Barcelona’s New Scheme to Give Citizens Free Unlimited Public Transport for Giving Up Their Private Vehicles

Between 2015 and 2016, Spain’s Industry Ministry tested 16 diesel vehicle brands for exhaust emissions. The test results showed high discrepancies in the value obtained in a lab and those obtained from actual driving.

All the vehicles had higher nitrous oxide emissions than those allowed by the European Union.

As the world starts to take climate change more seriously, road transport appears to contribute to greenhouse gases significantly.  The European Commission reported in 2017 that 21% of the total EU emissions came from road transport. Light-duty vehicles emitted about 15% of Carbon IV Oxide while heavy-duty vehicles had some 5%.

In response to this environmental crisis, Barcelona offers its citizens a new scheme that will see the city cut on its car-related emissions.

The Metropolitan T-Verda (T-Green) Ticket

Anti-car measures are not a new thing in Barcelona. The city has been running No-Car days for some time now, so the T-verda tickets come as no surprise.  In the new scheme, residents of Barcelona’s Metropolitan Area who agree to give up their old private cars receive a free public transport ticket valid for three years.  Ticket holders can access the tram, Barcelona’s subway, Cercanias trains, TMB and inter-city buses, and other public transport means available from zone 1 to 6.

It’s a great incentive towards the environmentally friendly shift, that mainly targets petrol cars manufactured before 1997, diesel vehicles existing before 2006, and even motorcycles bearing registration plates from before 2004. However, these do not form the requirements for getting the free tickets. It could also be people who never used their cars but see the value of the T-verda card and the environmental benefits of the scheme.

The ticket allows for unlimited use within the specified zones, and holders cannot acquire new cars within the three-year validity period. Holders who buy new vehicles lose their free travel rights.  The cards are personal and are not transferable to other parties. They bear the holder’s DNI/NIE number, and the owner must validate the card each year. There are no additional costs on renewal as the cards get automatically renewed annually and sent to the holder’s home address.

How’s the Response to the New Scheme?

Since the scheme’s introduction in 2017, the Barcelona Metropolitan Area has issued over 12,000 T-verda cards for 10,613 cars and 1,735 motorbikes. It has seemingly gathered much support from the launch of Low Emission Zones in 2019, which restricts entry of high emission vehicles from 7:00 am to 20:00 during working days.  The city transport authority witnessed an increased demand for the T-green tickets in the following year, 2020, that hit 729 applications in November.

However, at some point, some local groups like Ecologistas en Acción deemed the figures insignificant, noting that an additional 50,000 vehicles had been registered after the introduction of T-verda.

Summing It Up

While the economic and environmental benefits of the scheme can be challenging to quantify, Barcelona’s move seems to have been a wake-up call for other parts of the world. For instance, Luxembourg provides free public transport for all, and in some parts of Finland and France, residents can give up their vehicles for electric bikes.


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