Many transit agencies in North America have explored fare-free transit, including KCATA.  -  KCATA

Many transit agencies in North America have explored fare-free transit, including KCATA.

KCATA

The latest Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) perspective, “Free Transit: It All Depends on How,” presents a variety of ideas, grounded in research, which show promise in empowering policymakers to combine free transit with other policies to overcome pressing problems in the transportation industry.

After investigating key issues of implementing fareless transit, the authors of this perspective argue that:

  • Limited fareless transit may place the burden of proof on low-income people to demonstrate that they are low-income, but free off-peak transit for everyone would eliminate this issue while not eliminating transit income — higher-income riders would be able to pay to ride at peak times, and low-income riders would be able to ride for free throughout the day (when they are most likely to).
  • Free transit will be more sustainable if combined with a new revenue source, otherwise the program could die away, or worse, lead to a greater drain on the already limited operating funds.
  • And, fareless transit, as part of a Universal Basic Mobility (UBM) program, may be a far better way to address the inequities in our mobility offerings than fareless transit alone.

“Packaged with other policy decisions, free transit has the potential to be a powerful tool to address some of our societal challenges. For example, UBM, based on Universal Basic Income (UBI), has gained some traction through pilot programs. UBM can provide a subsidy for low-income people to use as they see fit. The idea is to provide maximum flexibility in mobility options for those who need them the most,” explain the authors.

Developing the right combination of policies requires clear understanding of goals, but with a combined effort, transportation leaders can make transit more accessible and affordable, and even contribute to solving problems of equity and climate change, according to the Mineta report.

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