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Free transport scheme ‘a win-win’

Words by Smiley Team

Twelve days of free travel in Sydney have shown renewed proof that free public transport can encourage more eco-friendly commuting. To maintain the benefits for residents and the environment, climate campaigners urge the government to make the scheme permanent.

Sydney’s fare-free initiative came into force after discussions between transport workers and the government. Trade unions convinced the Australian transport minister, David Elliot, to introduce the scheme as an apology to commuters after networks froze for 24 hours due to strikes over poor pay and working conditions. 

Since the scheme was introduced, figures show a steep uptake in public transport of 13% on Tuesday between 9am and 4pm, compared to previous days. Over the weekend, public transport rose even higher, by 29% on Sunday, and 54% on Saturday.

Instead of driving, commuters took ferries, trains, buses and light rail services. Ferry travel saw the biggest rise in use, with a 222% increase in passengers in one day.

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The positive result of this is that for every passenger who chose to take public transport instead of driving, emissions per capita will have nearly halved

Freddie Daley, a researcher at the Rapid Transition Alliance told Smiley News: “The surge in public transport ridership in Sydney reinforces what we already know about making public transport free: it is a win-win.” 

“Incentivising public transport gets cars out of cities, improves the air quality, cuts emissions overnight, and reduces our dependence on fossil fuels,” he added. 

Elsewhere in the world, cities, towns and even entire countries are clearing their streets of cars and reducing pollution levels by making public transport free. In 2020 Luxembourg became the first country to make its entire public transport network free. Over 100 cities have also made the leap.

To sustain the positive impacts on the environment and travellers, Freddie urges the government to keep the initiative in force.

He said: “If the government wants to lock in these benefits, and make cities a much nicer place to live and move around in the process, they should look at turning this temporary measure into a permanent policy.”

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This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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