What do you think of when you hear the word “Luxembourg?” Known to many as “Little Switzerland,” this small European country (just under 1000 square miles) nestled between Belgium, Germany, and France, is home to less than 600,000 people. It features medieval castles perched high up in the mountains, the dense Ardennes forest in the north, and the beautiful Moselle valley in the south.
What you may not think of is urban congestion. Every work day, some 400,000 people stream into Luxembourg City (population 110,000) in the morning and then rush home in the afternoon. 200,000 of them commute to Luxembourg from one of the surrounding nations. It all turns into a chaotic mess in which people spend more time getting to and from their jobs than they do actually working.
Last summer, Luxembourg began making its pubic transportation system free to people under 20 years old. The country also provides free shuttles for school children from their homes to schools and back. Fares for others are set at a ridiculously low €2 ($1.78) for up to 2 hours of travel anywhere in the country.
Now the government of Xavier Bettel, who was recently re-elected as the country’s prime minister, says it will make public transportation free for all beginning in 2020. Bettel’s campaign positioned him as strong supporter of environmental action. While the move will obviously reduce the system’s income to zero, it will also eliminate the need to pay people to sell tickets and collect them. It will also solve the problem of people who avoid paying the existing fares entirely.
The move is expected to encourage many of the people who currently drive into Luxembourg City every day to switch to public transportation instead. Congestion on the roads into and out of the city is said to be some of the worst in Europe. The new policy will have the additional benefit of reducing air pollution in the city.
Urban congestion and air pollution are top considerations in many European cities, many of which are planning to ban cars entirely in an effort to insure their residents have clean air to breathe. Luxembourg hasn’t reached that point yet and is hoping free public transportation will convince a significant number of people to leave their cars at home.
There is one issue that hasn’t been resolved yet, however. Like most of Europe, trains in Luxembourg have dedicated first and second class seating areas. When everyone rides for free, how will people decide who gets to sit where? Will bankers want to rub elbows with laborers during their commute? “We’ll see,” said the Zen master.
Don't want to miss a cleantech story? Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!
Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.