After two successful test phases, the city’s decision has been made: bus and tram travel will become free for Montpellier’s residents. From December 2023, none will have to pay for public transport. In this way, the city aims to reduce air pollution, cut emissions and support disadvantaged groups. The measure is part of a 150 million euro package that also includes the construction of new bicycle lanes. 

The city government of Montpellier has decided to provide free public transportation for all residents. Starting on December 21, 2023, the city’s population of 300,000 will no longer be required to pay fares for buses and trams. This initiative aims not only to decrease air pollution but also to improve accessibility for individuals facing social disadvantages.

The measure is part of a 150 million euro package to make the city sustainable and emission-free. In addition to free public transport, Montpellier plans to introduce environmental zones and expand bicycle lanes.

To receive the complimentary tickets, individuals can sign up for the “M’Ticket” application by providing a valid identification card and a registered address.

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Two successful trial phases: 160,000 people use free tickets

Since 2020, Montpellier has been conducting trials on free public transportation. The current implementation of this measure is a culmination of two successful trial periods.

  1. Phase: free tickets for residents on weekends (from September 2020).
  2. Phase: Free tickets for young people under 18 and seniors from 65 (from September 2021). 

During the initial stage, there was a noticeable increase of 12 percent in the number of residents utilizing public transportation on weekends. The subsequent phase also achieved positive outcomes, with 160,000 residents availing themselves of the opportunity. Furthermore, even after the conclusion of the initiative, a significant 60 percent of individuals continued to utilize public transportation.

In the past, the city provided free parking hours to assist drivers. However, the current administration has eliminated this regulation and allocated 1.3 million euros for the initial trial phase.

France: Public transport is already free in 39 cities and towns

Montpellier is not the only French city where residents do not have to pay anything for public transport. Since France handed over traffic management to municipal authorities in 2015, the concept has spread to 39 cities and towns. Among them is the port city of Calais, the Marseille suburb of Aubange and the municipality of Niort. 

Montpellier: Free public transport from December, 2023.
Lyon, Paris, and Marseille are still hesitant to implement free public transportation. This is because they are way more dependent on ticket sales to finance their public transport (Photo: Rob Potvin / Unsplash)

Depending on the municipality or city, the measure is financed differently: in Dunkirk, for example, via the mobility tax. In France, private and public companies with more than 10 employees must pay this tax. With 200,000 inhabitants, Dunkirk is the second-largest city in France with free local transport after Montpellier.

Paris, Lyon and Marseille: only partially free local public transport

France’s major metropolises (Lyon, Paris, Marseille) are still hesitant to implement free public transportation. This is because they rely on ticket sales to finance their public transport. The share of total costs there is 25-40 percentIn contrast, the percentage is only 10 percent in smaller cities.

France’s major cities also provide options to alleviate the financial strain on individuals with low incomes, young individuals, and retirees.ParisIn cities like Strasbourg and Lille, young individuals below 18 years old are permitted to utilize public transportation without any cost. In Nantes and Rouen, passengers have the opportunity to travel on trams, bus lines, and subways for free during weekends.