For the third time, since 2005, meeting the European Union (EU) air pollution targets is one of the top priorities in the coalition agreement aiming at the formation of a new German government between the Social Democratic Party and Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union.
However, additional pressure is applied by the European Commission this time, claiming that nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions in German cities are still too high. A deadline was given to Germany and eight other member states to present measures for an overall reduction of these emissions.
In order to avoid legal action at the European Court of Justice, Germany’s ministries for environment and transport came up with a list of radical proposals to reduce the number of private cars in big cities.
Besides an enlargement of already existing low-emission zones in cities and more support for car and bike sharing initiatives, they are planning to provide public transport free of charge in five German cities by the end of 2018, including Bonn, Essen, Herrenberg, Reutlingen and Mannheim.
In Germany, ticket prices for public transport are perceived as high compared to other European countries, taking into consideration the average income of German citizens. Furthermore, the emphasis regarding infrastructural projects has been laid on facilitating traffic during rush hours by building new roads and tunnels in big cities. Over the years, Germans consequently have used their cars even more often, since this means of transport became more convenient and less costly.
Finally, ticketless travel could be an efficient incentive to make people use more public transportation in their daily life. Yet, although there may be a positive effect on the environment, the outcome for German tax payers will be less worthwhile, because they will be the ones actually financing the project.
For further information:
The Independent website: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/germany-free-public-transport-city-air-pollution-eu-rules-fines-angela-merkel-a8209571.html
The Guardian website: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/feb/14/german-cities-to-trial-free-public-transport-to-cut-pollution
Die ZEIT Website: http://www.zeit.de/mobilitaet/2018-02/kostenloser-nahverkehr-oepnv-luftqualitaet-bundesregierung-test-staedte
Süddeutsche Zeitung Website: http://www.sueddeutsche.de/wirtschaft/oepnv-pro-gratis-nahverkehr-eine-ueberfaellige-revolution-1.3867180
La Repubblica: http://www.repubblica.it/economia/2018/02/14/news/troppo_inquinamento_la_germania_prepara_la_svolta_storica_mezzi_pubblici_gratis-188826273/