The government of Germany is currently mulling the idea of making public transportation system use in heavily polluted cities free as a means of reducing emissions and thus improving air quality, Reuters has reported.
The news originates with a letter reportedly seen by Reuters — sent to European Union Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella, and signed by Germany’s Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks, chancellery head Peter Altmaier, and Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt — which lays out other possibilities as well (which are less ambitious), so the plans are by no means a sure thing as of yet.
As some background here for those unfamiliar with the situation, a number of cities in Germany are persistently home to levels of air pollution that exceed legality within the European Union. In recent times the European Commission has been making more threats (which to date have been empty ones) relating to this situation, with threats being issued last month that penalties could be coming soon.
Reuters provides more:
“In the letter, the authors proposed low emission zones, free public transport to reduce car use, extra incentives for electric cars, and technical retrofitting for existing vehicles as long as this is effective and economically feasible.”
“They said they would test these measures out in 5 cities — Bonn, Essen, Herrenberg, Reutlingen, and Mannheim — before rolling out the most successful measures to all other cities affected. The authors said they had agreed these measures with Germany’s federal states and municipalities, but Helmut Dedy, the head of the Council of German Cities, said he was surprised by the proposal. There had been plans for lowering ticket prices in some cities, he said, adding that the federal government would have to finance public transport if it wanted to make it free.”
That comment is in reference to the fact that, generally speaking, public transit systems in Germany are generally owned by local municipalities. As a result, opposition to the plans discussed above may be fairly strong.
It’ll be interesting to see if such an approach, if it ends up being trailed, will work to substantially reduce local air pollution problems. It would certainly make for an interesting experiment.