The EMT, Palma's municipal transport company, plans to introduce free bus travel for all children under the age of eight from January 1. This would give Palma the biggest age range of free transport in Spain, according to councillor Pedro Alvarez, who is the company chairman. Up to now, children under the age of four travel free and the extention to eight is expectd to be approved at a council meeting at the end of the year. The measure will affect between 150'000 and 200'000 children, who are, “our present and our future,” Alvarez said, adding that free buses were one way of getting young people accustomed to using public transport, a habit which hopefully they would retain as they grew older. Alvarez stressed the importance of the response of people to the EMT's fare structure, and he said that last year the number of passengers had increased by three million. This makes the EMT the company with the biggest percentage growth on a national level, Alvarez said, attributing this to the fares policy and changes in buses and routes. Alvarez also underlined the offer of times, routes and environmental policies which public transport company is offering, making special mention of electric buses and the solar plaques used in the repair depot. He claimed that thanks to the use of the tarjeta ciudadana or citizen's card, residents have saved 1.8 million euros when transferring from one bus to another as the second bus is free. The card is currently used by 170'000 people. Alvarez said that he trusted passenger numbers would continue to grow higher than the national average of two per cent. In Palma, growth is currently eight per cent. The target is 30 million passengers in 2003. Alvarez also spoke of the improvements introduced in the EMT. These include increasing the fleet of buses from 100 to 150, improving times, a 30 per cent increase in line 4, and the city circle bus, the number 2, which started with 800 passengers a day and now has 8'000. Alvarez said that this “spectacular response” by citizens had made the current fares and free transport for under eights from January possible.


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