Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Zero-fare public transit

Now that's a way to boost ridership.

Zero-fare public transit is a government-, taxation-, or business-sponsored transit service that doesn't require users to pay fees when boarding. The system could have a few possible benefits:

  • Reduced boarding times
  • Less fare-related aggression or disputes
  • Increased accessibility, especially for low-income residents
  • Community integration
  • Increased magnitude of regular transit's benefits
The administration and funding of such an undertaking would, naturally, be quite an undertaking. A few cities have city-wide free public transit, but none nearly as large as the City of Ottawa. Some cities, however, do have 'zero-fare zones', including Halifax and Calgary who both have free zones in the downtown core.

The system could also have some detriments, though. Not everyone would benefit equally from such an arrangement, but they may have to contribute equally if it's a tax-funded system. And fares are often used to shape traffic, encouraging people to spread out their use over peak and non-peak periods, such as is the case with Ottawa's express buses.

Would it work for Ottawa? Who knows. It may be worth thinking about, though, in the spirit of promoting the use of public transit in Ottawa. And especially with Free Public Transit Day coming up on March 7, 2009.


Dwight Williams said...

Centretown, the Market, the Glebe, Sandy Hill, and Lebreton Flats as a "zero-pay" zone, maybe?

Anonymous said...

I come from a city, where they built underground parking right along with the subway back when, and made the entire downtown core car-free (except for store deliveries, handicapped pick-up/drop-off and emergency vehicles).
Something like that would make a great free transit zone, with everyone profiting in a nice pedestrian shopping/cafe/restaurant/street events type area. Fairness would dictate that some solution would be found re parking fees, too, though, for those who take the park and ride offer.

Anonymous said...

It does seem to be working well in Belgium, albeit on a smaller scale than Ottawa.

Nick said...

For what it's worth, Salt Lake City also has a zero-fare zone.

Anonymous said...

If I have to contribute equally to the suburbs getting new infrastructure, schools and community centers they can contribute to urban area's getting better transit. I'd be willing to bet they will see more benefit from free transit than I will from a new school in Orleans.

Dwight Williams said...

Speaking as one who lives in Orléans and still uses the bus for nearly all my travel needs, I'll be glad of the help and glad to help.

As for your expected lack of benefit from schools in my neck of the woods, that all depends on what those kids grow up to be, doesn't it?

Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

And those kids will probably rely on bus' to go to high school and then post secondary. I think people in the suburbs often forget what the urban area's have took decades to achieve. When a new school is built is Orleans we don't expect a new one will be built in Sunnyside. That would be an unworkable policy. But with transit to many people argue that distribution of resource's should be equal even if need and use are not equal. Look where that has got us.

Andy said...

Calgary has a free zone... but maybe not for long.

Dwight Williams said...

*reads the article linked*

Well, that's a disturbing prospect.