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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.
January 20, 2020, 9am PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Roy Luck

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.

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Published on Thursday, January 16, 2020 in Houston Chronicle
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