MASTER CLASS: CAN FREE PUBLIC TRANSPORT SAVE OUR CITIES?

Free Public Transport australian radio master class

If you wish to sort out your thinking on the suddenly popular topic of free public transport, may we propose that you spend a lively half hour listening to an excellent Australian radio program on the topic — and listen to what experts like Judith, Oded, Gregory, Tony, Ansgar and Jarrett have to offer on this subject. A refreshing variety of perspectives and comments — a veritable master class on a topic that responsible cities cannot afford to run away from.

It’s not that our cities need to do it in this or that way.  Far from it!  But it turns out that it is a mobility option to which we really need to give serious thought  —  because at the end of the day it is really about transport and budgets, but no less about basic rights and equity in a democracy.  And also — as you will hear — about efficiency , economy, environment  and quality of life for all. Now let’s listen to the experts:

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Op-ed: Luxembourg’s free public transport sounds great. It isn’t

feet on bus Luxembourg free public transport

Editor’s note: “Free public transport” is a hot topic and getting hotter every day, though in our view when stated as such it closes the door on a subject that  can also be looked at and evaluated in a more creative way. If we draw critical attention to and think of it instead as “Free” “Public” “Transport” a brave new world of issues and opportunities opens up We shall be looking into this in these pages in the coming months, but for now let us give the word to Constance Carr and Markus Hesse of the University of Luxembourg and hear what they have to say about the latest Luxembourg initiative.

When the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg announced it would introduce free nationwide public transport from March 2020, the move was widely praised – some even claimed it was a world first, though that was to overlook Estonia) where the government introduced countrywide free public transport in 2018.

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Time to make bus travel free, says Friends of the Earth

 

By Ekklesia reporter. Feb 6, 2019 – http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/27675 

Op-ed. Successful Fare-free Public Transport never comes alone

“Those that fail to learn the lessons of history, are doomed to repeat them.” 
– Attributed to Winston Churchill (and others)

Discussions of free public transport are often presented by the media and too often even in expert discussions as if it were a new concept that has no history.  To make wise policy decisions we need to be aware of this history.

To this end, this broad historic  overview and critical expert commentary on the international evolution of Fare Free Public Transport  (FTP here) covering the last half century was prepared by Dr. Michel van Hulten (see below) and submitted as a working paper in support of the international conference organized in Tallinn under the title: “Free public transport for all. Dream or reality”   In this working paper the author looks at the issues of the ‘why, how, when, where to pay for public transport’ (FFPT) – issues and questions that need to be at the heart  of our discussions and in time our decisions and actions.  

Required reading!

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Wikipedia: Wayback Machine on Free Public Transport (Benchmark as per 11 May 2007)

                           Waiting for free bus services in Hasselt, Belgium 

This 2007 Wikipedia entry has been extracted as is from the Internet Archive Wayback  Machine at  http://archive.org/web. It is intended to serve as a baseline assessment, relative to the current WP entry of this date, and later to a planned 2020 entry.

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One small reason why Tallinn may feel they could use more public transport

To get a better feel for this from the perspective of day to day reality when it comes to trying to get wherever you want to go during morning rush hour in Tallinn, let’s have a look at a report by two Estonian researchers, – by Helen Poltimäe and Mari Jüssi, under the title . . .

Factors Affecting Choice of Travel Mode in Tallinn

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Tallinn 2018: Free public transport for all. Dream or reality

The program for the recent Tallinn international conference contains useful information and contacts for researchers, planners, policy makers and others wishing to understand the variety of approaches, projects and perceptions which make up this fast-growing and highly varied field of interest for cities and their citizens around the world.

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World Cities offering differing forms of “Free” “Public Transport”

Here is a list of cities around the world that currently providevarious forms of  public transport for free. This resource is extremely useful for researchers, and for further information on any of the indicated cities all you have to do is click the name and a summary follows.

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FPT AND THE HIGH ART OF FREE-RIDING

Stockholm’s professional fare dodgers

For almost two decades a Swedish group of campaigners have defied authority and flipped the passenger-operator power balance by banding together to avoid fares. Their unconventional brand of activism continues to stir feathers and attract stigma – but how does the group justify it?

Around the world, authorities, together with governments and campaign groups, are pushing for increased public transport usage. For their part, people comply, if often out of necessity rather than a personal preference for shared transit.

But in some cities, the price for public commuting is fast becoming prohibitively expensive for low-income citizens. This, together with the argument that more public transport ridership is better for the environment, is why a growing network of supporters are campaigning for free public transport as an intrinsic right of every citizen. Some have taken it one step further, by forming a group of ‘professional fare-dodgers’.

From a nicely balanced, nicely  illustrated article by Eva Gary published in Future Rail on 1 May 2018 at https://bit.ly/2IFdrV9.  Thanks Future Rail.  Creative Commons Non-commercial share alike  

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FREE PUBLIC TRANSPORT: THE VISION OF PLANKA.NU

Planka.nu is a network of organizations in Sweden and Norway promoting tax-financed zero-fare public transport with chapters in Stockholm, Gothenburg, Skåne, Östergötland and Oslo.[1] Planka.nu was founded in 2001 by the Swedish Anarcho-syndicalist Youth Federation in response to the increasingly expensive ticket prices in the public transport system in Stockholm. The campaign has received much attention because of the controversial methods used to promote free public transport: Planka.nu encourage people to fare-dodge in the public transport, aiding its members in paying penalty fares through the insurance fund p-kassan.

Here is some of their thinking on this subtle topic for transport planners, politicians and civil society.

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“Transport Refugees” – Victims of Unjust Transport Policies (From our 2009 archives and worthy of your attention today)

Maylasia Penang pred crossing in traffic Pulau Tikus

The term “refugee” if used in the context of transportation would normally be understood to mean “the movement of refugees”. But what we fail to comprehend is that for various reasons it is our own transport systems, and the values and decisions that shape them, that are making many of us “refugees” in our own cities? It does not have to be this way.

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Free Public Transport? Hmm, are you quite sure?

free public transport standing bus

Anything missing?

There are a good number of proponents around the world — politicians and activists for the most part —  supporting the idea that public transport should be free. It certainly is a tempting idea on a number of grounds. And if we here at World Streets have  our own thoughts on the subject (stay tuned),  it is always good practice to check out both sides of the issues. to get the ball rolling, just below you will find four short statements  taken from the Wikipedia entry, setting out arguments against FPT. More to follow on this but in the meantime we are interested in hearing from our readers and colleagues around the world both with (a) their comments on these criticisms and (b) yet other critical views. (This is sure to be a bit exciting.)

* Note: See numerous, extensive comments below.

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Thursday: A breakthrough strategy for reducing car dependence in cities

india-guargon-car-free-day-bicyclist

Whereas Car Free Days have been organized in cities around the world all over the year for the last two  decades, there is inevitably a spate of high activity in the month of September, much of it the result of the European Commission’s continuing commitment to both the concept of Car Free Days and their own European Mobility Week. And each year we here at World Streets dig into our archives and dust off one or two of the classics as a timely reminder of the fact that the Car Free Day concept has been around and doing its bit since the first international CFD challenge was made in Toledo Spain on 19 October 1994.

Every day is a great day to take a few cars off the road, and think about it.  

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Op-ed: LLoyd Wright In Response to Free Public Transport?

Following up on Simon Norton comments here of 2016/08/07

Lloyd Wright“Public Space” is generally mostly free. This includes footpaths, parks, and town squares. If one advocates charging for public transport, it would seem most of the same arguments would apply to public space. And yet few would actually support such a position, principally on grounds of equity.

There are also ways to make public transport funded on a sustainable basis while making it free to the user. There are cities which utilize a parking levy to completely cover all public transport costs.

Such modal funding transfers also carry a great deal of appropriateness when one considers the actual societal costs brought by private motor vehicle use and the actual societal benefits of collective transport.

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Op-ed: In Response to Free Public Transport?

Simon Norton comments: Submitted on 2016/08/07

simon-norton

There are 2 overriding arguments for free transport:

  1. It avoids the cost (in both person power and time) of fare collection. The latter is particularly relevant when a bus has to spend ages at bus stops collecting fares from boarding passengers. Then motorists demand that the bus pulls into a layby so that they can get past, and the bus has to waste further time waiting to pull out after all the fares are collected.
  2. It encourages people to think of public transport as the default option. This increases the likelihood of it being able to provide a comprehensive service, as on less used routes it will be able to capture a high proportion of the overall travel demand.

Now for some counter arguments to the ones put forward by Eric:

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Free Public Transport? Hmm, are you quite sure?

free public transport standing bus

Anything missing?

There are a good number of proponents around the world — politicians and activists for the most part —  supporting the idea that public transport should be free. It certainly is a tempting idea on a number of grounds. And if we here at World Streets have  our own thoughts on the subject (stay tuned),  it is always good practice to check out both sides of the issues. to get the ball rolling, just below you will find four short statements  taken from the Wikipedia entry, setting out arguments against FPT. More to follow on this but in the meantime we are interested in hearing from our readers and colleagues around the world both with (a) their comments on these criticisms and (b) yet other critical views. (This is sure to be a bit exciting.)

* Note: See numerous, extensive comments below.

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Op-Ed: Is Tallinn’s “free public transport” initiative doing its job?

tallinn free pubic transport 2celsius.netAs previously documented on World Streets the city of Tallinn, Estonia implemented Free Fare Public Transportation (FFPT) in January of 2013 for all registered citizens of the city. A year and a half into this policy voices from politicians, the media and academia presented an array of opinions in favour of, and refuting benefits of the policy. Thus in May of 2014 I visited Tallinn to conduct interviews with City staff, independent environmentalist consultants and academics alike for my master’s thesis in Urban and Regional Planning Studies at the London School of Economics. My research question was ‘Is Tallinn, Estonia’s free fare public transportation policy meeting its claimed motives as stated by the city’s municipal leaders?

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2014: The Battle of Ideas

Challenging year ahead. Here are the main program areas to which we intend to give attention over the complex systems networkcourse of the year ahead. All of these are complex system challenges and require patient attention and mental flexibility if we are to find the best way to proceed in each case. And in each case it is not enough to be right in terms of the basic principles — it is every bit as important to be able to communicate them and to convince the public, government and other key actors that these ideas and approaches are worth getting behind. Nobody ever said that the move to sustainable transport and sustainable cities was going to be simple.

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Editorial: No FFPT without SCR (Systematic Car Reductions)

This is a simple fact! Fare Free Public Transport (FFPT) has no possible justification whatsoever unless your governing officials are willing to do something about adjusting the other half of the modal mix to bring down car ownership and use in the city strategically and as quickly as possible . . . SCR – Systematic Car Reductions.

canada-vancouver-road closed - smaller

The tools for achieving these necessary adjustments in the modal split are well known, experience-proven and widely used in cities of all sizes in many parts of the world. There is no possible justification that competent public authorities not be aware of these proven tools and policies. They include most notably: Continue reading