Zero-Fare Public Transport Cities in Reality-Here’s Why

Elmira | 02 - 08 - 2021

Free public transport is known as zero-fare public transport or fare-free public transit. It refers to the public transport fund that has been collected in full instead of collecting fares from passengers. The fund can be provided by the national, local, or regional government through taxation or by commercial sponsorship by corporations. 

Many large cities like Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Denver, and Boston started following zero-fare public transportation schemes in recent years.

 Free Public Transport Country

Can you Name the Capital That Has Free Public Transportation?
  • A. Tallinn
  • B. Bangkok
  • C. Moscow
  • D. Renesse

On 29 February 2020, Luxembourg became the first country in the world that offered free public transports and allowed buses, trams, and trains to be free to use. Germany also considers making public transport free in response to the EU’s to reduce air pollution levels. 

At present around 100 cities in the world offer free public transport, Europe was the first country to contribute to this implementation.

The United States uses over 15% of its budget on transportation fees. According to the New York Times, 100 cities around the world provide free public transit.

Americans spend over 15% of their budgets on transportation costs—these US cities are still working on making it free. Presently, many United States cities have started to consider it to follow the same.

The Pilot Program Appends 60,000 Riders in Each Month

Olympia, Washington introduced a free bus service last year, earlier it cost $1.25 for a regular adult ride, and $3 was charged for an express bus from Lakewood to Tacoma. The “Zero-Fare Demonstration Project,” required 2 and half years of planning which was launched on January 1 of last year and will continue for the next five years so that they could evaluate the project’s impact.

The Olympia City Council member and local transit authority board member Clark Gilman said the slogan during the campaign was to be “bold and unafraid.” Firstly, cash boxes that were used to collect fares on Olympia city buses were stopped. This action forced the city procurement specialists to utilize eBay to bid on the old cash boxes.

The First Large American City Takes a Step

In December 2019, Kansas City Missouri was recognized as the first large United States city to implement a universal, systemwide fare-free system after a public City Council vote. This bus system once cost travelers $1.50 per trip or $50 for a monthly pass.

This activity was important for Kansas City’s newly elected Mayor Quinton Lucas, who depended on a combination of public and private funds to build his Zero Fare Transit program a reality. Throughout his speech, he mentioned that the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority funded nearly $1 million to the project.

He stated, “Public transportation would allow Kansas Citians to access opportunities for employment and education — which lead to a better quality of life and, therefore, better health for our community.”

He further added, “We were looking at fare collection options that cost more to collect and process the fare than the amount of the fare.” “Fares in many transit systems are less than 10% of the revenue. And we were no exception.”

After one month of the program, Olympia noted a 20 percent increase in the number of riders, compared to last year. It is estimated to be over 60,000 more riders.

Gilman stated, “We’re very pleased with that increase in ridership. It’s almost as if we had a brand new transit system that just launched.” He added, “Even though most people had a dollar and a quarter in their pocket and they could have ridden the bus before, there are a lot of new riders and people who hadn’t ridden for a long time — because of that difference of just getting on and off and not messing with coins.” 

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