What Happens When The Bus Is Free To Ride

Cities are proving that paying a fare to ride the bus isn’t necessary, and getting rid of fares altogether makes transit more useful.

(Photo by Pi.1415926535 / CC BY-SA 3.0)

More city leaders are talking about connectivity as a right and mass transit as a public good — which means more cities are examining whether the bus should be free to ride. 

In this episode of the podcast, Next City Executive Director Lucas Grindley talks with reporter Maylin Tu about her reporting on cities that went fare-free, and all the variations on what fare-free entails.

We also meet Jascha Franklin-Hodge, chief of streets for the City of Boston. He shares early results of their experiment with making three lines free and whether it could ultimately lead to “Free the T” — the entire Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority. 

“People say they want better service before they want free fares; therefore, we shouldn't do free fares,” says Franklin-Hodge. “What we found is that free fares are perceived as significantly better service. And so we need to actually start thinking about fare-free, not just through the lens of hard metrics — although those are important — but also through the lens of customer experience and rider experience and perceptions of the system. Because that is part of what we're changing when we take the fare-box out.”

Listen to this episode below or subscribe to Next City’s podcast on AppleSpotify or Goodpods.

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