~ Atlantic Cities reports on a mid-size French town that has had free public transit for more than a decade. Châteauroux has seen its ridership double. Meanwhile in only 3 years a metro area west of Paris has seen use go up 170% even as private vehicle traffic volumes fell 10%.
Like many transit systems, the fare box makes up only a small percentage of system revenue. Eliminating the infrastructure and logistics of fare collection, with minor adjustments to other funding sources, can allow transit systems to be profitable as well as more usable.
The motivations for making a transit system free are obvious. Increased ridership can relieve traffic, improve the environment, boost the system’s efficiency, give residents more spending money, help the poor, and rejuvenate central business districts.Shared transportation is a public good and a desirable and necessary part of civic infrastructure. Like sidewalks, parks, trails and other similar public space amenities, it should be free, easy to use and widely available. Most cities in the US still have quite a ways to go.
Also posted to the Fare-Free Northwest blog.