France 24, August 31, 2019
The city of Dunkirk in northern France launched a revamped bus system last year with a twist – it’s completely free. A new study shows that the programme is not only revitalising the city center but also helping the environment.
Dunkirk, which sits on the “Opal Coast” at the northernmost tip of France, is best known for the battle and evacuation of hundreds of thousands of Allied soldiers to Britain during the Second World War. After the war, the port city was rebuilt as an industrial hub, with oil refineries and a major steel mill.
Now the city (population 90,000) seeks to become a beacon of a greener economy, by building infrastructure such as a large-scale wind farm off the coast and transforming its city center to be more pedestrian-friendly. Key to this effort is its free bus system, inaugurated on 1 September, 2018. The network connects Dunkirk to a cluster of neighbouring towns, with five express lines running every ten minutes throughout the day, and a dozen other lines serving less dense areas. Altogether, it serves some 200,000 residents.
For many, the effect has been nothing short of liberating, says Vanessa Delevoye, editor of Urbis, a magazine of urban politics published by the local government. To get around town, you no longer need to look at the schedules, buy tickets or worry about parking, she says. You just hop on the bus.