Let’s get free

Combating climate change and peak oil with free public transport

We are standing at a crossroad: in order to reduce our oil dependency and to make our cities climate smart, we have to change our ways of getting around. It is a fact that the future is on track, and with free public transport everyone can come along for the ride.

So far, the local transport sector has been sadly neglected in the climate debate. Even though the inflation in car traffic is one of our biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions and unnecessary oil use, few cities have any serious plans to radically decrease their car traffic.

With just a marginal tax-raise (in Stockholm, capital of Sweden, all commuters who earns less than 5000 Euros a month would benefit from this), the public transport system could be made free at the point of entry. This would lead to a decline in car-traffic and a surge in the demand for public transportation, which in turn would stimulate a much needed capacity and comfort increase in the public transport system.

In cities where a free system has been introduced, such as Hasselt in Belgium, Ockelbo in Sweden and Changning in China, there has been an extraordinarily increase in passengers as well as a large decrease in car-traffic – rendering some investments in new roads unnecessary. With the car industry crisis in mind – an expansion of the public transport system would also be beneficial because it would create green jobs in a manufacturing industry with a future.

As Irwin Kellner, chief economist at MarketWatch, puts it: the introduction of free public transport in the cities of America would be a win-win solution!

For more information, please read our report Travel doesn’t have to cost the earth.