Dunkirk offers free public transport
From the 1st of September, public buses in Dunkirk (pictured) are completely free of charge – making the northern French port city with 200,000 inhabitants “Europe's largest agglomeration to offer free bus transport”, according to the city's mayor Patrice Vergriete.
The launch follows a two-year pilot offering free buses in the weekend, during which usage increased by 29% on Saturdays and 78% on Sundays. The debate about the pros and cons of such schemes are raging throughout France. In all, 30 other, smaller agglomerations operate similar free public transport schemes.
For example, in the central French city of Châteauroux (72,000 inhabitants), annual public transport usage has tripled since it was made free in 2001, to 5 million trips. The city feels the social and economic advantages of the measure far outweigh the cost of €900,000 per year.
Paris is examining whether the system could be introduced there. That would take the experiment to a much higher level: every day, 8 million trips are made using the metropolitan area's 1,500 bus lines, 37 metro lines and 450-station regional train network (altogether employing 100,000 staff).
Currently, only €3 billion of the Greater Paris transport budget of €10 billion is paid for by ticket sales – the rest is already subsidised by the government. Some suggest the additional funding could be raised by charging a city congestion tax of cars going into the city.