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Head of Bratislava Region proposes free public transport

Experts warn that free transport may bring over-crowding and other problems.

(Source: SME)

With the regional elections approaching, candidates eager to be elected into regional governor posts are announcing various proposals to encourage voters to cast ballots for them.

Pavol Frešo, incumbent governor of Bratislava Region who is running for the post for the third consecutive time, has come up with the idea of free public transport in Bratislava and Bratislava Region. He was inspired by an example of Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, where such a model has already been introduced.

He believes that this idea is feasible under the condition that all those living in Bratislava and Bratislava Region also have permanent residence there. The subsequent increase in the portion of income taxes for Bratislava and Bratislava Region would be high enough to cover the increased costs of making public transportation free.

Read also: Read also:250,000 more people live in Bratislava than official statistics show

Public transportation has been a sore point in Bratislava for years, as it currently lacks money. As a consequence, obsolete vehicles are not being replaced by new ones quickly enough. While trams are considered to be the key mode of public transportation, only one track has been built since the fall of the previous regime in 1989, the one that goes from Šafárikovo Square via the Old Bridge to the beginning of Petržalka.

Experts not as optimistic as Frešo

Transportation experts do not share Frešo’s optimism. Martin Fundárek, from the civic association Better Transport, warns that anything that is free brings some problems, and transport analyst Jozef Drahovský remarked that nothing is free, as always somebody has to pay for it.

Fundárek does not doubt that free transport can increase the people's interest in public transport. But if there are not enough spare vehicles and drivers to satisfy the increased interest, making public transport free would only end in overcrowded vehicles pushing another group of citizens to switch to cars, he believes.

Another negative consequence of making public transport free may be that people would start using public transport for short distances that they previously would have made on foot.

Fundárek also does not believe that the increase in the number of citizens of Bratislava with permanent residency would be enough to cover the increased costs, citing an example from abroad.

“Costs for free public transport increased in the 70,000-strong town of Hasselt in Belgium by 250 percent over 10 years,” said Fundárek as cited by the TASR newswire. “In the end, after 16 years, this city cancelled the free transport.”

To make the public transport in Bratislava more attractive, Fundárek proposes a reduction in fares. He pointed out that an annual public transport pass in Bratislava is significantly more expensive than in Prague.

Transport analyst Drahovský believes that Bratislava needs to address parking in the city, in addition to transport and road infrastructure.

“For the time being, Bratislava and its vicinity are experiencing an intensive construction boom, with tens of thousands of new apartments being built,” said Drahovský as cited by TASR, adding that roads and tracks for trams and trolley buses are not built adequately. This may lead to even bigger blocks in transport than is currently seen.

“This is 20 years of neglected planning and construction,” Drahovský said.

Topic: Transport


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