Fare-Free Transit Hasn’t Reduced Car Trips, Data Says

Fare-free transit isn’t the climate change benefit that many have hoped, according to recent writing by David Zipper for Bloomberg.

May 16, 2022, 8:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Washington D.C.

Daniel Lobo / Flickr

Grandiose claims about the benefits of free transit for emissions reductions are “shaky at best,” according to an article by David Zipper published by Bloomberg in April.

“After more than a decade of transit agencies around the world experimenting with free trips, it’s far from clear that dropping fares delivers an environmental upside,” writes Zipper.

Numerous cities in the United States have experimented with fare-free transit since the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Orange County Transportation Authority  (in California), San Diego County, the Utah Transit Authority, the state of Colorado, Cincinnati Metro, and the city of Boston have considered or implemented free fare programs just since the beginning of 2022.    

The problem, writes Zipper, is that despite the popularity of fare-free transit, these programs aren’t reducing driving substantially enough to reduce emissions. Data from some fare-free transit programs “suggests that making travel free enticed those who, due to limited income, would have otherwise walked, rode a bike or foregone the trip entirely,” according to Zipper.

More data on fare-free transit programs from around the world can be found in the source article below.

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