In what has been described a radical move for Germany, several cities across the country will trial free public transportation services in an effort to reduce car usage and related pollution. “Effectively fighting air pollution without any further unnecessary delays is of the highest priority for Germany,” wrote German environment minister Barbara Hendricks and two colleagues in a letter to EU environment commissioner Karmenu Vella. Other pollution-fighting proposals in Germany include stricter regulations on emissions from buses and taxis, the establishment of low-emission zones, and support for car-sharing systems.
The move is noteworthy at a time when German politics is particularly unstable; after losing the majority in a recent election, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union Party is still working to achieve a coalition government deal with the Social Democratic Party. Despite lacking a ruling majority, the German government has seemed to have found consensus on tackling pollution with ideas such as free public transit. The shift in transit policy also follows Volkswagen’s emission cheating scandal, which has engendered opposition towards the auto industry.
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Germany is planning to offer free public transit as part of an effort to meet an European Union mandate that limits nitrogen dioxide and fine particles pollution. Along with eight other EU members, the country failed to meet the January 30 deadline to reduce pollution, and so must act quickly to meet its obligations. While free public transit may be appealing to citizens, there are obstacles to overcome. “I don’t know any manufacturer who would be able to deliver the number of electric buses we would need,” Bonn mayor Ashok Sridharan told DPA. “We expect a clear statement about how [free transport] will be financed,” said Helmut Dedy, chief of the Association of German Cities. Some suggested a rush-hour ride in Berlin would help ministers understand the magnitude of the challenge in expanding public transit. “The conclusion would be clear,” wrote the Die Welt newspaper editorial staff: “more carriages, more personnel, and maybe even more tracks and lines would be needed. Where would the billions for that come from?”
Via The Guardian
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