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Luxembourg Makes Public Transport Free
Luxembourg Transport Minister Francois Bausch hailed a "great day" for the Grand Duchy, as it became the first country on Earth to make public transport ticket free.
The small but wealthy nation has introduced free public transport in an effort to "motivate" residents — and 214,000 daily foreign commuters — to change their behavior in the hilly region wedged between Germany, Belgium and France.
Rides on buses, trains, and trams were already free on Saturdays but all charges have now been scrapped as the week closes.
Preexisting sales of €2 tickets had amounted to €41 million ($45 million) or just 8 percent of Luxembourg's annual transport budget of €500 million.
Public transport will now be funded largely via taxes paid into the national budget, meaning travel savings for private households, especially "low earners," said Bausch's ministry, adding: "The scheme applies to residents, cross-border commuters and tourists alike."
Commuters, Visitors Will Benefit Too
"You will no longer need a ticket to board any national bus, train or the tram," proclaimed Luxembourg's public transport consortium Saturday, adding: "Commuters from neighboring countries will benefit from reduced fares!"
It warned Luxembourgers however: "Free public transport ends at the border, so you must get a cross-border pass or ticket if you plan to travel outside of the territory of the Grand Duchy."
Tickets would also be needed for first-class travel on trains.
To end traffic jams, Luxembourg in 2017 opened the first section of its planned tram service from the capital's southern outskirts to its airport to the north.
And it's now focused on anticipating travel demand, doubling "Park+Ride" car parking spaces "especially at borders" and establishing "cohesive" cycle routes across its 2,586-square-kilometer (998-square-mile-) landscape.
Alone for its nascent track network, 4 billion euros are being invested over the period 2018 to 2027, to cater for an anticipated 20 percent rise in public mobility needs by 2025.
That amounts to €600 per Luxemburg resident per year on rail transport, says the ministry.
Stuck in Traffic
A survey done in 2018 by TNS Ilres found that cars in Luxembourg accounted for 47 percent of business travel and 71 percent of leisure transport.
By 2030, its public transport fleet is expected to have "alternative drive technology," a reference to electric motorization.
Luxembourg, by area one of Europe's smallest sovereign states but one of four EU seats, including the European Court of Justice, is staffed by commuters who travel daily from neighboring France, Belgium and Germany.
The 614,000-person dukedom, with comparatively high wages, is facing strong growth in population. Almost half are foreigners, including resident Portuguese citizens making up 18 percent, and French at 13 percent.
Bausch, a former Luxembourg rail civil servant and member of the Greens, is also Luxembourg's deputy prime minister in a three-party liberal-social democrat-greens coalition government renewed in 2018 and headed by premier Xavier Bettel.
In neighboring Germany, Alexander Handschuh, spokesman for the country's DStGB local bodies association, said Luxembourg's move signaled a paradigm shift because it was trying "very resolutely with an all-round concept" to boost public transport.
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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