PTB party unfolds plan for free public transport in Brussels
The far left Belgian political party, PTB, has released a study on free public transport in Brussels. To finance it, the party relies on companies through a lump sum home-to-work payment and the revision of the company car system.
The party considers this measure more necessary than ever in the face of the climate emergency. “Just like health or education, the solution to mobility is collective, free and public.”
100 cities in the world and counting
For the PTB free access has already proven its worth for many years. “Since the 2000s, the number of cities in the world that are implementing it has only increased”, say Françoise De Smedt and Youssef Handichi, the two MPs who examined the issue.
“Today there are about 100 cities and municipalities, including 39 in the United States and more than 50 in Europe.” In Belgium, the city of Hasselt introduced free access in 1997, but abandoned it 17 years later.
Aubagne and Dunkirk as examples
The PTB cites Tallinn in Estonia or Aubagne and Dunkirk in France as examples. “After three years, 5.000 fewer cars per day in Aubagne, a 10% decrease in car use and a 235% increase in public transport use.” The same success story in Dunkirk.
“A quarter of the car parks are empty today, while before free parking, everyone complained about the lack of parking spaces. The increase in bus use was immediately clear: +100% on Saturday, +140% on Sunday.”
Price tag of 208 million euro
The PTB experts point out that free access would result in an estimated annual shortfall of 208 million euro for Brussels public transport operator, STIB/MIVB. Who will pay the bill? The party is turning to business.
“One possibility would be to set up a lump sum home-to-work payment paid by Brussels employers (with the exception of small businesses).
A high proportion of STIB/MIVB’s ticket and subscription sales are already paid for by companies that pay their workers for travel. The idea would be to generalize and collectivize this care.”
416 euro per worker
According to the study, the Brussels capital now has 600.000 salaried jobs, including 499.892 in companies employing more than 20 people. For the latter, a contribution of 416 euro per worker would cover the loss recorded by the public transport company.
This would also mean that “for employers who already pay for their employees for the subscription, the operation would be zero-sum, or even advantageous since the subscription costs nearly 450 euro under the third-party payer scheme.”
Free for everyone
This will allow everyone, tourists and other pensioners, to travel without paying. “Maintaining paid transport for some people or at certain times of the day means keeping the market report and all these costly control tools, which can be amortized over a smaller number of passengers.”
Revision of company car system
Another advanced approach is the revision of the company car system. The PTB advocates the extinction of the system, which “avoids companies paying social security contributions of at least 2 billion euro per year and essentially benefits the wealthiest populations.”
The funds can thus be allocated to public transport. This tax gain, earned at the federal level, should be returned, at least in part, to Brussels via the Beliris cooperation agreement.
“In addition, this will make it possible to boost investments in STIB/MIVB’s infrastructure, which is essential to support the free access and attendance boom that it would certainly generate.”