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Free public transport

Aubagne
France

 

Free public transport was introduced in the Aubagne and Etoile region on May 15, 2009. This free facility is available to those living and/or working in Aubagne, and to the population which in one way or another travels within the intercommunality, consisting of 12 communes in which 101,000 people live. 

The transport network currently consists of bus lines, but in 2014 there will also be a free tram and, later, a tram-train running on a restored railway line will be added.

Since its inception, the free transport policy has been based on a theme of convergence between opportunities for public participation and the projects carried by elected politicians.

Policy objectives and beneficiaries

To increase the use of public transport and reduce car use in towns and villages; to promote access to the right to mobility and promote citizens' (re)allocation of public spaces; to substantially increase families' purchasing power; and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The initial quantitative objectives were: to increase public transport use by 50% between 2009 and 2011, and to reach 80% by 2017.

In principle, the free public transport services were aimed at the entire population living, working or travelling to Aubagne and up to 11 cities and towns in the surrounding area. Free public transport has been particularly useful for young people, for the elderly and for people living in neighbourhoods or towns that are far from the centre, as well as people coming from neighbouring communities.

Participation processes implemented

During the election campaign: at meetings of ‘city activists’ at public assemblies, who also exchanged their ideas by circulating documents on this topic.

During and after the implementation of the project: through discussions with business leaders and business associations; the deliberations of the public transport users' committee in and the neighbourhood councils, and by the creation of a Web forum, to stimulate virtual exchanges to improve the service offered.

Institutionalization and financing

In order to implement the free public transport, it was necessary to pass a local law and change the percentage of Transportation Tax (VT) paid by businesses located within the agglomeration and it was also necessary to amend the contract governing Public Service Management Concessions (Délégations de Service Public - DSP).

Free Public Transport has been financed by increasing the Transportation Tax (VT), which is paid by companies located in the agglomeration. The income increased from 700,000 Euros to 2,000,000 Euros. Because of the increase in the number of passengers by more than 100%, costs increased by 15%. In other words, there is still a considerable margin for covering the planned expansion and diversification of the local network. 

Key results and obstacles

In total, the number of trips on the local network of scheduled and school services (except for chartered transport services) doubled (+100%) in 2010 and, to date, over 3.8 million trips took place compared to 1.9 million in 2008, before the free public transport was introduced. In comparison, when the free public transport was launched, the forecasts estimated that the number of users would increase by 58% in two years.

The free public transport has made a considerable contribution to increasing mobility within the municipality of Aubagne and the municipalities that make up the agglomeration, and has also encouraged travel between the agglomeration and the neighbouring communities. The free public transport has been particularly beneficial for the elderly, unemployed mothers and young people, whether in education or otherwise.

Free public transport therefore fosters social diversity, intergenerational relations, the emergence of informal spaces for information and debate, and brings individuals together.

The main obstacle has been the vague wording of the law on Public Service Management Concessions (DSP) that still has not incorporated the principle of zero cost. This lack of definition has created room for deliberation and analysis, in which the State administrator has intervened to delay the amendment of the Public Service Management concession contract (DSP) and has referred it to the courts.