SEOUL, Nov. 16 (Korea Bizwire) – Public transport in Seoul will become free on days with high fine dust levels, beginning next Monday.
Seoul’s free public transport program is expected to take effect in less than a week, a policy that will see passengers ride buses and the subway free of charge when the air quality is poor.
It’s part of the Seoul Metropolitan Government’s drastic anti-fine dust measures that have been months in the making.
When levels of ultra-fine dust in the capital exceed 50㎍/㎥ after 4 p.m., and are expected to stay ‘bad’ until the next day, the Seoul government will issue a citywide anti-fine dust emergency measure, encouraging commuters to use public transport during rush hour by making buses and the subway temporarily free.
Despite previous announcements however, Seoul will be the only city to go forward with the anti-fine dust measure, as the Gyeonggi provincial government has pulled out of the agreement for financial reasons.
As a result, passengers are urged to swipe their transport cards on card readers even on ‘free public transport days’ in order to be charged for journeys outside Seoul into surrounding area such as Incheon.
For instance, a commuter from Paju in Gyeonggi Province to Mapo District in Seoul, who normally pays 1,450 won for the whole journey, will have 200 won exempt on Seoul’s free public transport days, as Gyeonggi bus fees are not covered by the new anti-fine dust measure.
“To operate public transport free of charge for 15 days a year would cost over 100 billion won, with the Gyeonggi Provincial Government having to cover 36.7 billion won. Without knowing the actual benefits of the measure, we can’t spend taxpayers’ money,” Gyeonggi Province Governor Nam Kyung-pil said.
With Gyeonggi Province opting out at the last minute, the Seoul Metropolitan Government is expected to foot the estimated 6 billion won bill for each free public transport day on its own.
Provided that the free public transport days are designated seven times a year, the Seoul government will be left with a 42 billion won bill each year.
Against this backdrop, Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon has called for cooperation.
“Unlike other issues, fine dust problems can’t be solved by Seoul alone. We need cooperation from other Asian countries like China as well as other provincial cities,” Park said.
Hyunsu Yim (firstname.lastname@example.org)