Luxembourg is a small country.
It’s about 50 miles by 35 miles,
with just over 600,000 people living in it.
And here in the capital, Luxembourg City,
around 200,000 people commute into work every day,
half from outside the country,
but less than 20% of them travel by public transit.
But from Sunday, March 1st,
all public transit in the entire country will be free.
Pretty soon, there’ll be no ticket machines,
unless you want an international ticket.
There’ll be no fare dodgers,
unless you count people who are sneaking into the first-class train cabins
that you will still have to pay for.
And on the face of it,
free public transit seems like an easy decision.
Get people out of cars and into buses and trains.
But it’s a little more complicated than that.
We are the country, besides Qatar,
with the highest degree of cars per household in Luxembourg,
and we have definitely a big problem,
especially in peak hours, with enormous congestion problems.
We have a problem also, that’s quality of life in our cities, in our villages, is really worsened.
That comes because Luxembourg is a country
where you had not only the highest average of economic growth in the last 25 years,
but also our population growth is the highest in the European Union.
Having mobility behaviour that is mainly based on individual cars
cannot really function anymore,
and at the end, it’s also a problem then for our economy itself.
Making public transit free is not a new idea.
There are quite a few cities around the world who’ve already done it,
and a lot of Estonian now has free public transit for residents.
Luxembourg, though, is the first country to abolish fares entirely,
and partly that’s because it can afford to do it.
The country is a small, rich tax haven.
The thing is, public transit here is almost free already.
A ticket valid for a full day on every bus, tram, and train in the country is €4.
公交 有轨电车 火车都可以用的单日通票价为4欧元
The whole transit network costs the government €700 million a year to operate,
but all the tickets sold add up to just 10% of that.
By comparison, London’s transit network is about half-funded by fares.
So from the Luxembourg government’s perspective,
there’s not actually that much difference between a €4 day ticket and free transit,
But “free transit” is the sort of headline that gets you a lot of good publicity.
But hey, if transit is free, why would you want to get around by car?
但是 如果交通免费 你为什么还想自驾出行呢
Well, it’s because the transit here isn’t great.
It’s okay, by European standards.
The buses and trains will get you there.
I’ve had no problems as a tourist,
but the commuter lines are already overcrowded in rush hour.
A lot of the rolling stock is dated,
and there is a litany of complaints about the paths they take
and how they deal with breakdowns.
Driving here, even with the congestion, is usually quicker and more convenient,
即使拥堵 这里开车通常会更快 更方便
sometimes even for journeys directly between city centres.
So every year, there’s more and more people moving here,
and the infrastructure system is under a lot of strain.
So the needs are to make it work, not to make it free.
There’s lots of research on this,
and what comes out over and over again is that
the fare is not the main motivating factor.
The motivating factor is comfort, reliability, and safety.
No one ever knows if the trains are actually going to be on time.
It has happened that
people are standing for an hour and a half on the platform waiting for the train,
with no substitute buses or anything.
So that’s an extreme case, obviously,
but if one wants to be somewhere on time,
one has to take this into account, that these things do happen.
The cities who are doing this investment into public transport, into free public transport,
that’s really the bit of cities that, from a competitive point of view,
will be, worldwide, the winning cities.
Even if I say it’s free to use,
somebody pays it.
So at the end, the 700 million euros will be paid by the taxpayers in general.
Someone, for example, with Minimum income pays no taxes.
So he has the public transport, really, for free,
but somebody who pays high taxes, he pays much more.
That’s an important point
for someone like me, who’s a tourist with a travel budget,
€4 for a day pass isn’t a big issue,
but for someone on Minimum wage
who has to commute an hour, or two hours, from wherever housing’s affordable,
that makes a big difference.
– I don’t think the key social issue in Luxembourg is the price of the transit.
One needs to look at the housing costs.
The increasing prices of housing
are pushing people to the border regions.
So it might be financially more sound to live in Belgium, or France and Germany,
buy a house, or rent a house,and buy a couple of cars,
than it would be to live here in Luxembourg and use the transit.
It needs investment, and it needs investment now.
And so Luxembourg needs to catch up and plan for the future.
You must see the free public transport additionally to the investments
that we are doing in the improvement of the network
and the quality of the public transport.
If you only introduce free public transport,
that will change not very much in behaviour.
It can only function if you do it combined with a complete strategy
that will switch from individual mobility to multi-modality,
so even including pedestrians, cyclists,
and if you invest at the same time, a lot of money, in the infrastructure of public transport,
so that at the end, you can combine everything.
We say, if we built an infrastructure,
we will build it to move people and not to move cars.
– I’m not saying free transit is a bad thing.
I think it’s a great idea, personally,
but having good, frequent, well-connected transit
但是好的 车次较多的 线路广
that isn’t too crowded to board is also important.
The question isn’t as binary as “Should public transit be free?”
because in a utopia, of course it would be.
It would also be autonomous, zero-emission,
and it would run from anywhere to everywhere all the time.
But until we’re in a post-scarcity society,
the public are paying one way or another, either through taxes or fares.
The more important question is about planning and long-term investment,
because if your bus is always late,
and your train’s always cancelled,
it really doesn’t matter if they’re free.
Luxembourg is a small country.