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EU Urban Mobility Observatory
News article13 December 2023

Montpellier to become the largest urban area in France with free public transport

From 21 December 2023, all public transport in the Montpellier Metropolis will be free for the more than 500,000 inhabitants of the 31 municipalities. The measure has been introduced to improve air quality and make public transport more accessible.

Residents living in in the Montpellier Métropole will be able to use all buses, trams and P+Tram parking in the Montpellier Métropole at no charge. With this, Montpellier will become the largest French metropolis to boast such a scheme.

Free public transport responds to the climate, social and health emergency” explains Julie Frêche, Vice-president and delegate for transport of the Montpellier Métropole. “This will change the way people relate to public transport, making it the public transport of all inhabitants.”

Currently 280,000 car trips are taken each day in Montpellier – with road traffic accounting for 40% of the city’s CO₂ emissions. “The measure is responding to the climate emergency. It is also responding to the social emergency, because many people are concerned about their purchasing power and it’s a key priority for people. In addition, the measure responds to the challenge to improve the air quality, as particle emissions by transport pose serious environmental and public health issues,” Frêche said.

The launch of the free public transport service actually represents an extension, since free-of-charge riding has already been available on weekends and for residents aged under 18 and over 65. Free public transport on weekends was introduced after the first national lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic to support local businesses when they reopened. In September 2021, free public transport has been introduced further for residents under the age of 18 and aged over 65 to provide social support for both young people and the elderly. These measures have led to an increase of public transport use. It almost doubled for those under 18, while it grew 1.5 times for those age 65 and older.

As of 21 December 2023, residents will need to be in possession of a free pass which can be downloaded through the M’Ticket app and online. Visitors not living in the Métropole will still have to buy a public transport ticket however.

The Métropole Montpellier would be willing to discuss opening up the free public transport to people from neighbouring municipalities, as long as these municipalities would contribute financially to cover its costs.

The scheme is funded by a ‘Mobility Payment’ tax already levied on public and private companies in France with more than 10 employees. As a result of a small tax increase and an increase in the number of companies locating in the Métropole, revenues from the tax have increased from 90 million in 2020 to 123 million in 2023. This has allowed the free transport scheme to be fully financed.

Asked about any fears of overcrowding, Frêche admits that some lines will certainly be busier. At the same time, occupancy rate in public transport vehicles will be monitored closely and capacity increased whenever possible.

Moreover, the administration of Montpellier Métropole has budgeted EUR 1.5 billion over its entire mandate to extend tram lines and develop express bicycle lanes. In addition, the Métropole is preparing for the launch of an entirely new service called ‘BusTram’ in 2025. This service will consist of five lines and aims to fill gaps in the current tram and bus network. It would increase access to public transit for some 110,000 residents in 10 neighbourhoods within the Métropole.

Sources

Details

Publication date
13 December 2023
Topic
Collective passenger transport
Country
France