Zero-fare public transport

Zero-fare public transport

Zero-fare public transport services are funded in full by means other than collecting a fare from passengers. They may be funded by national, regional or local government through taxation or by commercial sponsorship by businesses.

Types of zero-fare transport

City-wide systems

Several mid-size European cities and many smaller towns around the world have converted their entire bus networks to zero-fare. The city of Hasselt in Belgium is a notable example: fares were abolished in 1997 and ridership was as much as "13 times higher" by 2006 [ '10 jaar gratis openbaar vervoer'] (in Dutch) on the city's official website] .

:"see list below"

Local services

Local zero-fare shuttles or inner-city loops are far more common than city-wide systems. They often use buses or trams. These may be set up by a city government to ease bottlenecks or fill short gaps in the transport network.

:"see list below"

Zero-fare transport is often operated as part of the services offered within a public facility, such as a hospital or university campus shuttle or an airport inter-terminal shuttle.

Some zero-fare services may be built to avoid the need for large transport construction. Some port cities where shipping would require very high bridges might provide zero-fare ferries instead. These are free at the point of use, just as the use of a bridge might have been.Machinery installed within a building or shopping centre can be seen as 'zero-fare transport': elevators, escalators and moving sidewalks are often provided by property owners and funded through the sales of goods and services. Even community bicycle programs, providing free bicycles for short-term public use could be thought of as zero-fare transport.

A common example of zero-fare transport is school buses, where the students do not need to pay in many cases.

Benefits of zero-fare transport

Operational benefits

Transport operators can benefit from faster boarding and shorter dwell times, allowing faster timetabling of services. Although some of these benefits can be achieved in other ways, such as off-vehicle ticket sales and modern types of electronic fare collection, zero-fare transport avoids equipment and personnel costs.

Passenger agression may be reduced. In 2008 bus drivers of Société des Transports Automobiles (STA) in Essonne hold strikes demanding zero-fare transport for this reason. They claim that 90% of the agression is related to refusal to pay the fare. [ [] (in Dutch)]

Commercial benefits

Some zero-fare transport services are funded by private businesses (such as the merchants in a shopping mall) in the hope that doing so will increase sales or other revenue from increased foot traffic or ease of travel. Employers often operate free shuttles as a benefit to their employees, or as part of a congestion mitigation agreement with a local government.

Community benefits

Zero-fare transport can make the system more accessible and fair for low-income residents. Other benefits are the same as those attributed to public transport generally:
* Road traffic can benefit from decreased congestion and faster average road speeds, fewer traffic accidents, easier parking, savings from reduced wear and tear on roads
*Environmental and public health benefits including decreased air pollution and noise pollution from road traffic

Global benefits

Global benefits of zero-fare transport are also the same as those attributed to public transport generally. If use of personal cars is discouraged, zero-fare public transport could mitigate the problems of global warming and oil depletion.

List of towns and cities with area-wide zero-fare transport

Examples of limited zero-fare transport

*Adelaide, Australia has free travel on the Glenelg tram within the CBD ( [] ) as well as a free bi-directional loop route 99C (City Loop) in the CBD. ( [] )
*Ann Arbor, Michigan — free bus services between University of Michigan campuses and student housing. Also, AATA runs a service called [ "the Link"] which runs around the downtown and campus area and is currently free (for everyone) to ride. Note that most large universities provide a similar kind of bus service. While individual rides are "free," typically students pay a transportation service fee as part of their tuition and fee charges.
*Auckland, New Zealand — a free CBD loop service links the ferry terminus, railway station, universities, theatres, casino, galleries and shopping districts using hybrid electric buses.
*Austin, Texas - free bus service (under citywide bus system Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority) is provided between the University of Texas campus and student housing, downtown trolley buses are free as well. "Ozone Action Days" were once offered to encourage more car owners to ride the bus and combat high levels of ozone pollution on a given day, but this Capital Metro has discontinued this service.
*Brisbane, Australia has free bus trips around "The Loop" in the CBD on two routes mirroring each other, varying only because of Brisbane's one-way street grid.
*Calgary, Canada - Free light rail transit within the downtown core.
*Canberra, Australia - Free public transport for everyone over 75 years.
*Charlottesville, Virginia - A free motorized trolley links the campus of the University of Virginia to the downtown area.
*Christchurch, New Zealand - The Shuttle is a zero-fare shuttle service in the inner city.
*Denver, Colorado — Free 16th Street Mall shuttle bus downtown
*Dordrecht — bus and ferry, some Saturdays at the end of each year
*Ghent — free night bus services (weekends only)
*Halifax, Nova Scotia - free bus route around the downtown area
*Huddersfield, England - Free Townbus daytime bus services in town centre
Illinois - All public transportation in Illinois is free to people over the age of 65 provided they have a card issued by the state. The card is free and will allow any senior free rides on all public transportation in the state. Passengers over 65 without the card must pay a reduced fare on public transit
*Invercargill, New Zealand:
**The Freebie– a zero-fare loop service in the inner city. [ "Getting Around" on] ]
** The Purple Circle a free suburban bus circuit.
** All other suburban bus services operate zero-fare between 9.00am and 2.30pm daily [ from Passenger Transport's website] ]
*Ipswich, England — A free shuttle bus service runs on a circular route around the town centre linking the site of the former County Council head-quarters to the replacement building. [cite web|url=|title=Free shuttle bus|author=Suffolk County Council|accessdate=2007-07-13]
*Leeds, England - Free Citybus daytime bus services in city centre
*Manchester, England — Free "Metroshuttle" daytime bus services in city centre with three different routes.
*Manly, New South Wales, Australia - Four routes of free "Hop, Skip & Jump" minibus services throughout the municipality. [ [ Manly Council ] ]
*Marousi, a wealthy northern suburb in Athens, Greece has small municipal bus shuttles (of red colour) which can be used for free by anyone.
*Melbourne in Australia has a free tram around the city center, and a free bus to popular tourist attractions. Both of these connect to other public transport. Free public transport is sometimes offered on major holidays such as Christmas and New Years Eve.
*Miami, FloridaMiami Metromover is a free people mover in Downtown Miami.
*Mountain Village, Colorado Free cable car to Telluride and shuttle bus. [ [ Mountain Village, CO - Official Website - Transit & Parking ] ]
*Newcastle, New South Wales in Australia has a free bus service that operates in the CBD area between 7.30 am and 6.00 pm.
*New York City, USA:
** The Staten Island Railway is free of charge to riders originating or terminating at stations other than St. George or Ballpark.
** The Airtrain at JFK Airport is free within the terminal loop, but requires a fare at the Jamaica and Howard Beach stations.
*Noordwijk/Oegstgeest — Leiden Transferium — The Hague, express bus, running on weekdays during daytime, free of charge as a test during 2004; it was intended for commuters working in The Hague and living in Leiden or beyond who would otherwise travel by car to the Hague, to promote parking at the Transferium and continuing the journey by bus; the aim was to reduce road traffic congestion between Leiden and The Hague. The test was paid by the province of South Holland. It was discontinued in 2005.
*Perth, Western Australia has free bus and train trips around the city centre (the "Free Transit Zone"), including three high-frequency Central Area Transit (CAT) bus loops. This is also in Fremantle and recently added in Joondalup.
*Pittsburgh, PA, Seattle, Washington (the "Ride Free Area") and Calgary, Alberta (the "7th Avenue Free Fare Zone") offer free public transit within their downtown areas.
*Portland, Oregon — All streetcar, light rail, and bus trips are free within "Fareless Square" [] , a 330 square-block zone, encompassing most of downtown Portland.
*Reading, Berkshire, England — Free shuttle between Reading railway station and Thames Valley Park [cite web|url=|title=Reading Station and Town Centre to Thames Valley Park|accessdate=2007-07-17]
*Renesse (mun. Schouwen-Duiveland), Netherlands — free bus services in the area (in summer only)
*Seattle, Washington — Metro Transit buses are free from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. in Downtown Seattle. [ [ Metro Transit Ride Free Area ] ]
*State College, Pennsylvania — CATA runs four routes that offer bus service between the Penn State campus and downtown State College, an addition to four regional service routes that do not charge fare if they are only traveling across campus.
*Sydney in Australia also offers occasional free public transport travel to and from events at particular times, notably New Years Eve celebrations in Sydney CBD, or to ANZAC War Memorial Services for veterans. The rationale is a mix of traffic reduction and cultural recognition. During the two weeks of the 2000 Olympic Games all public transport was free if you had an admission ticket, however everyone ended up traveling free because the normal ticketing system was abandoned.
*Tarbes in France offers a year-long free shuttle bus around the city, linking the main spots.
*Wakefield, England - Free Citybus daytime bus services in city centre
*Tirumalai,India [Tirupathi] - Free buses run by Temple authority to visit the nearby religious centres on the top of the hill.

Perception and analysis

From the vantage of the role of public transport as one of a broad range of major non-car options available to serve the community as a whole (the New Mobility Agenda), what is important in this instance is that the service is perceived as being free, exactly as is the case of the mind set of most people when they decide to take their car somewhere, and certainly for short trips. The Catch-22 of the car-based, no-choice old mobility system is that the car trip is not in fact free, far from it, but it is generally perceived as such.

Likewise, this perception of freeness is important for public transport, which is far more environmentally and resource efficient than own-car travel – which means in this case that full access to the system need not be altogether “free” for its users but that from a financial perspective is becomes (a) front-loaded and (b) affordable. The invariable fact of life of delivering any public service is that the money to do so must come from somewhere – and of “free” public transport that once the user has entered into some kind of “contract” with her or his city – for example a monthly or annual transit pass that opens up the public system to unlimited use for those who pay for it. Now, how they pay and how much will be part of the overall political/economic package (“contract”) of their community. In cities that offer such passes – as is the case to take but one example in most cities in France that have since the mid-seventies had their own Carte Orange – the remainder of the funds needed to pay for these services come from other sources (mainly in this case from employers, local government).


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