Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo announced that the city's public transportation and bike share system will be free for Parisian kids to use, Fast Company reports. The measure could make traveling around the city easier for low-income families, empowering them to access better education and economic opportunities.
Beginning Sept. 1, 2019, Parisian kids aged 11 and younger will be able to ride the Metro, bus, and regional rail at no cost, and older youth will be reimbursed 50% of their fare. Meanwhile, Paris's bike share system, Velib, will be made free to anyone 18 and under.
Hidalgo's new policies will also make public transit free people under the age of 20 living with disabilities, which could be have a major impact on low-income families since people with disabilities are more likely to be classified as low-income.
While the new policies apply solely to young people, they are designed to "strengthen the purchasing power of families" as a whole, Hidalgo said.
J'annonce aujourd'hui de nouvelles mesures pour accélérer la transition écologique à #Paris tout en renforçant le pouvoir d'achat des familles : la gratuité des #transports en commun pour les enfants et des tarifs très réduits pour les jeunes. https://t.co/rh1wPgGT0k— Anne Hidalgo (@Anne_Hidalgo) January 10, 2019
The plan originally emerged as a way to curb pollution from fossil fuels and increase biking in the city. But for low-income families — who are often more vulnerable to air pollution — the policies' environmental benefits go hand in hand with economic ones.
The hope is that parents will be more willing and able to pay the Metro fee for themselves to accompany their child, if their child is already riding for free, and would reduce the overall burden of the cost of transportation on the family. The new measure might also encourage parents to opt for public transit instead of relying on a car, which would also benefit the environment.
Paris' Metro has a ridership rate of 60% but Hidalgo believes it could be higher. Providing free transit for kids will cost the city 15 million euros each year, but with parents accompanying their children, an increase in ridership overall could help foot the bill.
Paris is not the first major city to offer free or discounted public transportation to youth. London and Berlin have already rolled out similar policies. In Estonia's capital, Tallinn, transportation has been free for all since 2014. However, with this policy, Paris could soon lead the way on making transit free for low-income families — Mayor Hidalgo said that this could be the next step for her city.
As cities face intensifying environmental and economic challenges associated with climate change and income inequality, resilient and equitable public transportation must be prioritized.