"The Netherlands longs for free public transport"
OPINION by Eduard Schaepman, CEO of Tribes
Traffic jams, traffic jams, and more traffic jams. That they exist is logical and unnecessary, argues Eduard Schaepman. "There is no affordable alternative to the benefits of driving a car, and there is a collective resistance against sharing and being together. Yet, solutions are within reach."
During the pandemic, we collectively came to the conclusion that we were making a lot of unnecessary car kilometers before the pandemic. That had to change, we called out together. We would learn from it. Endless hours in an almost stationary car would become a thing of the past. A nice side effect of a nasty period. But it turned out differently. With the lifting of the corona restrictions, the good intentions disappeared too. In the meantime, traffic jams are now more frequent than they were before corona. There is also another traffic-related issue that preoccupies people's minds: nitrogen. Although car traffic is not the biggest culprit of nitrogen deposition, it is also one of the buttons that can be turned. In short, we have an undeniable need for fewer car movements in our country, but we are still not taking a step in the right direction. Although everyone understands that the use of trains, buses, and trams is the only logical solution to tackle traffic jams in our country, we consistently ignore them. On the contrary, we are only driving more. The reasons for this aversion to public transport are impossible to miss, namely: the lack of an affordable alternative to the benefits of driving a car and a collective resistance or suspicion against sharing and being together.
Let's start with the first limitation: the costs of public transport compared to those of a car. At the moment, the costs of, for example, a train subscription are so high that they do not deter many people from buying an affordable second- or third-hand car. The freedom of having a car wins over the alternative where a lot of money has to be paid to travel by train, while there is no car outside the door. For example, a so-called NS Flex Always Free subscription costs over €350 per month since 2022. Then you travel second class because the first-class variant costs over €610. It is my belief that affordable - and preferably free - public transport would make it a no-brainer for a lot of people to take the train or bus. And it can be done, as other countries have shown. In Luxembourg, all public transport has been free since the beginning of 2020. To combat fine particulate matter emissions, Brussels made its public transport network free in 2022. Since May, public transport in Germany has become considerably more affordable again. For just under €50, you can travel unlimited and free of charge by buses, trams, metro, and regional trains throughout the country.
Then the second limitation: the difficulty we have with sharing and being together. We stubbornly hold on to what is 'ours' instead of embracing the concept that we can share things. A train bench, for example. We attach great importance to our own space, possessions, and habits. This is remarkable, especially in light of our corona experience. After all, didn't we establish then that the impossibility of meeting people, traveling and working together, simply being 'among people,' did us no good physically and mentally? In that light, it is difficult to explain why we would rather sit alone in a car every day, joining an endless line of anonymous counterparts, instead of sharing a train or bus with people we can get to know.
When it comes to tackling complex issues such as traffic jams and nitrogen emissions, it seems we are at an impasse, while solutions are within reach. Who dares?
Eduard Schaepman, CEO and founder of Tribes
"The freedom of having a car outweighs the alternative of having to pay a lot of money to be allowed to travel by train, while there is no car parked in front of the door," analyzes Schaepman.