Austria’s Klimaticket, the nation’s $3.50 per day, go-anywhere pass to combat climate change, went live this week, CNN reports. The ticket is valid for all publicly and privately operated rail, metro, and bus networks throughout the nation, and with a price tag of $1,265 (€1,095) for an annual pass, the cost works out to roughly $24 (€21) per week or $3.50 per day.
Nationwide travel passes have already been adopted across some parts of Europe, with Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Germany among the countries offering discount programs and other incentives to encourage public transit use. But Austria’s Klimaticket (literally “climate ticket”) is the most affordable option yet, and it marks a major step toward the nation’s goal of becoming climate neutral by 2040—one of the most ambitious green agendas to date. The federal government has committed $277 million (€240 million) to support the new initiative, with ongoing annual costs estimated to be around $173 million (€150 million), CNN reports.
Austria’s Green Party “super minister” Leonore Gewessler, who helms the nation’s transportation, environment, and energy sector, expressed excitement for the initiative in a press conference announcing it last month. And she’s not the only one: Demand for discounted early bird tickets for the pass initially crashed the Klimaticket booking site.
“I think you can see how happy I am. This is a big day for the climate and for transport. If this summer has shown us anything, it is that the climate crisis has already arrived with us,” Gewessler said via the Financial Times.
As part of its 2030 Mobility Master Plan, the Austrian government means to cut private car use nationwide by about 16% by 2040, reducing it from 70% of total annual kilometers traveled to 54%. At the same time, authorities aim to increase public transportation from 27% to 40% of total annual miles traveled while also doubling active travel, such as walking and cycling, from 3% to 6%.
Governments continue to plow money into building new roads, which will dramatically drive up emissions. Transportation is the biggest chunk of Austria’s greenhouse gas emissions. (This is also true in numerous developed countries, including the U.S.) Using that money to subsidize public transit, one of the lowest carbon ways to get around, and offer passes like the Klimaticket could be a vital way to make a dent in the transportation sector—and have an outsize impact on the country’s overall emissions.
“One of the things I like about Klimaticket is that it is valid on all modes of public transport, a concept that should be replicated elsewhere as it removes the hassle of having to find and buy multiple tickets,” European rail travel expert Andy Brabin told CNN. “It is potentially revolutionary, removing some of the barriers to using public transport and making spontaneous trips much easier as you don’t have to worry about buying tickets, which can often be expensive at short notice for longer journeys.”
If Klimaticket proves successful, it could become a blueprint for other nations to roll out their own affordable options for convenient, nationwide travel. Austria is a relatively small country, so scaling this kind of initiative may prove difficult. Bureaucratic hurdles, too, have the potential to throw a wrench in the works. The Klimaticket’s development has been at the center of fierce negotiations over the past two years, with Austria’s more rural regions, in particular, pushing back against tax dollars being used to subsidize public transit that doesn’t see as high of a demand in their area, CNN reports. It pales in comparison to the backlash of a 2018 French gas tax that disproportionately impacted rural households and led to widespread protests. But both are a reminder of the need to ensure climate policies are being put in place to support everyone as the world transitions to a clean energy economy.
“I think there is an appetite for something like Klimaticket in Germany,” Keith Barrow, editor of UK magazine Today’s Railways Europe, told the outlet. “The Greens’ success in the recent federal election might spur them to emulate their counterparts in Austria and push for a national annual public transport pass.”
Update, 11/1/21, 9:00 a.m. ET: This post has been updated with added context on carbon emissions and transportation.