Seoul makes public transport free on polluted days

Seoul Air Pollution

Seoul is going to allow free rides on buses and subway if the air pollution is over a certain limit starting from today. It’s part of an action plan to fight Seoul’s air pollution.

Public transport will be free during commuting hours, i.e. from the first train/bus to 9am and from 6pm to 9pm. The criteria for free public transport commuting hours is that the fine particles PM2.5 level is above 50 µg/m³ from midnight to 4pm and the forecast for the next day has to be bad. Then Seoul declares public transport for free during commuting hours on the second polluted day.

It’s unclear which source will be used for the measurement. I assume that the official levels for fine particles (초미세먼지) on Seoul’s Clean Air website will be used. The plan doesn’t say if it’s only on weekdays and if the measure also applies to subway and bus rides from outside of Seoul to the cit (probably not).

Seoul Air Pollution

After Korea experienced the worst air pollution since 2014 in the first three months of 2017, air pollution became a main topic among people, media and also at the recent presidential elections. Mayor Park Won-soon announced the idea of free public transport during a public discussion forum on May 27th. I was also there and the crowd responded very positively to this announcement.


10-Point Action Plan against Air Pollution

It’s part of a 10-point program to fight air pollution in Korea’s capital:

Measure Implementation Date
1. Declare air pollution as disaster and strengthen protective measures for public health July 2017
2. Introduce warning system about air pollution by Seoul July 2017
3.  Implement municipal emergency measures July 2017
4. Enforce odd-even license plate program and offer free public transport during commuting hours July 2017
5. Restrict heavy-polluting cars from entering CBD 2018
6. Introduce new, low-polluting construction machines and make use of environmentally friendly construction machines obligatory May 2017
7. Implement measures for environmentally friendly boilers and cooking stoves September 2017
8. Support research on air pollution and countermeasures 2017
9. Establish of a Northeast Asian Capital Network Organization 2018
10. Strengthen cooperation with national and local governments as well as with other countries June 2017


Seoul is going to invest 640 billion KRW (560 million USD) until 2020 to improve air pollution. Ten measures aren’t going to be enough to  clean air but it’s a good start. A fundamental transformation of the energy sector and transport in the whole region has to be initiated.


Seoul Air Pollution


About This Author

Co-Author of Kojects. Interested in Sustainable Transportation, Urbanism and Korea.


You can post comments in this post.

  • Is the time based on entering or exiting the station/bus?

    Leifinseoul 8 months ago Reply

    • Hey Leif!

      It’s based on entering.

      Thanks for the good question. I forgot to mention it in the article.

      Nikola 8 months ago Reply

  • Hey, thank you for your article, it really helped me a lot. I’m currently doing various researches on this topic. Are there other useful links to find out a bit more about the government’s plans against air pollution?

    Laura 6 months ago Reply

Post A Reply