German Cities Consider Free Public Transit to Avoid Diesel Ban

By Paul Riegler on 3 July 2018
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Public transit in German cities could become significantly less expensive or even free for residents under a plan proposed by three German officials.

“We are considering free public transit in order to reduce the number of private cars [in cities],” wrote Umweltministerin or Environmental Minister Barbara Hendricks and two colleagues in a letter to Karmenu Vella, a member of the EU Commission with responsibility for the environment.

Under a current interim plan introduced this week, five cities in Germany – Bonn, Essen, Herrenberg, Mannheim, and Reutlingen – will slash the cost of public transportation in an attempt to improve air quality by increasing the use of buses, metros, and trams to avoid a ban on diesel-powered cars.

The plan will be subsidized by the German government with €128 million in funding to cover the shortfall that cheaper pricing will create. The move comes as the European Commission has taken Germany and five other states in the EU to court for not meeting EU limits on nitrogen dioxide levels.

The cities plan to emulate the program introduced in 2012 in Vienna. The Austrian capital introduced an annual ticket covering all modes of public transit for €365 per year or €1 per day. Each city’s program will vary and some may include reduced rates for car-sharing services or a free taxi ride each month.

Other steps under consideration in various German cities include further restrictions on emissions from vehicle fleets like buses and taxis and low-emissions zones in city centers.

In June, Hamburg became the first city in Germany to ban older diesel-powered vehicles when it prohibited them from using two of the city’s major thoroughfares.

The restriction in Hamburg followed a February ruling by the Bundesverwaltungsgericht, or Federal Administrative Court, to limit vehicle emissions in Stuttgart. The ruling set a precedent for all German cities.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)