The role of "climate tickets" in encouraging public transport use

By Andrew King / Updated: 11 Sep 2023

As governments seek to reduce their carbon emissions from transport as part of wider decarbonisation efforts, "climate tickets" have emerged as one way to incentivise low-carbon forms of transport in the cost-of-living crisis. So far, three countries within Europe - Austria, Hungary, and Germany – have introduced these national passes, offering unlimited travel on almost all public transport for a subsidised cost. The popularity of the Austrian “Klimaticket” introduced in 2021 has exceeded expectations - currently 245,000 people hold one and 85% of passholder’s have replaced car journeys with public transport as a result.

However, the annual Austrian Klimaticket has been criticised for being too expensive at around €1,000, whilst the German equivalent (“Deutschlandticket”) does not include some city transport networks. Another criticism of heavily subsidised public transport is the capacity of existing infrastructure to cope with the influx of passengers. Without first improving capacity, quality and supply of public transport, passengers risk being put off by an overcrowded, unreliable and infrequent service. Sustained investment in transport networks over the coming decades will be required to ensure people continue to use public transport instead of private cars.

A model for heavily subsidised travel may lie in the approach taken by Luxembourg, which introduced free public transport for residents in 2020. The deficit left by the loss of ticket sales has been funded through an increase in the higher rates of tax. This has ensured that investment in Luxembourg’s transport network has not slowed whilst promoting “more equity” in who bears the transport costs, as explained by François Bausch, Luxembourg’s Deputy Prime Minister.

Climate tickets have the potential to deliver important social and environmental benefits to passengers, by making affordable transport accessible to all, increasing purchasing power and economic activity, and reducing pollution and emissions from car use. However, to ensure their success, transport investment needs to be maintained and ramped up over the coming decades to build capacity for future demand. Potential sources for transport funding include increasing taxes on carbon-intensive activities such as airline travel and fossil fuel extraction, or increasing the top rates of tax paid by companies and high earners. As Herwig Schuster, Transport Expert for Greenpeace’s Mobility for All campaign, commented, “combining low cost, good infrastructure and a simple-to-understand ticketing system could be the best way to encourage more people to use public transport.”

For further information, visit the Euronews website.

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