Cities Should Push For Zero-Fare Transit

Cities Should Push For Zero-Fare Transit


The Point

Public transportation is a critical lifeline—it’s how people get to their jobs, doctors, food, and education. Cities should work to make it accessible and available to everyone, and the federal government must support those efforts. 

City leaders can make zero-fare transit a reality: 

Zero-fare transit builds safety, stability, and equity:

  • People rely on public transit to get to jobs, grocery stores, medical appointments, schools, and childcare, all of which allow people to more fully participate in their communities. “Eliminating fares makes public transportation more accessible to lower-income residents, giving them more options for a ride to work or school and opening up greater employment opportunities over a wider geographic circle,” the Charlotte Observer editorial board noted recently.
  • A recent study concluded that allowing riders to keep fare money in their pockets could lead to at least a $13 million increase in the regional gross domestic product in the Kansas City area. 
  • Charging people money to ride public transportation can create significant burdens and barriers for individuals—including those with prior involvement in the criminal legal system. But fare revenue often provides only nominal financial benefit to the government and leads cities to spend otherwise unnecessary resources on enforcement.
  • Zero-fare transit is also a racial equity issue, as laid out by Transit Center in reports responding to the transportation needs of essential workers during the COVID-19 crisis. The lack of, or limited availability of, affordable transportation disproportionately impacts Black and Latinx riders.

Dive Deeper