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Planning 'out of the box'

Planning out of the box

It may be one of Europe's smallest and wealthiest countries, but Luxembourg has one major ailment – it suffers from insufferable traffic jams. But all that is set to change. After thinking from out of the box, it has announced plans to make all public transport, trains, trams and buses, free in a year from now. The government hopes the move will alleviate heavy congestion and bring environmental benefits, according to Dany Frank, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Mobility and Public Works. Landlocked as it is, the country has the highest per capita GDP in the European Union. Occupying 2,586 sq km, Luxembourg is roughly the size of just another town. From the capital of Luxembourg City, Belgium, France and Germany can all be reached by car in half-an-hour. High housing cost, especially in Luxembourg City, implies that more than 180,000 of its workforce commutes from those neighbouring countries every day. "Luxembourg is a very attractive place for jobs," explains Caruso, a professor at the University of Luxembourg. But its "booming economy" and high concentration of jobs have led to heavy congestion issues. Two years ago, Luxembourg had 662 cars per 1,000 people, with driving being the "primary means of transportation" for commuters, according to a 2017 report by the Ministry of Sustainable Development and Infrastructure. That year, drivers in Luxembourg City spent an average of 33 hours in traffic jams. It fared worse than European cities of Copenhagen and Helsinki, which have comparable population sizes to all of Luxembourg, yet drivers spent an average of 24 hours in traffic. Parks and rides around Luxembourg's borders in the three neighbouring countries, however, will encourage commuters to use free mass transit, according to Frank. Luxembourg's public transport system covers the whole country and costs $562 million (€491 million) per year to run. Each year, it generates around $46 million (€40 million) in ticket sales, according to the ministry. The government is putting up the cost of making it free. Caruso is concerned that making transport free may unintentionally deter people who would normally walk or cycle in urban areas. "Rather than walking 500 m, you see a bus coming and you say, 'I (can) get on and travel 500 m because it's free'," he says. He feels, however, that the new scheme can usher in important changes ahead when it comes to Luxembourg's reliance on driving. The government might say, 'It's important that you ditch your car, and look, we made public transport free', and maybe this is helpful given the immense cultural shift the tiny nation needs. Indeed, thinking and planning from out of the box can always help.

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