Air Clean Up

London Take Note – Paris Makes Public Transport Free

Dec 17 2016 Comments 0

Parisian authorities took the unprecedented decision earlier this month to make all public transport free for two consecutive days, in a bid to encourage people to leave their cars at home. At the same time, the government imposed restrictions on the number of cars allowed on the road each day.

On Tuesday 6th December, only even-numbered license plated cars were legally permitted to be driven around the city, while odd numbers were given the go-ahead on Wednesday 7th. Use of all forms of public transport across the city made gratis during this time to compensate for the restrictions.

A French first

This is the first time in Paris that public transport has been offered free of charge on two consecutive days to compensate for vehicle restrictions. On Tuesday, electrical faults on the city’s RER B line, coupled with an over-reliance on the service, led to huge delays and pandemonium among frustrated commuters.

The Wednesday fared better, with replacement bus services alleviating some of the strain on the system. Even so, there were still sizable traffic jams during the restrictions, with over 220 miles of traffic jams recorded around the city at morning rush hour.

While the ban has not affected emergency vehicles, foreign cars, lorries and vans used for food transportation or those used for ride-sharing, it’s thought this congestion was mostly caused by commuters flouting the rules. With this in mind, more than 140 checkpoints were set up around the city to catch transgressors, with penalties of fines and vehicle impoundments being promised by the police.

Vehicle restrictions becoming the norm

It’s not the first time that Paris has imposed restrictions on passenger vehicles. In September 2015, Mayor Hidalgo made the city completely car-free for a whole day in a bid to alleviate pollution and raise awareness about the gravity of the issue.

Indeed, car-free days have been an annual occurrence in cities around the globe for some time now. Jakarta in Indonesia got the ball rolling on September 22nd, 2007 and currently hold one every month. Meanwhile, Brussels and Cardiff are other cities which have adopted the idea recently.

Over in India, pollution has been dominating the headlines recently, with the Diwali festival of lights exacerbating an already serious problem. Though Delhi has imposed numerous restrictions on passenger vehicles, including maintaining the odd-even ban for over two weeks, an assessment of nitrogen oxides (NOx) above the city reveal that the schemes appear to have made little or no impact.

London to take note?

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has long positioned himself as a champion of environmental issues, and a recent statement from one of his spokespeople indicated he was committed to tackling air quality issues, but required help from the government.

“The Mayor is transforming London’s buses into one of the greenest fleets in the world and last week announced no more pure diesel buses will be procured from 2018,” said the statement.   

“The Mayor is doing everything in his power to tackle London’s toxic air and get rid of the most polluting vehicles, but he cannot do this alone and is calling on the Government to face its responsibility and implement a national diesel scrappage scheme now.”

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