and swearing.”

Although Rustin wrote that with “around a quarter of European emissions due to transport, 70% of which are from road traffic, it is tempting to jump up down and demand that Europe’s bigger capital cities should follow suit”, this report from October of 2002 by the National Center for Transportation Research at the University of South Florida countered that larger transportation systems which cannot afford to operate at a loss had experienced negative consequences — which included an increase in vandalism, revenue shortfalls, and slower service overall. Increased crowds were an issue as well — after all, why walk, ride a bicycle or use a skateboard when the public transportation system costs nothing on which to ride?

Summary

Luxembourg

Photograph ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

Free public transportation is already offered in some cities around the world at certain times — as well as to people such as retirees or the unemployed, as two of many examples — while other locations are considering following the lead of Luxembourg and offering free mass transportation to all.

I was in Luxembourg several months ago, as I rented a car to drive there from Amsterdam. Although I did experience some congestion, it was not as bad as I thought — probably because I attempted to avoid rush hour whenever possible. However, I found the capital city itself to be quite walkable, as I parked the car at the hotel property at which I stayed and walked into and around the city for the day. I intend to write articles pertaining to my experience in Luxembourg.

If public transportation was free of charge, I would likely still opt to walk, as it is the most environmental way of getting around; it is great exercise for me; and I get to see and experience things one does not normally see with other modes of transportation — unless, of course, I had little time; the distances were significant; or the areas in which I were to walk were too dangerous.

As to whether other cities and countries should follow the lead of Luxembourg, I would initially support free public transportation; but I would have to carefully review the potential disadvantages — some of which have already been mentioned — to arrive at a final opinion as to whether or not that is truly a good idea.

All photographs ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

5 thoughts on “Free Public Transportation For All to Be Introduced in Luxembourg”

  1. derek says:

    If public transit were free in NYC, I would use it more often. Rather than walking, I’d take the bus or even the subway for 1-2 stops. This would be it would be more crowded. For me, free public transit in NYC would not reduce my driving (which is very rare) but would increase my usage to the point of near abusive.

    In a city like Memphis, TN, free public transit would not change my usage. I wouldn’t use the slow bus.

    What New Orleans needs to do is to have regular buses between the airport and downtown. Now, they stop before downtown so as not to compete with taxis.

  2. Billy Bob says:

    You can bet that this Susanna Rustin would love to outlaw your car, and several other freedoms you enjoy now, if given the chance.

    You may not like the smell of this politician or that one, but try to elect the ones who won’t take away your freedoms little by little.

  3. GUWonder says:

    Free public transit system in a high income country like Luxembourg— it’s big for finance/asset management — may work for it, but such approach won’t be without its problems elsewhere, even where public transit systems are 80+% subsidized by taxpayer money.

  4. Vicky Joseph says:

    Hi,
    Thank you for sharing this informative article. I learned new things from you. It helped me a lot and I hope that it will also help others. I appreciate your efforts.
    Have a good day ahead.

  5. Barry Graham says:

    It’s only free for visitors. Residents are paying for it through taxes. This reminds me of when Ken Livingstone tried to introduce really cheap fares in London decades ago. It was eventually ruled illegal and the prices went up however the simplified fare structure that came with it remained and that was a good thing.

    Also even public transport has an effect on the environment especially when, as happens in the DC area, there is a very high number of “Out of Service” buses doing nothing good for the environment and just causing more congestion. They claim it’s to get the buses in the right place but when I lived in London I rarely saw buses that were out of service.

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