Liechtenstein Offers Free Ride in Drive on Commuter Smog

Associated Press

Liechtenstein on Friday became the first country in Europe to offer free mass transit in a bid to discourage private commuting and combat pollution.

For a one-year trial period, buses to and from the capital and the 10 other villages of Liechtenstein can be used free of charge.

Parliament made the decision after surveys indicated pollution was taking a serious toll. Among pine trees, the damage was up to 82%, according to a survey published last week.

Herbert Wille, deputy head of the state government, said the situation was worse than in neighboring Switzerland. Forests make up more than a third of Liechtenstein's total surface area.

The principality of Liechtenstein, one of the wealthiest countries in the world, has nearly 18,000 registered motor vehicles, including 14,000 automobiles, and a population of 26,500.

The 62-square-mile country on the Upper Rhine has no railroad.

Traffic through Liechtenstein has increased significantly since 1985, when Switzerland imposed a fee on all cars using its superhighway network. Many vacationers, especially from Germany and northern Europe, prefer making a long detour through the principality on their way south, rather than pay the fee of about $23.65.

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