Paris mayor wants free public transport for all to reduce pollution

(ABC) -- Socialist Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo is proposing to make all public transportation in the city free in order to reduce air pollution, but opposition politicians are wondering who is going to foot the bill.

In an interview with French daily newspaper Les Echos earlier this week, Hidalgo announced that she asked "three of her assistants to conduct a large study on the subject, which will involve French and foreign experts."

“The question of free transport is one of the keys to urban mobility in which the place of pollution-causing cars is no longer central,” she asserted. “Many cities are looking into it.”

Valerie Pecresse, head of the Ile-de-France region around Paris and a member of the Conservative Party, criticized Hidalgo, pointing out that “ticket sales bring in three billion euros ($3.7 billion) a year."

"We need that money,” Pecresse told French Radio Classique, adding that if travelers did not pay, taxpayers would have to do so.

Hidalgo did not say how much her proposition would cost, how she would finance it and whether it would cover the 2.2 million people living inside Paris or all 12 million residents of the French capital and Ile-de-France region. The study is expected to start in the next few weeks, Hidalgo said.

Opposition parties pointed out that Hidalgo is already campaigning for her reelection in the 2020 municipal elections. “No doubt about it, this is the start of the 2020 campaign!” said Centrist Party member Alexandre Vesperini.