January 19, 2018 12:47
Seoul city stands to lose nearly W25 billion from free subway and bus rides in a bid to reduce pollution from private cars in the rush hour (US$1=W1,072).
The measure was first implemented this year at the urging of the city's populist Mayor Park Won-soon.
The free rides were offered Thursday for the third time this year amid forecasts of heavy smog. Every day the city implements the measure it costs some W5 billion, resulting in a W15 billion price tag so far.
But traffic volume fell only 1.8 percent on the first day of the free rides, 1.71 percent on the second day and 2.4 percent on the third day.
The money for the free rides comes from the city's disaster-management fund, which is supposed to be used in prevention and relief.
To justify tapping into the fund, the city newly included fine dust on a list of eligible disasters. In December, it set aside a budget of W24.9 billion to fund the free subway and bus rides, which means more than half has been used up in the first week.
The entire disaster management fund is worth W376.8 billion. But the Seoul Metropolitan Council on Thursday declined to ratify an additional budget allocation for the free rides.
Park Jin-hyung at the council told the Chosun Ilbo, "City officials are spending only W480 million to slash power generation for heating, which is the No. 1 cause of air pollution, but a whopping W15 billion on reducing car emissions, which is the No. 2 cause. It's completely irrational."
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