Hasselt, Belgium

Unfortunately free public transport in Hasselt is not longer available. It was free from the 1st of july 1997 until april 2013, but this changed due to a shift in the political majority… A ticket for the bus is still free as long as you are younger than 20 years. Others pay 60 Eurocent a ride.

Hasselt is a city in Belgium that has been one of the most interesting zero-fare cities. During the nineties they were to bulid a third bypass highway, but the costs were running wild and proposed explotation of precious nature forced the plans to a halt. Instead they abolished fares and reduced the space for cars on the second bypass. It resulted in a 1300% increase in public transport ridership!

Marc Verachtert, civil servant of Hasselt’s public transportation, also mentioned the critique towards zero-fare policys. He agreed that some bicyclists (10%) started using buses and trams instead, but the total amount of bicyclist did increase when fewer cars occupied the streets. Hasselt also decreased the parking lots in the city, from 1500 to 500, and the city has an interesting system called last-mile delivery to decrease the heavy transports. Around the city they have depots where lorrys deliver goods, which is then packed on transport bicycles, for example.

The bad news is that Hasselt, despite the success story, will take a step backwards next year and experiment with fares again. The Social Democrats and The Green were elected 2012 on a program to keep the zero-fare policy, but still it will be brought down. Much of the conflict seems to relate to the relationship with the region, which finances 75% of the program. Verachtert argued that a major obstacle in negotiating with the region was that they lacked adequate statistics on the impact of zero-fare. Many inhabitants of Hasselt are pleased and see the advantages, and ridership was up 1300%, but this was not enough for the region.

Verachhert requested more research on the subject, and said that Hasselt will remain in the network of zero-fare cities, initiated by Tallinn. They will gather information, and hope to bring free public transportation back to their city soon. From this report