Houston Will Not Be a Fare-Free Transit City

In case anyone was getting carried away with the idea of fare-free transit, the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County has some cold water to pour on the conversation.

Read Time: 1 minute

January 20, 2020, 9:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Houston Metro Bus

Roy Luck / Flickr

A wave of news about the potential of fare-free transit to grow transit ridership won't be sweeping Houston anytime soon, according to an article by Dug Begley.

"Free fares appear to be a hard sell for Houston area transit officials, who said while they are open to exploring discounts, people boarding buses and trains will need to fork over $1.25 for the foreseeable future," reports Begley.

Houston's transit agency, the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (Metro), analyzed the idea of making transit free, and found that that ridership "would jump from 86 million trips a year to an estimated 117 million if fares were eliminated altogether," according to Begley. "Even offering free rides only during peak hours could boost ridership to around 100 million, the study found."

All those extra riders, however, would bring several varieties of new costs—like new buses and a new facility for operating the buses. "The cost of going free prompted many Metro board officials to conclude it was not likely," reports Begley.

For more analysis on the high cost of free transit, see a Planetizen blog post by Steven Polzin.

Thursday, January 16, 2020 in Houston Chronicle

Chicago Commute

The Right to Mobility

As we consider how to decarbonize transportation, preserving mobility, especially for lower- and middle-income people, must be a priority.

January 26, 2023 - Angie Schmitt

Sharrow bike markings on black asphalt two-lane road with snowy trees

Early Sharrow Booster: ‘I Was Wrong’

The lane marking was meant to raise awareness and instill shared respect among drivers and cyclists. But their inefficiency has led supporters to denounce sharrows, pushing instead for more robust bike infrastructure that truly protects riders.

January 26, 2023 - Streetsblog USA

View of stone-paved street with pedestrians and "Farmers Market" neon sign on left and old buildings on right in Seattle, Washington

Push and Pull: The Link Between Walkability and Affordability

The increased demand for walkable urban spaces could make them more and more exclusionary if cities don’t pursue policies to limit displacement and boost affordability.

January 27, 2023 - Smart Cities Dive

Aerial view of downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin at sunset

Milwaukee County Makes Substantial Progress on Homelessness

In 2022, the county’s point-in-time count of unhoused people reflected just 18 individuals, the lowest per-capita in the country.

8 minutes ago - Urban Milwaukee

Crosswalk with pedestrians in front of four-story red brick buildings in New Haven, Connecticut

Opinion: Connecticut Vision Zero Bill A Step in the Right Direction

The proposed legislation could energize efforts to eliminate fatal crashes and fix the structural flaws that make roads inherently more dangerous.

1 hour ago - CT News Junkie

View of Tacoma, Washington with Mount Rainier in background

Tacoma Developing New Housing Policy

The city’s Home in Tacoma plan is designed to address the region’s growth and rising housing prices, but faces local backlash over density and affordability concerns.

February 2 - The Urbanist