“Free transit might seem far-fetched to riders who have long taken the farebox for granted, but more and more cities in the United States and around the world are now exploring the possibility.” writes Amy Crawford for HuffPost.
The argument for free transit is growing in cities and communities everywhere. Around a hundred cities worldwide, mostly in Europe, already offer free transit.
Some earlier experiments in the US showed that offering free transit leads to a marked rise in ridership. At the time, these experiments were considered unsuccessful as they didn’t show much reduction in car usage. Most of the new riders they attracted were people who didn’t own cars. But these days public transit is considered an important equalizer for social and racial inequality and the rise in ridership during these early experiments has sparked new interest in the idea.
Free transit is also appealing as a way to combat climate change and reduce carbon emissions. Cars are responsible for the majority of carbon emissions in the transport sector. When you own a car and already pay for petrol, maintenance and insurance, it’s hard to pay for public transit as well. But being able to ride free might tempt more drivers to leave their cars at home, or not own one at all.
Now large cities and smaller towns all over the US are testing or considering free transit. Lawrence, Massachusetts, used a municipal budget surplus to make some bus services free. Their ridership has increased by 20 percent. In Olympia, Washington, a five-year zero-fare trial came about because the cost of collecting fares outweighed the takings. And Kansas City, Missouri, where the city council voted unanimously to look into funding an $8 million fare-free plan, is poised to become the largest US city yet to go fare-free.
“If we could actually build up a culture of bus riding, if we make it easier to do, if we remove the barriers,” said Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, “then our view was we have both great socioeconomic impact, environmental impact, and we get more riders onto the system as well.”
Read the original article here.
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