Prague inspired by Vienna to slash price of annual travel pass, says councillor

Photo: Filip Jandourek

Councillors have just approved a cut of around 25 percent in the price of yearly passes for Prague’s public transport system. The move, which comes into effect in July, should encourage residents to leave their cars at home and make greater use of the city’s underground rail network, trams and buses. However, opponents say compensating for the price cut will hit other parts of the city’s budget.

Photo: Filip Jandourek
I discussed the idea with the deputy chair of the council’s transport committee Ondřej Mirovský, whose Green Party co-authored the plan.

“The basic idea, and the critical one, is to get people to switch from cars to public transport.

“We are building on the example of Vienna. Several years ago they also reduced the price of annual tickets for public transport and the numbers are clear – they have more people using public transport and fewer people using cars.”

This move will cost the city hundreds of millions of crowns in extra subsidies for the public transport system every year. The Civic Democrats, for example, are saying the money will have to come from other parts of the city budget. I can see the social benefits of this change, but financially does it make sense?

Ondřej Mirovský,  photo: Petr Neubert,  CC BY-SA 3.0
“Financially it does make sense, because we are expecting that much more people will use public transport.

“Definitely at the beginning there will be some reduction in the total income. But in one or two years we can expect more people will use public transport and buy the annual ticket.

“So the first reduction is expected to be a maximum of CZK 250 million. But in two years it can go up and stabilise at the same income level as is the case now.

“But we have to see how behaviour changes. We also have to work on a higher quality of public transport. And we have to introduce measures to reduce the transit of cars through Prague.”

When you say that, is the city planning to introduce a toll on people driving into the city centre?

“There are two possible scenarios. The first is a low emission zone which can be implemented with no cost to drivers. But there is an impact on the cars that can be driven into the city.

“This means that old cars drive into the city centre, and that could be a motivation to also reduce the total amount of cars. This is the slightly more favourable scenario, which we are now discussing.

“The second scenario is tolls. There were some studies on this recently – like in the last five years – but I think this is not the point of the agenda. We are decided to do this low emission zone in Prague.”

Photo: Kristýna Maková
I know you’re also making it free for dogs to go on Prague’s public transport system – we will no longer see dogs in bags [a way of getting around buying a ticket]. Why that change?

“It’s more like a social measure for old people. Because seniors are allowed to go for free and it doesn’t really make sense that they can go for free but they have to pay for their dogs.”