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After months of campaign advertisements, Luxembourg has made all public transit free of charge for residents and visitors alike. Beginning Saturday, the nation’s bus, train, and tram systems will all be board-able and free to ride without a ticket. The change has not been entirely drastic, as transport was already free on Saturdays, and its costs were previously relatively low in comparison to other countries in the region. Regardless, the new program makes Luxembourg the first nation to universally eliminate public transportation costs, heralding the potential for a new discursive era surrounding what are considered to be both public goods and human rights. This policy change is primarily an attempt to reduce reliance on personal vehicles for commuting purposes in response to both climate change and national road congestion.
While numerous cities around the globe have previously embraced similar policies and movements, The Guardian reports that members of the transport ministry of Luxembourg tout that this is the first time that such a policy has included and addressed the needs of an entire nation. Transport minister Francois Bausch has thus deemed Saturday a “great day.” He has also stated, according to the BBC, that “the government wants Luxembourg to become a laboratory for mobility,” indicating the existence of an ongoing national project to simultaneously socialize particular services and develop green policy within civic space. Critics of the policy have raised concerns, however, not so much about the specifics of the reform, but more so regarding the advertisements and publicity surrounding the movement. Markus Hesse, for example, of the University of Luxembourg Urban Studies department, has referred to the organized “bling bling” as “the wrong solution to a complex problem,” according to the BBC.
Population growth, traffic congestion, and the impending threats of climate change are of course serious and complex issues. An intricate campaign to promote a national system of free public transportation, however, should not be reduced to accessory status alone, nor should it be misquoted as intending to embody a holistic solution to the aforementioned problems. Solutions to widespread and nuanced national and global problems cannot be viewed in binary terms as either addressable entirely at once, or not addressable at all. Critics must also be wary of the impacts of their statements, as it is not necessarily rational, not effective to be prudish regarding bold action and policy any longer. In addition, I applaud elements of economic justice promoted by the national free transport policy. Because public transportation systems and rides themselves will no longer cost a direct price, and the taxpayer money that will be allocated toward the corresponding deficit will be largely made up by the upper classes, the institution of the policy works to promote socio-economic equity according to the tiered social obligation which accompanies realistic class divisions.
Luxembourg’s adoption of its new policy comes as a response to its rise of forty percent in population over the past twenty years, according to the BBC. Population growth has been accompanied by increased motor vehicle presence, as well as the corresponding increase in carbon outputs. The abolishment of public transit costs must thus be regarded within a context of hybrid political agendas encompassing both social democratic and green policy. The fact that nearly half of the nation’s workforce commutes internationally – primarily to Belgium, France, and Germany – to perform labor, driven by a well-performing economy and high wages, according to the BBC, has also contributed to the need to reduce daily vehicle volumes. It should not be lost that the underlying goal of the new policy is ultimately to alter the daily behavior of the populous, as the policy itself does not change the ways in which people must act, but rather alters the state-led incentives for particular actions defining the movement within the nation of Luxembourg.
Regardless of how large the logistics of the economic transit overhaul may or may not be, it promotes an ideal of collectivism in terms of both labor, and monetary policy. Free public transportation promotes the realization of both economic and environmental justice.