In September 2018, the urban community of Dunkirk switched over to a system of public transport that is completely free of charge. It has enjoyed great success with a 65% increase in passengers during the week and 125% at weekends. The benefits are twofold as it’s a more eco-friendly form of transport for users and they can make big savings.
The benefits of public transport
Together with being free of charge, considerable investment has gone into modernising the network, creating special bus lanes and increasing the frequency of buses. Dunkirk’s town centre, 25% of which was occupied by parking for cars, has seen its occupation reduced by a quarter, opening the town up to potential new development opportunities. Currently, just 4.7% of journeys are made by bus in Dunkirk itself and the target is to reach 10% in 2020.
Creating a buzz around town
There have also been a number of unforeseen repercussions from the zero charges. There is a great social mix on the buses and everyone is welcoming the increased sociability. The amount of uncivil behaviour has also dropped right off. In fact, the locals are making the public transport system their own like never before. Though a system that is completely free of charge is not suited to all towns and cities, for this town’s mayor, Patrice Vergriete, the example set by Dunkirk is a case worth studying and it has certainly won the support of its inhabitants.