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The ViverCascais card which lets local residents use public transport for free, Source: MobiCascais

Two years of free public transport in Cascais have drawn in 10% more commuters

Two years of free public transport in Cascais have drawn in 10% more commuters

It’s the only municipality in Portugal to provide such a service, but we think it could be a role model to follow

Back in 2020, the Municipality of Cascais decided to implement a bold new project with the introduction of free public transit services for its residents, making it the only locality in Portugal, and one of the few in Europe to take this step. Two years later, the authorities are glad to report that passenger numbers on the system have increased by 10%, despite the pandemic restrictions that were centre stage in this period.

"It was not an easy path. As we were the pioneers, we had to design the entire project from scratch, which began with the creation of the Transport Authority, which oversees this entire area. Then we created the MobiCascais project, which managed to bring all modes of mobility, from buses to bicycles, to parking, to scooters,” explained Deputy Mayor of Cascais, Miguel Pinto Luz, speaking to Diário de Notícias.

He continued: “Then it was necessary to think of a system that would allow all these forms of mobility to talk to each other and we launched the first pass, the precursor of the metropolitan pass, which allowed the use of these multiple facets in terms of mobility. Finally, we created an app that allows the citizens of Cascais to access all of this."

How does the city pay for that?

Like any free service, the immediate questions that arise are on who foots the bill and how this gets to be financially sustainable.

Indeed, the cost of the service comes to neat 12 million euros per year and there are two funding sources.

"The first source of revenue is parking in the municipality's car parks. For each person who parks their car in Cascais or uses one of the underground car parks, his payment is automatically channelled to the maintenance of the entire mobility system in the municipality. The second source is the Single Circulation Tax, which is levied on those who have individual transport,” added Miguel Pinto Luz.

In essence, he described the system as “a form of circular economy”, where those who opt for individual motorized transport get penalized for their choice, but they also end up paying for the public transport to exist. In a way, the two sides need each other. More people using public transit also means smoother traffic flow for the remaining drivers on the city’s roads.

The benefit for the commuters, however, is clearly great. Each user gets to save by not having to buy the yearly pass, which used to cost 720 euros. Passengers, who are residents of the city, however, need to get the Viver Cascais Card in order to verify that they have the right to free transport.

If each of the 31,618 holders of the Viver Cascais Card, who travelled on municipal buses in 2021 saved the 720-euro amount, we are talking about a value of 22,764,960 euros saved per year by them! 

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