Luxembourg is barely larger than a city-state, with a population of about 560,000; but that population increases dramatically when more than 180,000 workers commute across the border daily from Belgium, France and Germany. “It’s basically like a city which has suburbs abroad,” Olivier Klein, a researcher at the Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research, told the NY Times.
A lot of the people go to work in Luxembourg because the salary is higher there than in their country. For example, an average yearly pay is just over 50,000 euros, which is 40 percent higher than in France. As a result, the population of its capital city swells five-fold every day due to commuters.
All of these people driving in has created congestion on the roads. So many people are driving private vehicles that this tiny country has the highest number of cars for its population in the European Union – 662 for 1,000 people. That’s almost as many as in the USA, (the world leader of cars) which has more than 800 cars per 1,000 people. Now, the congestion problem in Luxembourg has reached a point that people are spending 33 hours of their life every year just stuck in traffic.
So, in an effort to reduce traffic jams, and the environmental impact these cars are making on the planet, Luxembourg has declared an initiative to become the worlds first country to make all of its public transportation free for everyone.
This plan was announced by the recently re-elected coalition government, led by Prime Minister Xavier Bettel who is now serving his second term. They have promised to lift fares on trains, trams, and buses nationwide by the summer of 2019 with the high hopes that free public transportation will encourage commuters to take buses and trains instead of clogging up roads with their cars.
There have been other cities around Europe to offer free mass transit recently, but only at certain times (like only on the weekends) or to specific types of people (like only retirees or the unemployed). Some countries are considering widening the circle to all users, or all times, (like Luxembourg has) as they face criticism for poor air quality.
Of course, Luxembourg operated a relatively small network, and the country could be crossed in less than an hour. Some argue that this makes it easy for the country to offer free mass transit to its people and that it would be far too difficult for bigger cities. But luckily, this sort of mentality isn’t stopping all places with bigger cities from trying. Germany, for example, plans to test out free public transportation this year in some of its busiest cities to see if it works well.
There are still a few details to the free transportation plan that need to be figured out; including whether trains will still have first and second class compartments, and if so, if riders will be charged in those cases. Issues such as this are still being thought through and have not been completely decided on yet.
Other than their transport promise, Bettel’s new coalition government says it is also considering the legalization of cannabis as well as the introduction of two new public holidays – one of them being “Europe Day” on May 9.