In December 2020, a group led by the youth branches of the Green and Socialist Parties in the canton of Fribourg launched a cantonal initiative to introduce free public transport. However, ahead of a cantonal vote the proposed wording had to be approved by the Federal Tribunal to ensure it was compatible with Switzerland’s constitution. On 28 April 2023, the court’s judges decided it wasn’t.
According to the judges, the concept of free public transport is at odds with Switzerland’s federal constitution, something pointed out by the cantonal government of Fribourg.
The federal constitution states that the prices paid by public transport users should cover an appropriate part of the costs. The court also pointed out that according to the Federal Council the constitution aims to deliver contradictory objectives. Public transport should not be so cheap that it leads a sharp increase in demand and higher and higher costs. At the same time it should not be so expensive that it drives people away from public transport and into their cars.
The decision marks the definitive end of the initiative, not only in Fribourg but in several other cantons such as in Neuchâtel, Vaud and Geneva where similar plans had been hatched. In Vaud a similar plan has already been approved by the canton’s executive.