Sofia’s municipal council decided on December 6 to ease the requirements on the sale of “green ticket” day passes, currently the main tool available to the city to encourage residents to use public transportation instead of cars on days with high particulate matter pollution.
Under the amended regulation, the city’s mayor can order the sale of the day passes – valid for all public transportation on a particular day and sold for one lev, compared to 1.6 leva for a regular one-use-only ticket – if the official weather forecast from Bulgaria’s meteorology institute features a “code yellow” weather alert for phenomena likely to cause smog, such as fog, inversion or low atmospheric pressure.
Authorities put such day passes on sale twice this year – in January and on December 4, with the city hall coming under criticism earlier this week for taking too long to sell “green tickets” despite the visible smog that covered the city for several days.
But Sofia mayor Yordanka Fandukova argued that she could not legally order the sale of day passes under the old regulations, which did not allow such sales based on forecasts alone.
Previously, “green tickets” could be sold only if the four particulate pollution measurement stations recorded values four times larger than those allowed by EU air quality regulations over a period of 24 hours, or if any two of the four stations recorded values four times larger than acceptable over a period of 48 hours.
“The ‘green ticket’ measure was well received by the residents. I believe that if it is employed regularly, a lot more people would use this opportunity,” Fandukova said, as quoted by Bulgarian National Radio.
Sofia city hall earlier said that it sold about 74 500 day passes on December 4, but had no exact estimate about how many people opted to use public transportation instead of their cars on that day.
The lost revenue from the sale of “green tickets” ranges from 200 000 leva to 300 000 leva on a business day, according to the city hall’s urban mobility centre, which has to be compensated by the Sofia budget.
Weather forecasts earlier this week indicated that conditions over Sofia could once again be conducive to the formation of smog, but it remains to be seen if the city hall with make use of its newly-expanded prerogative to sell day passes in the coming days.
(Screengrab of the “green ticket” day pass from Bulgarian National Television.)