Atlanta Transit Could Go Fare-Free

The city has tasked the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority with evaluating the feasibility of eliminating transit fares.

August 5, 2022, 7:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

MARTA Station

ReanC / Shutterstock

Atlanta could join the ranks of cities experimenting with fare-free transit, pending the results of a study commissioned by the city council in June, reports J.D. Capelouto in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “The study will only focus on the impact of fare-free MARTA within Atlanta city limits, but [Councilman Michael Julian Bond] hopes neighboring cities and counties that have MARTA service could eventually contribute to an expanded fare-free program.”

The ordinance passed by the city council requests information on:

  • The cost of providing fare-free transit in the city
  • The funding streams available to the city and MARTA
  • A timeline for implementation
  • A cost analysis of other cities in the United States that offer fare-free transit
  • Partnerships that the city can establish to bolster the effort

This wouldn’t be MARTA’s first foray into free fares. “When the pandemic first hit, the agency waived bus fares, asking passengers to board from the back door to reduce contact with drivers. While it didn’t reach pre-COVID levels, bus ridership increased throughout that period, and sharply decreased when the fares were reinstated, MARTA data shows.”

“Still, the idea could face a number of hurdles, primarily surrounding how MARTA or the city would make up for a millions in lost fare revenue” and maintain or improve service frequency, which many riders say matters more than cost. 

Thursday, August 4, 2022 in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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