you're reading...
PUBLICATIONS, Structural and Cohesion Policies

Free public transport in Europe

Tallinn in Estonia will be the very first European capital to install free public transport on its territory (as from 2013). Several mid-size European cities and many smaller towns around the world have converted their entire bus networks to zero-fare. The city of Hasselt in Belgium is a notable example.


Road traffic can benefit from decreased congestion and faster average road speeds, fewer traffic accidents, easier parking, savings from reduced wear and tear on roads. Environmental and public health benefits including decreased air pollution and noise pollution from road traffic. If use of personal cars is discouraged, free public transport could mitigate the problems of global warming and oil depletion.

Transport operators can benefit from faster boarding and shorter dwell times, allowing faster timetabling of services. Although some of these benefits can be achieved in other ways, such as off-vehicle ticket sales and modern types of electronic fare collection, zero-fare transport avoids equipment and personnel costs.

Passenger aggression may be reduced: aggression is often felt to be related to refusal to pay the fare.

Zero-fare transport can make the system more accessible and fair for low-income residents. Free public transport could guarantee every single person’s right to mobility. That means not only the schoolchildren and the workers, but also the old people, the people visiting relatives in hospital, the unemployed.

Local services

Local zero-fare shuttles or inner-city loops are far more common than city-wide systems. They often use buses or trams. These may be set up by a city government to ease bottlenecks or fill short gaps in the transport network.

Our future

We are standing at a crossroad: in order to reduce our oil dependency and to make our cities climate smart, we have to change our ways of getting around. It is a fact that the future is on track, and with free public transport everyone can come along for the ride. More people off the road, more people on the move!

Further reading

List of European cities offering some form of free public transport

Global forum for free public transport

Portal on free public transport in Europe

Free public transport tin Scotland campaign

Le ragioni per un Trasporto Pubblico Urbano Gratuito di Matteo Richiardi


Fair and efficient pricing in transport – the role of charges and taxes: An EU-Wide Review of Transport Charges and Taxes (National) in Commuter and Business Travel EC study, 2000)

How persuasive is “free” public transport? : a survey among commuters in the Brussels Capital Region (Article by Witte, Astrid De. 2008. Published in Transport policy Vol. 15, no. 4 (2008), p. 216-224.  

Subsidies in public transport (research article by Delft University, 2006)

Leave a Reply

Download the EPRS App

EPRS App on Google Play
EPRS App on App Store
What Europe Does For You
EU Legislation in Progress
Topical Digests
EPRS Podcasts

Follow Blog via Email

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 3,539 other subscribers

Disclaimer and Copyright statement

The content of all documents (and articles) contained in this blog is the sole responsibility of the author and any opinions expressed therein do not necessarily represent the official position of the European Parliament. It is addressed to the Members and staff of the EP for their parliamentary work. Reproduction and translation for non-commercial purposes are authorised, provided the source is acknowledged and the European Parliament is given prior notice and sent a copy.

For a comprehensive description of our cookie and data protection policies, please visit Terms and Conditions page.

Copyright © European Union, 2014-2019. All rights reserved.

%d bloggers like this: