If the bus was free, would you take it more often? That’s the question at the heart of the discussion around fare-free public transport.
Příbram (Central Bohemia) is considering making public transport free, to solve the problem with parking in the center.
“We are now very strongly considering this option. We want to have a debate on this topic not only in the council, but also with transport experts, citizens, and representatives of the non-profit sector,” says Deputy Mayor Martin Buršík.
“We have been working for a long time to improve parking in the city. In recent years, several hundred new parking spaces have been created in Příbram, and other car parks are planned. In the city center, however, there are not many opportunities to expand parking,” added Buršík.
“We have modern buses, one of the densest public transport networks compared to similar cities in the Czech Republic, and fares that are definitely at an acceptable price. Nevertheless, the center is still full of cars.”
Opponents of free fare transport policy frequently point to its high financial costs which, in their view, outweighs its impact.
According to preliminary calculations, free public transport shouldn’t affect significantly the city’s budget. “It will cost us less than CZK 1 million a month. The total cost of public transport in Příbram is about CZK 45 million per year.”
From a purely economic point of view, there is another fact: Prague and the Central Bohemia region are coming closer to having a single mass transit system.
The merger of bus transport, which makes it easier to travel on a single ticket, should continue in the direction of Zásmuky and Uhlířské Janovice, including a connection with Sázava. The connection between Prague and Beroun, Hořovice, Zdice, and via Hořovice to Příbram should also be resolved.
Prague and the Central Bohemia region both hope to reduce commuter traffic by making public transportation including regional trains easier to use.
Tallin, the first one
In 2018, the city of Dunkirk, France, made buses free and accessible to all passengers, even visitors. With a population of roughly 200,000, Dunkirk is the largest city in Europe to offer free public transit.
Dunkirk’s system was inspired by Tallinn, Estonia, the first European capital to provide fare-free service on buses, trams, and trolleys to registered residents. Locals pay €2 for a “green card” that gives them unlimited free trips. The program started in 2013 and, as of 2016, Tallinn claimed it was turning a €20 million-a-year profit.
In March 2020, Luxembourg just became the first country in the world to make its entire public transit system free to all.