Updated: Nov 27, 2022
The news has just been confirmed. Monaco incentive to a free-of-charge public transport will continue until the 2nd January 2023, at least. On October 2022, the Gouvernement Princier (Prince's Government), together with the Conseil National, announced the free bus service offered by the Compagnie des Autobus de Monaco (CAM) from the 3rd October until the 27th November 2022. That involved the seven daytime bus lines, operational every day from 7 a.m. until 9:30 p.m. and the night service, from 9:30 until 0:21 a.m. with extensions until 4 a.m. during weekends. A remarkable initiative aimed at encouraging this collective transport facilities to streamline traffic, reduce pollution and increase the quality of life of Monegasque people. A targeted awareness campaign: Ensemble, adoptons le bon réflexe (Together, let’s do the right thing) has been playing for about seven weeks as the leitmotif for all monegasque residents, citizens and commuters mainly from France and Italy.
A communication strategy tailored differently according to various target audiences. For young people between 18 and 30 years old: Je bouge écologique et économique (I move ecologically and economically). For active people between 30 and 60 years old: Je me déplace pratique et responsable (I move practically and responsibly) and finally for over 60 years old: Mes déplacements en toute sérénité! (My movements in complete serenity!). This synergistic and broad spectrum action is in perfect line with the Energy Transition White Paper of the Principality of Monaco launched by H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco in March 2017, involving all social partners in all identified assets including mobility, considered a key issue in terms of impact, pollution and behaviour. Thus, participative actions and perception controls are cornerstones of the new Governmental approach to to face a particularly complex territory despite its limited extension equal to 2 km of length. A network of roads, railways and intermodal multilayer underground parkings are intertwined from sea level to half hill.
This is why the need to reduce traffic by at least 10,000 vehicles, corresponding to 5% of total traffic and 20% of intramural traffic, with consequent cut down of greenhouse gas emissions. And boosting the public transport was considered a driving force to achieve the target easier and quicker, testing the soil through a dedicated investigation conducted by official agents positioned in some 'hot spots'.
By the will of Monaco National Council, within a specific meeting on the 10th November 2022, the social experiment, the free-of-charge bus test, has been recently extended until the 2nd January 2023. The State services are seeking to offer more time to collect and analyse data of impact following this measure. Here is one of the main reasons indicated in the official statement. The use of public transport, the consequences on city traffic and parking usability and the trend of climate-altering emissions are some of the mai indicators taken into consideration. The idea is also to encourage a radical change in Monegasque community's habits, by favouring a smoother mobility for all trips in the urban area.
Does free public transport wave sustainability?
In recent times there have been initiatives aimed at not requiring tolls for public transport (known also as fare-free public transit or zero-public transport). Far from being just an utopian dream, this is possible where national, regional or local governments can cover costs by collecting taxes from citizens together with possible commercial sponsorships. In February 2020, Luxembourg became the first transport-for-free country in favour to all residents while in October 2022 Malta followed suit. In March 2022, the German Government had launched for ninety days a flat fee ticket for all public transports at the cost of 9 Euros. Other similar measures are taken by individual urban areas like Hasselt in Belgium (since 1997) and more recently Tallin, the capital of Estonia, the largest city to have introduced this incentive, at that time (2013). More than 50 urban areas in Europe have currently a free access to public transport in the footsteps of climate and social equality actions. Wojciech Keblowski, a researcher at Vrije Universiteit Brussel and Université Libre de Bruxelles has compared these initiatives to those allowing citizens to free access to urban green spaces, notably public parks, on the basis of a social agreement. But does it really impact on eco-responsibility? Citizens are driven to choose public transport not necessarily because of environmental sensitivity but for economic savings as witnessed in the Estonian case. This is why the complimentary transport service must be accompanied by the will to improve its quality supported by adequate funding a an effective communication plan.
The further question is: does free-of-charge public transport improve urban air quality? This is pivotal, according to the C40 network of city mayors committed in fighting the climate crisis. Transport, in fact, is responsible for one-third of the emissions generated in urban spaces making it necessary to double collective services over the next decade. Fostering sustainable ways to move from one place to another is then crucial bearing in mind that the demands for transport will increase considerably by 2050 worldwide. United Nations estimated that by that date 2.5 billion people will move to big cities, with special regard to Asia and Africa. Having better, cheaper and faster public transport are on the top list of requests from users.
So, as a matter of fact, fewer cars in the streets corresponds to less energy spent and fewer hazardous emissions like carbon dioxide whose increase depend on transport for 27% according to European Union, about half of that coming from private cars. It is all about creating the right conditions to sensitise the population to prefer public transport for urban travel wherever possible. Incentives on ticket costs can therefore be effective if combined with an integrated strategy. ***
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By Maurice Abbati
Springer International Publishing