Brussels Hopes Free Transit Leads to Cleaner Air

Following in the footsteps of Seoul. 

Bus rides in Brussels would be free on the smoggiest days under a new rule. (Credit: Steven Lek)

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As emissions-free zones grow in popularityparticularly in European cities — Brussels officials have decided to try a different tactic for tackling smog and CO2: free bus rides.

Following two back-to-back days of high particulate matter (PM) levels (exceeding an average of 51-70 micrograms per cubic meter of air), buses, streetcars, the Metro and the city’s bike-share system will be available to users for free under new City Council rules, the Guardian reports.

In 2016, Brussels breached the legal limit for NO2 under rules set up by the EU. In January, the city vowed to address the issue with a number of low-emission zones that would ban the most polluting cars. Officials also promised city buses would be electrified by 2030. The strategies mimic Paris, Copenhagen and Madrid, among others.

But offering free transit is a more aggressive solution. Seoul recently enacted a similar policy, as reported by CityLab, and in January Salt Lake City funded a free fare day to combat dirty air. In Brussels, the measures will hopefully begin to remedy decades-old taxing and planning policies that benefit the city’s many car commuters, the city’s mobility minister Pascal Smet told the Guardian.

“We need to create quality public space,” he says. “Research shows that the more space you give to cars, the more cars you attract. Indeed, the most car-friendly cities are also the most congested. By giving back space to pedestrians and cyclists, cities can create places where people meet and connect.”

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Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian

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Tags: transit agenciespollution

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