Fare-Free Transit Gaining Momentum in Virginia

State funding approved in early 2020 and Covid-related service changes are allowing multiple localities to consider a drastic move for public transit: permanent, fare-free bus service.

April 9, 2021, 6:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Bus Transit

Bay Transit provides community transit service to the counties of Charles City, Essex, Gloucester, King and Queen, King William, Lancaster, Mathews, Middlesex, New Kent, Northumberland, Richmond, and Westmoreland. | Barry Blackburn / Shutterstock

Wyatt Gordon reports from Virginia:

When the General Assembly created the Transit Rider Incentive Program (TRIP) as part of Gov. Ralph Northam’s 2020 transportation omnibus, the lion’s share of the funding was allocated to support new regional bus routes. With COVID’s cancellation of much commuter service across the commonwealth, those dollars are now being dedicated to TRIP’s secondary goal: fare free transit pilot projects. 

In recent months, Virginia cities like Lynchburg, Roanoke, Alexandria, Richmond, Charlottesville, and Fairfax County have expressed support for fare-free transit service, and Gordon writes to speculate on the potential of permanent elimination of fares on bus systems in the state.

"Nearly every transit system in the commonwealth eliminated fares last year as a public health measure in response to COVID, but until recently none had announced intentions to make that move to protect riders and operators more permanent," according to Gordon.

One characteristic of transit in Virginia that Gordon notes as especially remarkable is the importance of bus transit in rural locations in the state. The TRIP bill will support fare-free programs in both urban and rural areas, according to Gordon. Gordon surveys the state and finds support for fare-free programs in cities on both ends of the urban and rural spectrum.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021 in The Virginia Mercury

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