Fare-free public transport 101: the essentials
Issue 1: The essential What, Why and Where about Fare-free public transport!
Fare-free public transport policy (FFPT) is to some point a uniform tool whose core feature is NO-FARE in public transport 🚍
‼️ Althoug the idea seems simple, FFPT exists in various modifications. This newsletter is going to cover them later on‼️
It means that the users are not paying for the tickets to get a ride. However,…
….there is no such a thing as a free lunch. Transport services and infrastructure have to be funded one way or another.
Additional resources 💶 have to be allocated to public transport services to make up for the fare-box revenue.
Usually, this is done via increased public subsidies or various kinds of public-private partnerships 🤝 between a municipality and the private sector (major employers etc.).
I will dig into the possible financing of this policy later on as there is more to uncover ‼️
It’s happening to me often that once I’m done presenting my FFPT research, someone from the audience is asking the question of “Who is paying for the salaries, gasoline, maintenance etc.”
The fare-free public transport means, that public transport users do not contribute to funding the service directly through the payment of fares.
The FFPT policy should thus not be perceived only as a transport instrument per se, as it invites us to question how public finances are collected and redistributed.
Public transport is an essential component of everyday life as housing, health or education. If people could easily move, we don’t benefit only as individuals, but also as a society. Why not pay for it out of general taxation?
The FFPT research has identified various rationale underpinning the decisions to go fare-free. It covers:
Economic issues 📊:
The economic justification is connected with the potential of the FFPT policy to improve the ridership efficiency in general or in off-peak hours, generate savings due to lack of agenda with the tickets (printing, collection, accounting etc.) and provide financial stability due to a shift from business model focusing on fare-box revenue.
Environmental issues 🌿:
Significant reasoning behind the FFPT implementation is linked to sustainable development issues.
It aims to target the negative externalities of excessive car use (noise pollution, emissions), reducing the use of cars while motivating drivers to change their behaviour, improving safety on the roads or raising awareness about the public transport role in the sustainable development agenda.
Social issues 🫂:
Important arguments cover the social dimension of the policy because FFPT means unconditional access to mobility. FFPT policy is thus an instrument of social justice as everyone has access to public transport and can afford it, which improves well-being as people could equally participate in daily activities.
‼️ Zeroing fares is just element how to make transport system open to everyone. More details on this particular topic will follow later on ‼️
So, where could we hop on a board and get a free ride?
Up-to-date, the most comprehensive inventory of FFPT cases provides W. Kębłowski who has identified around 100 cases of full fare-free public transport throughout Brazil 🇧🇷, the United States 🇺🇸, France 🇫🇷, Poland 🇵🇱, China 🇨🇳 and many more.
However, today, it is known that the extent is way more extensive as the fare-free public transport landscape is very dynamic👇.
Also, the fare-free policy is gaining momentum during the covid-19 pandemic as the governments and municipality councils have decided to (temporarily?) increase the public transport subsidies to keep the services alive.
In his master thesis entitled The New Geography of Fare-Free Public Transport: Examining the Suspension of Fares in the United States During COVID-19, Dori Goldberg covered around 260 cases of public transport agencies in the US that have suspended fares in response to covid-19.
FFPT and it’s relation to covid-19 pandemic situation will be covered later on in a separate entry ‼️
Besides individual publications covering single FFPT cases and attempts or inventories, researchers, activists, or institutions are focusing on the fare-free policy in a given country👇.
Observatoire des villes du transport gratuit monitors the situation in France 🇫🇷 and provides the essential information, reports or case studies.
Since 2018/19, I have been mapping the situation in Poland 🇵🇱, where I have identified more than 70 municipalities that experiment with the fare-free policy.
You could check this article where I present the preliminary results of my research. Of course, I continue with the study, and I hope to provide you with more actual insight into what’s going on in Poland.
Lastly, to grasp the idea of where 🌍, the farefreepublictransport.info, although somehow outdated, or the Wikipedia entry could be the starting point to understand (not only) the scale of this policy.
Do you know someone who might find this newsletter interesting? 👉Hit sharing button down to spread the news.
If you have read some interesting article about the fare-free public transport policy or know a town that experiments with it, let me know👇.
–Daniel, the ffpt enthusiast