In light of Mallorca’s decision to make public transport free to all residents in 2023, Transform’s Policy Advisor Paul Tetlaw reports on his observations following a recent visit. This is the first article in our ‘Just the Ticket’ series which looks at various international ticketing practices for public transport.
The Balearic island of Mallorca has an extensive public transport network. This consists of the city bus network in the capital Palma run by EMT Palma, the long distance and country buses run by TIB Mallorca and the metre gauge electric railway and Metro lines also run by TIB Mallorca.
The transport interchange in Palma is impressive and is where all TIB services depart from with most EMT bus services stopping on the road immediately outside the interchange.
The metre gauge railway system has been extended and fully electrified in recent years reversing a 1960s era programme of rundown and closure of the railway network – further extensions are planned. All stations have barriers to ensure correct payment and allow for level boarding of the trains.
Additionally two Metro lines have been added to the network in recent years.
The bus fleets of TIB and EMT are all modern with the longer distance TIB buses having very comfortable seats appropriate for longer journeys – many over an hour in length.
For residents payment on all public transport is by card scanner with residents qualifying for a travel pass. Visitors can pay by credit or debit card on all TIB services, again by scanner or only by cash on the city buses.
To encourage the use of public transport all residents can travel for free across the entire network for the whole of 2023.
During my stay in March 2023 I observed a very well used and efficient public transport network. I did see evidence of serious overcrowding on some of the long distance TIB buses (see photo below). On one of my journeys which started from the interchange in Palma the operators quickly put on an additional bus when it became clear that the planned bus would not be able to take the number of passengers wishing to board.
So in summary I’d say that the policy has certainly encouraged public transport use. There was clear evidence that this was leading to overcrowding on some routes. I’m not able to say how much modal shift from the car has occurred but I did observe the roads still very busy with car traffic. It seems to me that while this is a welcome initiative it alone is not the answer to traffic congestion on the island. The stick as well as the carrot is clearly needed. There are many areas of pedestrianisation where vehicles are banned and that creates a very vibrant and attractive environment but I didn’t see any dedicated bus lanes on the island. I’ve no knowledge of any further planned initiatives to discourage car use.