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Now it is Montpellier’s turn: Free of charge public transport

Bus & tram in Montpellier | © UTM/b

The French city of Montpellier in mediterranean region Occitanie became the latest European metropolis to allow all its residents to ride public transport for free.

Since 21 December 2023, the approximately 500,000 Montpellier residents are able to ride trams and buses free of charge in the city, they just need a special pass which is issued by the public administration for free. Visitors and tourists will still have to pay 1.60 EUR per trip.

The Socialist mayor of the city, Michael Delafosse, promised free public transport when he was elected back in 2020. The idea behind was (and still is) to significantly increase public transport ridership and by this means reducing car traffic in Montpellier. Restriction for individual car traffic were gradually introduced over time as well.

Experience in other cities

Before being introduced studies had been performed in order to compare Montpellier with the situation in other European cities where free public transport had already been introduced. The entire European country of Luxembourg (since 2020) including its capital is one of the most prominent examples while Estonia’s capital Tallinn pioneered the free ride initiative in 2013. However, the feedback during on-site vists was far away from being only enthusiastic. Tallinn is actually considering to re-introduce fares as the effects on individual car traffic, public transport usage and thus city development in general are deemed not sufficient to justify the additional burden for taxpayers. The main reason for this trend in Tallinn is probably that the attractiveness of public transport services has not improved so decisively and other accompanying measures have not been implemented to the extent hoped for.

Tallinn in Estland: No free-of-charge public transport any more in the future – ccar traffic remained at high levels in the city | © UTM/b

Montpellier’s approach

Montpellier, however, is following its own strategic path: Free rides were introduced at the weekend still in 2020, being extended them to all those younger than 18 or older than 65 all and every day since 2021, and now indiscriminately to all residents. To partially compensate the 35 million Euro in fares which were paid by residents in previous years the city has introduced a new transport tax on companies with more than 11 employees.

Before the initiative to make public transport free was implemented in Montpellier, just 86,000 people had paid subscriptions to use it. 260,000 subscribers have been registered for free pass in the last few weeks, which is available as physical card or as smartphone app. This looks promising, although results and effects, of course, have to be carefully observed and analysed in a longer term.

Montpellier tram line 2 | © UTM/b
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[…] et le développement de la ville en général », indique le communiqué de l'industrie. Dans les États. « La principale raison de cette tendance à Tallinn est que l'attractivité des services de […]