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Your reactions to Germany’s ‘free public transport’ idea

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Your reactions to Germany’s ‘free public transport’ idea
Germany had initially proposed Essen as one of five test cities for free public transport. Photo: DPA
12:15 CET+01:00
Earlier this week Germany made global headlines by announcing plans to trial free public transport in select cities in an effort to fight air pollution. With the initiative still generating lots of discussion, here’s what The Local’s readers had to say about it.

The article we published on Tuesday reporting Germany's radical free transport proposal garnered a significant amount of reactions on social media, including over 1,500 likes and nearly 900 shares on our Facebook page. There was a diverse array of opinion on the initiative.

Many users on our social media accounts commented that there’s “no such thing as a free lunch” and were sceptical of it.

“Nothing is ever free, as our taxes will pay for it,” said on Facebook commenter.

Public transport could never really be free, Knut Ringat, managing director of the Rhine-Main Transport Association (RMV), told the German Press Agency (DPA), adding that it’s a question of whether taxpayers are willing to take over the costs of ticket sales.

Others were thrilled at the idea. In a straw poll we conducted on Twitter, 69 percent of you said that public transport should be free in Germany.

Countries like Belgium and Poland - though with restrictions - have similar programmes in place, said Gina McAnally, adding though that the “profit side of things will put a wrench into the plans.”

In fact, the Estonian capital of Tallinn is considered to be the European leader in terms of free public transport. Since 2013, registered residents in the city can ride on local transit for free.

It’s been a success story as cars have disappeared from the city centre, streets are no longer congested and the whole project is financially viable, according to the city of Tallinn.

Several small Polish towns moreover offer all residents free public transport. On days with particularly high levels of pollution, local transit is free for everyone, even in large cities such as Warsaw and Krakow.

In the city of Hasselt in Belgium, citizens were able to ride on buses free of charge for almost 16 years. But in 2013, the city administration pulled the cord, citing high costs - despite environmentalists stating that free buses had significantly reduced vehicle congestion.

Other readers of The Local pointed out that Germany's proposal was not sustainable for the long-term, with one Twitter user suggesting that the country instead stop the registration of diesel cars.

Next Thursday a diesel driving ban on automobiles in German city centres will be negotiated in court in Leipzig. 

A few Berliners mentioned that the capital city’s subway system is already crowded and questioned how it could cope with even more passengers if the plan were to be put in place.

This would “motivate others to drive their cars,” lamented one Facebook user.

The key thing for one Twitter user was that the free public transport plan involves initial testing in five smaller German cities rather than metropolises like Berlin, Munich, Hamburg and Frankfurt.

A day after the radical idea made headlines around the world, the German government sought to play down these plans, stressing that there were no concrete projects yet on the table and that no test cities had been chosen.

"It's up to the municipalities themselves to decide if they want to try it," environment ministry spokesman Stephan Gabriel Haufe told reporters on Wednesday.

German municipalities, transport associations and social organizations have largely criticized the plan, referring to the unresolved question of how it would be financed.

Whether or not the proposal is actually implemented, some readers are already perfectly content with Germany’s public transport. But even if it were free, said one Twitter member, it wouldn’t take people away from their beloved cars.

Lastly, Chris Topher wouldn’t mind paying higher taxes in order to get the quality of Germany’s public transport system at home.

With DPA

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