Should Buses Be Free?

Mass demonstrations in Brazil over the past week were sparked by increases to bus fares. But what if buses were free? The Economist makes the argument that, to improve service and decrease congestion, we should study making buses and subways free.

"Fares bring in a lot of money, but they cost money to collect—6% of the MTA's budget, according to a 2007 report in New York magazine. Fare boxes and turnstiles have to be maintained; buses idle while waiting for passengers to pay up, wasting fuel; and everyone loses time," explains The Economist's Gulliver blog. One idea, floated recently by Slate blogger Matt Yglesias, would be to implement proof-of-payment systems instead. 

However, "[p]roof-of-payment systems don't solve the problem of fare-collection costs as they require inspectors and other staff to handle enforcement, paperwork and payment processing," says The Economist. "Making buses and subways free, on the other hand, would increase passenger numbers, opening up space on the streets for essential traffic and saving time by reducing road congestion."

The idea has been proposed in New York (as long ago as 1965 says The Economist), and implemented in several European cities. Is it time that free transit gets a closer examination?

Full Story: Maybe buses should be free


Brand new! Urban Grid City Collection

Each city has its own unique story. Commemorate where you came from or where you want to go.
Grids and Guide Red book cover

Grids & Guides

A notebook for visual thinkers. Available in red and black.

Prepare for the AICP* Exam

Join the thousands of students who have utilized the Planetizen AICP* Exam Preparation Class to prepare for the American Planning Association's AICP* exam.
Starting at $245
Woman wearing city map tote bag

City Shoulder Totes - New Cities Added!

Durable CityFabric© shoulder tote bags available from 9 different cities.