Free public transport takes off in Montpellier – DW – 02/21/2024 | EUROtoday

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Since the twenty first of December 2023, the five hundred,000 inhabitants of the southern French metropolis of Montpellier and its environment now not must pay for public transport. Many of them are happy with the measure – however there are caveats.

31-year-old Rayene Chabbi is relieved she now not has to pay for the bus and the tram she takes to work on weekdays, like on a latest Monday morning.

In the previous, she’d typically drive her mother and father’ automobile the seven kilometers (4 miles) to the workplace.

“Free public transport is a really good idea – especially for people like me who think twice before spending €50 ($54) on a monthly subscription. I only earn €1,950 gross each month,” she advised DW whereas ready for her bus.

“It’s similar for my sister who now also uses public transport,” she added.

Local Rayene Chabbi, 31, in her office in Montpellier
Rayene Chabbi says free public transport means she now not drives her mother and father’ automobile to the workplacePicture: Lisa Louis/DW

Less stress, higher for the atmosphere

Half an hour later, Chabbi will get off a tram in Montpellier’s northeastern neighborhood of Castelnau-le-Lez.

“Taking the car would have taken at least ten minutes longer and I would certainly have been stuck in traffic jams. I like this stress-free way of traveling. Plus, I’m protecting the environment,” she stated whereas strolling the few hundred meters to the corporate Simax, the place Chabbi works because the supervisor’s assistant.

The mid-sized firm, which gives administration software program for companies, co-finances the free public transport scheme by way of a two-percent wage tax, as do about 2,500 different firms in Montpellier that make use of 11 employees or extra. Overall, the measures price €30 million. That’s in comparison with town’s whole price range of €1 billion.

CEO Miren Lafourcade does not thoughts paying up – quite the opposite.

“Our company used to be in an area with poor public transport connections. That’s why we moved to this location, which is just a 3-minute walk from a tram stop. For once, the taxes we pay are being used for something that benefits society,” she advised DW.

Simax at the moment employs 60 individuals and has an annual turnover of 1.5 million euros. It goals to recruit as much as ten extra employees this yr – with sustainability, which incorporates public transport, set to stay an important factor of its growth plans.

A tram drives through the city of Montpellier in France
The mission is co-funded by means of a 2% wage tax on firms with greater than 11 staffPicture: Lisa Louis/DW

Part of bigger local weather adaptation scheme

Julie Frêche, vice-president of the metropolis of Montpellier and answerable for transport issues, is happy with such efforts.

“We aim to implement positive environmental politics. Free public transport increases citizens’ purchasing power,” she stated to DW.

“Plus, the measure improves air quality,” Frêche added.

Montpellier can be taking different local weather adaptation measures – particularly as temperatures right here can attain virtually 50 levels Celsius in the summertime.

The metropolis is planting greenery and can add 50,000 timber till 2026.

“We are also constructing 235 kilometers of additional bike lanes and adding five bus routes to the existing 41 ones and a fifth tram line,” Frêche careworn.

Julie Frêche, vice-president of the metropolis of Montpellier, France
Vice president of the metropolis of Montpellier Julie Frêche says free public transport offers buying energy again to residentsPicture: Lisa Louis/DW

But not all over the place in Montpellier is served in the identical manner

That new tramway can even join Saint-Jean-de-Vedas. The neighboring city, a part of better Montpellier, has about 12,000 residents – and counting. Numerous new condominium blocks are bobbing up right here.

That’s why Hugo Daillan thinks extra public transport connections shall be wanted.

The 28-year-old lives in central Montpellier and works in a flower store in Saint-Jean-de-Vedas. He’s touring with a gaggle of public transport passengers when he speaks with DW.

“This is Saint-Jean-de-Vedas’ only tram stop. The tram only runs every 15 minutes, even though at the end of the workday, people need to get home. And so many people here take the car instead. The transport connection is so bad, that the local town hall has set up a shuttle in one district –  which you have to pay for,” Daillon advised DW whereas pointing on the vacation spot board.

He additionally careworn that the “free” public transport scheme wasn’t really free.

“The price we are paying is that that money can’t be invested in expanding the current transport network,” he stated.

“When making public transport free, you need to make sure all parts of the city have access to the transport network, especially in a growing city like this one. Or else you only please people in the well-connected center and forget about those living in the outskirts,” Daillan stated.

Alexandre Brun, lecturer for geography at Montpellier’s University Paul-Valéry, agrees with that view.

“The city should also build new connections between suburbs so that you no longer have to travel through the city center to get to another suburb,” Brun advised DW.

He additionally fears the wage tax might deter firms from establishing workplaces in Montpellier.

“And we still need additional companies to bring down unemployment,” he added.

Montpellier’s unemployment charge stood at 9.6% in 2023, about two factors above the nationwide common.

Drivers and economists are followers

But drivers questioned in Saint-Jean-de-Vedas appeared to welcome the free transport scheme – a minimum of those that do not must commute to town middle.

“It’s very convenient. I now regularly take public transport to go shopping in the city center,” Claire Maurin, a 40-year-old nursery faculty instructor advised DW.

Pierre Chanal, 66, was getting out of his automobile a number of meters additional down the highway.

“Traffic is intense in the city center and parking fees are high,” the pensioner advised DW. He stated that taking public transport is so much sooner and extra relaxed.

Fady Hamadé, economist and director of Montpellier-based suppose tank Institute of Environmental Resources and Sustainable Development Economists, shares that enthusiasm.

“Like every public service, this is a tool for income redistribution,” he advised DW.

“It has positive external effects. It lowers the city’s CO2 emissions and pollution. It also seems to be leading to new shops opening and more social diversity in the city center, as it’s easier for people to get around,” he added.

Edited by: Kristie Pladson

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