Debate Rages Over Free Public Transport in Prague

prague morning tram
Copyright: Prague Morning

“We want free public transport in Prague”, the opposition claims. “It is just a pre-election move”, the city management replies.

The chairman of ANO Party, Ondřej Prokop, came up with a controversial proposal for free public transport in Prague until the end of 2022.

Prokop argued that public transport in Prague is still not full after the coronavirus epidemic and that many cars run empty or half-empty, and Prague residents need to be positively motivated to use public transport.

The second argument is Prokop’s claim that the people of Prague are facing an energy and inflationary crisis.

“As the economic situation is deteriorating significantly, many Praguers are falling into poverty, and public transport is still not full, we will propose public transport completely free of charge until the end of 2022,” Prokop wrote in a report to journalists.

“Of course, we understand the difficult situation of citizens in these times, but this must be addressed through targeted assistance and not wasteful budgeting. At the same time, it is important to maintain the quality of Prague’s public transport. Frequent connections, building new tram lines, metro lines, electrifying bus lines, buying new modern vehicles and we can only ensure this thanks to fare money,” said Adam Scheinherr, Prague deputy mayor of Transport.

Another representative of the ANO movement, Patrik Nacher, also commented on Prokop’s proposal. “This type of completely extraordinary and time-limited measure has a motivating effect, sends positive signals and also has an anti-inflationary effect”.

European cities with free-fare transport

Following a referendum in 2013, the inhabitants of Tallinn (Estonia’s capital) voted overwhelmingly in favour of free public transportation. The problem in Tallinn can be compared to the problem in Luxembourg City: thousands of commuters travel to the city centre every day.

Plus, many people with low incomes struggled to pay. The system has been functioning without any major hitches for almost a decade now, even if analysts say it hasn’t led to a reduction in private cars on the streets.

In the French city of Dunkirk, steps to provide free buses and trains, however, did lead to less traffic. Since 2018, residents can travel on public transport for free.

Aubagne (also in France) was a pioneer in implementing the first free tram network in the world, and public transport has been free there since 2009. Seen at first as a simple test, the initiative turned out to be a great success. After three years, there were 5,000 fewer cars driving around the city every day, a decrease of 10 per cent. The popularity of public transport also rose by 235 per cent.

Cascais is, so far, the only municipality in Portugal to have opted for free-fare public transit.

Anyone who has heard of Livigno is probably also an avid skier. This village in the Italian Alps offers its public transport free of charge from 7:30 in the morning until 20:00 in the evening. The town is very clear to its visitors: nobody needs a car to discover it and this sure sounds like a good way to stand out among winter destinations.

Since the 1st of January 2018, public transport in the city centre of Czech Strakonice (South Bohemia) has also been completely free.

Since 2011, people can use free public transportation in Frýdek-Místek, a town in the east of the Czech Republic. The number of passengers increased by as much as 40 per cent during the first two years.

The regional expansion aspect of zero-fare services has also been introduced in parts of the Lower Silesia region in Poland. Free transport exists in Polkowice, an industrial city of 22,000 inhabitants, and in some agglomerations of its canton, in Lubin and throughout its canton and in some agglomerations of the canton of Legnica, an industrial city with 100,000 inhabitants.

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