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Dublin bus carried 140 Million passengers in 2017 compared to 1.5 Million passengers in Hasselt in 1997 prior to the introduction of free public transport. So we are talking about a city with almost 100 times more passenger journeys per annum.

The population of the greater Dublin area is estimated to rise to 2.1 Million in 2020, about 30 times Hasselt's 70,000 population.

Add to that that Dublin is an ancient city not exactly designed or suited to mass car transportation and hemmed in my the sea, the Dublin/Wicklow mountains, the Phoenix park and Dublin airport. It is also a very rapidly growing city with a massive housing crisis.

Interestingly, the introduction of free public transport in Hasselt led to an increase in public transport passenger journeys to 4.6 Million P.A.in the 10 years to 2006 - exactly matching my "finger in the air" guesstimate that introducing free transport would triple numbers in Dublin.

However even in 2006, after a tripling of bus passengers, Hasselt only had 46 Buses, compared to Dublin Bus' current total of over 1,000 - which by my guesstimate would have to rise to over 3,000. So we are really not comparing like with like.

One lesson we could, perhaps, learn from the Hasselt experience is that the financing of a free public transport system would have to be put on a sound and durable footing, as else it could become the first victim of public sector spending cuts at a time of recession and austerity.

However the overwhelming global trend is in favour of more not less free public transport systems, as noted in the Lara Marlowe article I linked to in my letter:

The first fare-free public transport system was set up in a suburb of Los Angeles in 1962. Bologna experimented with free transport in the 1970s, when it was ruled by the Communist party.

By 2000, there were 27 free public systems in the world. That increased to 60 in 2010, 99 in 2017 and 114 today, the majority in Europe, says Wojciech Keblowski, an expert on free public transport at the Free University Brussels.

So does this mean free public transport is the wave of the future? The answer depends on the size and sociology of the city, and the existing network. Free transport has been a resounding success in, among others, Tallinn, Estonia, and Dunkirk, northern France.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Jan 30th, 2019 at 11:29:11 AM EST
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