A measure announced in February 2023 has entered into effect in Montpellier. As of 21 December, all residents of the French metropole can enjoy free public transport.
The measure is a promise made in 2020 by Mayor and President of the Montpellier Metropolis, Michaël Delafosse. The transition to free public transport for all residents has been gradual. In 2020, public transport was made free for all residents travelling during the weekend, while in September 2021, the measure extended to any day of the week for people over 65 years old or under 18 years old.
While visitors and tourists will still need to pay the €1.6 fee per trip, residents will receive free passes. In the days before the measure took effect, 260,000 signed up for a pass, either physically or through the mobile app, according to AFP, just over half of Montpellier’s 500,000 population. This is triple compared to the 86,000 people who had paid for a pass before public transport was made free.
Free public transport is estimated to cost €42 million per year, according to a report by the regional audit office presented in early February. This corresponds in particular to the loss of revenue of the Tam (company that manages transport in the metropolis of Montpellier) related to the current sale of tickets. However, Delafosse said that the implementation of the measure will only cost €29 million per year, about 5% of the operating budget of the metropolis. Delafosse noted that he will make savings by ensuring good management of the metropolitan budget.
An important tax contribution funding the free transport comes from the mobility payment, which is due from businesses to fund transportation and mobility services. Regional and state subsidies are also used to help finance free transportation. Delafosse pointed out that €1.5 million in savings will be made by eliminating streetcar ticket machines.
While 38 French urban areas already provided free bus and streetcar services to their residents, including Nantes, Dunkirk and other smaller municipalities, Montpellier has become the first large city to offer free public transport, according to local media. Elsewhere in Europe, Luxembourg introduced free public transport in the entire country in 2020, the Estonian capital of Tallinn introduced the measure in 2013, while the Belgian city of Hasselt scrapped public transport fees as early as 1997, the ridership becoming 13 times higher by 2006, according to city reports.