Taming The Traffic: In One Spanish Town, Trade Your Car for a Free Lifetime Transit Pass

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Courtesy MejorEnTranvia.com

Murcia is promoting its new tram system by offering residents free rides for life — as long as they trade in their wheels.

If this picture represents the average parking situation in Murcia, we’d be the first to ditch our car in the nearest available space, leave the keys in the ignition, and never return. We’d also proudly claim our free transit pass.

While the photo is just an advertisement for the car trade-in scheme, Fast Company reports (via Springwise) that the city of Murcia cites major traffic tie-ups as their inspiration. They recently opened a tram system to better shuttle residents around town. It’s a much-needed foray into public transportation, as the southeastern Spanish town is home to more than 440,000 people – many of whom drive around town because the public transportation options were previously quite slim. The traffic and parking problems are only augmented come summer (or weekends, during football season), when the city, located near the coast, sees a huge influx of out-of-towners.

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So, in celebration of the May opening of the Murcia’s Tranvía, an above-ground tram line that connects 18 km (11 miles) of the city, the local government is encouraging residents to ditch their cars. And as a reward for doing so, they’ll get to ride the tram for free – for life. The program is called “Mejor en Tranvía,” hoping to make the city, and residents’ lives, literally “better by tram.”

Though we wonder if people will be keen to catch on, given the transportation system’s track record so far. Murcia’s tram has been in trial runs since 2007, and even though the line officially opening two months ago, only one line is currently completed. While another three lines are in the works to various parts of the city, the only people who could realistically give up their cars are those who live along the pre-built line. Of course, the lifetime pass is an exploding offer that could pay off huge in the future, no matter where you live in Murcia.

But, we’ve got to give the benefit to the environment here. Ditch the car and save on insurance, gas, parking fees, and – best of all – the frustration of traffic! But just one question remains: what will the city do with all the unwanted cars?

Nick Carbone is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @nickcarbone. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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