- Under a new coalition government led by Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, Luxembourg is set to become the first country in the world to eliminate public transit fares, including on trains and buses, according to The Independent and others.
- The Guardian reports Luxembourg suffers from chronic traffic congestion, and the move to make transit free could motivate residents and commuters to opt for public transit over car usage. There are an estimated 400,000 people who commute into the capital Luxembourg City each day.
- The move is slated to be enacted as early as summer 2019.
While there are still issues to be resolved — such as how the country will differentiate first- and second-class compartments on the train, or how it will avoid an influx of homeless people occupying train cars in the winter — this unprecedented move will likely be a cost-effective boon for Luxembourg. The country's current transit system brings in an estimated €30 million ($34.1 million USD) each year in revenue, but costs €1 billion ($1.1 billion USD) annually to operate, according to Forbes, therefore nixing the transit fare could reduce the overall operational cost of public transit as the system will not need to process any payments.
The move will also likely have a direct effect on the country's congestion problem, a struggle Luxembourg is facing along with most nations around the globe. A 2017 Inrix study ranked Luxembourg 13th for countries with the worst congestion in the world, with commuters spending an estimated 28 hours in traffic annually. By encouraging commuters to instead use public transit, vehicle usage will likely decrease — as long as the country's public transit infrastructure can handle the uptick in ridership.
The trend of eliminating fares on public transit is not new, though Luxembourg's move is unprecedented as a national, permanent move. The City of Seoul has experimented with free subway and bus rides to help curb its massive pollution problem, while some cities in the U.S. have promoted "free ride days" to raise awareness of public transit offerings. Estonia is also looking into free public transit, although for now it is on a more limited scale than Luxembourg.
It is possible more cities and countries will hop on the trend of making public transit free, especially as the face of public transit fares continues to evolve. Just this week in Los Angeles, Metro CEO Phil Washington suggested that rush-hour tolls could support free public transit in the city, which could be a step forward in eliminating that city's notorious congestion issues.