FEB 14, 2018 9:36 AM PST

To fight air pollution, Germany plans to make public transport free

In an attempt to fight air pollution (as well as meet EU air pollution targets in order to avoid costly fines), Germany has proposed making public transportation free of charge! Though public transport is already very popular in Germany, the hope is that making it free will encourage even more residents to use the system. 

In a letter to the EU environment commissioner, Karmenu Vella, three ministers including the environment minister, Barbara Hendricks, wrote: “We are considering public transport free of charge in order to reduce the number of private cars. Effectively fighting air pollution without any further unnecessary delays is the highest priority for Germany.”

Though the proposal was anything but concrete, the ministers said that this new strategy will be seen throughout five cities of western Germany by the end of the year. These included Bonn, Essen, and Mannheim. However, they stressed that the responsibility for adopting ticketless travel will be upon the cities themselves. The ministers also proposed to tighten emissions restrictions on buses and taxis and invest in more car-sharing systems.

And yet there seems to be a lot of finger-pointing as to who is going to finance this proposal. A statement from Greenpeace encouraged the government to “make sure that the car manufacturers finance the emergency measure” for free transport. BMW and Volkswagen have agreed to invest in improving local transport and some car companies have recently taken steps to promote electric vehicles. 

Local governments recognize the perhaps unrealistic ambitiousness of the plan. Of course, it makes sense that if transport was free, the number of people using public transportation would soar. “I don’t know any manufacturer who would be able to deliver the number of electric buses we would need,” said Bonn mayor Ashok Sridharan. Helmut Dedy, chief of the Association of German Cities was firm in stating expectations of the federal government: “We expect a clear statement about how [free transport] will be financed."

Berlin's S-Bahn Hauptbahnhof. Photo: The Germany Way

The German newspaper, Die Welt, voiced the concern that local governments are feeling even more succinctly: “The conclusion would be clear: more carriages, more personnel, and maybe even more tracks and lines would be needed. Where would the billions for that come from?”

But then, what if we turn that question on its side: where would the billions of dollars (approximately $24.7 billion spent annually in the EU) for health costs due to poor air quality and pollution come from? Wouldn’t it be better to act preventatively, both for our own health and the health of the planet?

Sources: The Guardian, The Local (1) (2), 

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
SEP 11, 2020
Earth & The Environment
Almost all forest fires are caused by humans, new study reports
SEP 11, 2020
Almost all forest fires are caused by humans, new study reports
New research published in the journal Fire reports that 97% of wildfires in the US that threaten homes are started by hu ...
SEP 24, 2020
Plants & Animals
High Arctic Polar Bears are Temporarily Benefitting from Climate Change
SEP 24, 2020
High Arctic Polar Bears are Temporarily Benefitting from Climate Change
For the past few decades, polar bears have been harbingers of climate change. However, not every polar bear subpopu ...
SEP 29, 2020
Earth & The Environment
Using native wild species to improve crop breeding and production
SEP 29, 2020
Using native wild species to improve crop breeding and production
New research from the University of Portsmouth and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, highlights the concern that global farmin ...
OCT 23, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
The Ever-Evolving Battle to Fight Corrosion in Nuclear Reactors
OCT 23, 2020
The Ever-Evolving Battle to Fight Corrosion in Nuclear Reactors
Since its birth in the early 20th century, atomic research has brought mostly positive impacts to our lives. This week i ...
NOV 24, 2020
Earth & The Environment
Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich will extend sea level monitoring
NOV 24, 2020
Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich will extend sea level monitoring
Days ago, a new satellite was launched from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California with the ...
DEC 07, 2020
Earth & The Environment
Monitoring marine animal activity under the sea
DEC 07, 2020
Monitoring marine animal activity under the sea
In a new study published in the journal Animal Biotelemetry, researchers report on the development of an applicatio ...
Loading Comments...