Free public transport

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Free public transport, often called fare free public transit or zero-fare public transport, refers to public transport funded in full by means other than collecting fares from passengers. It may be funded by national, regional or local government through taxation or by commercial sponsorship by businesses. The concept of "free-ness" is one that may take other forms, such as no-fare access via a card which may or may not be paid in its entirety by the user.


City-wide systems[edit]

Tallinn, capital city of Estonia with more than 420.000 inhabitants, and several mid-size European cities and many smaller towns around the world have converted their public transportation 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.[1]

See list below.

Local services[edit]

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 of free public transport routes for a list of zero-fare routes within wider (fare-paying) networks

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. 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. 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 student transport, where students travelling to or from school do not need to pay. A notable example is the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, which provides much of the funding to operate the Stevens Point Transit system. All students at the university can use any of the four city-wide campus routes and the other four bus routes throughout the city free of charge. The university also funds two late night bus routes to serve the downtown free of charge with a goal of cutting down drunk driving.

In some regions transport is free because the revenues are lower that expenses from fare collection is already partially paid by government or company or service (for example BMO railway road in Moscow, most part of is used to as service transport and officially pick up passengers).


Operational benefits[edit]

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 aggression may be reduced. In 2008 bus drivers of Société des Transports Automobiles (STA) in Essonne held strikes demanding zero-fare transport for this reason. They claim that 90% of the aggression is related to refusal to pay the fare.[2]

Commercial benefits[edit]

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[edit]

Zero-fare transport can make the system more accessible and fair for low-income residents.[citation needed] Other benefits are the same as those attributed to public transport generally:

Global benefits[edit]

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.


Several large North American municipalities have attempted zero-fare systems, but many of these implementations have been unsuccessful. A 2002 National Center for Transportation Research report suggests that, while transit ridership does tend to increase, there are also some serious disadvantages:[3]

This report suggests that, while ridership does increase overall, the ultimate goal of reducing emissions by enticing drivers to take transit instead is rarely met: because fare-free systems tend to attract large numbers of hooligans, vagrants and other "problem riders", zero-fare systems often have the effect of frightening potential riders back into their cars.[3]

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

For local and/or limited services, see List of free public transport routes


Estonia Estonia[edit]

Town/CityPopulationOperatorFirst yearDurationnotes
Tallinn420,0002013since 1.1.2013The only capital city and the biggest to offer zero-fare public transportation. The economical level of Estonia shows that not only rich cities or countries can choose a zero-fare public transportation. As well as the universal access to Internet, the universal access to urban mobility is hold as a cornerstone of the equal opportunities policy.

France France[edit]

Town/CityPopulationOperatorFirst yearDurationnotes
Aubagne42,900 (100,000 in the area concerned)2009since 2009-05-15
Bar-le-Duc15,7002008since 2008-09-01
Boulogne-Billancourt110,0001992since 1992
Castres62,5002008since 2008-10
Châteauroux47,1272001since 2001
Colomiers28,5381971since 1971the first area of France to offer zero-fare public transport which is still in operation at present
Compiègne12,5001990ssince 1990s[4]
Figeac9,9002003since 2003-09
Issoudun13,5001989since 1989has Free in the name of the service (Transport Issoudun Gratuit)
Libourne23,0002009since 2009-01-01 for under 18s
since 2010-08-28 for everyone
Manosque22,2002010since 2010-01-01
Vitré, Ille-et-Vilaine15,3132001since spring 2001first French urban agglomeration to do so.

Germany Germany[edit]

Town/CityPopulationOperatorFirst yearDurationnotes
Lübben14,500has been stoppedinfluenced by Hasselt
Templin16,500has been stopped

Czech Republic Czech Republic[edit]

Chronologically ordered

Town/CityPopulationOperatorFirst yearDurationnotes
Třeboň8,700ČSAD Jindřichův Hradec a. s.2002between 2002-02 and 2007-08under the mayor Jiří Houdek (KDU-ČSL), city transport has only one bus line (No 340300), influenced by USA school buses
Prague1,285,000many operators (first of all Dopravní podnik hl. m. Prahy)2002between 2002-08-15 (ca) and 2002-08-25, during the Vltava flood and flooding of the Prague metroalso always during time of the smog or other emergency situation (used rarely - 1996/1997 for 2 day, 1992/1993 for 4 days[5]).[6]
Hořovice6,800Probo Trans Beroun s. r. o.2008since 2008-03city transport has only one bus line (No 210009 alias C09 or C9)
Valašské Meziříčí27,300ČSAD Vsetín a. s.2009between 2009-06-14 and 2009-07-14city transport has 5 bus lines
Přelouč9,000Veolia Transport Východní Čechy a. s.2009between 2009-12-01 and 2010-03-06initial price at the newly established first city bus line (No 665101)
Frýdek-Místek58,200ČSAD Frýdek-Místek a. s..2011since 2011-03-27only 365-day chip coupon (howerver the chip card costs 299 Kč and prolongation 1 Kč) and user must to not be a debtor toward the city. Number of passengers has increased from 3.8 million in 2010 to 5.7 million in 2013. From 2014 is possible free travel on regional lines to next 18 villages and towns. Population in the serviced area is 100 000. Chip card for free public transport has 25 000 passengers.

Other European countries[edit]

Town/CityPopulationOperatorFirst yearDurationnotes
Gibraltar Gibraltar, Gibraltar29,500state2011since 2011-05
Spain Manises, Spain30,478[7]
Slovenia Nova Gorica, Slovenia31,0002006since 2006-04
Belgium Hasselt, Belgium72,000De-Lijn1997since 1997-07-011300% ridership increase 1996-2006. In 2013, Hasselt stopped free bus service for adults; riders under 19 still travel for free.
Belgium Mons, Belgium92,000TEC Hainaut1999since 1999-07-01
Sweden Kiruna, Sweden18,0902011from 2011 to 2012-12[8]
Sweden Övertorneå, Sweden2,000even 70 km free rides on local buses in this rural municipality[citation needed]
Finland Mariehamn, Åland11,000in addition to free bus services, persons and bicycles travel free of charge with the archipelago ferries (there is a fee for motorcycles, cars, caravans and other vehicles).
Estonia Tallinn, Estonia420,0002013since 2013Tallinn is currently the largest city offering free public transport for its residents. Commuter trains and regional buses are excluded from the scheme. Tallinn is also the first capital with free public transport for its residents.
Estonia Keila, Estonia9,8732013since 2013-02
Estonia Türi, Estonia6,174
Poland Żory, Poland62,6252014since 2014-05-01Unconditionally free for all users.
Romania Lugoj, Romania37,7002013starting 2013-07-01[9]
Romania Ploiesti, Romania201,226TCE S.A.2014starting 31 March 2014Second largest city in the world that offers free public transport. The benefits are limited to city residents with an income under 3,000 RON per month (about €670).[10]
Russia Cheremushki, RussiaCheremushki, Russia9,000trams are serviced by Dam's staffzero fare is official to anybody (de jure service line because the taxes would be higher than revenues)
Greece Ilioupoli, Greece78,153municipalityFree transportation to all, but only local buses, for specifically only local municipality buses.[11][12]
Iceland Akureyri, Iceland18,8032007Since 2007-01-01[13]


Brazil Brazil[edit]

Town/CityPopulationOperatorFirst yearDurationnotes
Agudos, SP36,700local government2011since 2011[14][15][16]
Ivaiporã, PR31,812local government2011since 2011[14][15][16]
Porto Real, RJ16,574local government2011since 2011[14][15]
Potirendaba, SP15,449local government1998since 1998[17]
Paulínia, SP86,800local government2013since 2013[18]
Muzambinho, MG21,975local government2011since 2011[19]
Pitanga, PR32,645local government2012since 2012[20]

United States United States[edit]

Town/CityPopulationOperatorFirst yearDurationnotes
Boone, North Carolina17,122AppalCart[21]1981since 1981combination of funding from the town, Appalachian State University, Watauga County, and state and federal agencies.
Cache Valley, UtahCache Valley Transit District2000since 2000
Canby, Oregon15,829Canby Area Transit
Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and UNC-Chapel Hill, North Carolina70,000+Chapel Hill Transit2002since 2002operated by the Town of Chapel Hill to serve Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and UNC-Chapel Hill; supported by taxpayers and University fee-payers
Clemson, South Carolina11,939Clemson Area Transitpartnership between Clemson University and surrounding communities
Commerce, California41,000City of Commerce Municipal Bus Linesall transportation services are free of charge[22]
Coral Gables, Florida42,871
Corvallis, Oregon54,462Corvallis Transit System2011since 2011-02[23]
Emeryville, California9,727Emery Go Round
Island County, Washington81,054Island Transit1987since 1987
Ketchum/Sun Valley, Idaho3,003Mountain Rides
Logan, Utah49,534Cache Valley Transit District1992since 1992
Macomb, Illinois20,000Go West Transit2006since 2006
Mammoth Lakes, California8,234Eastern Sierra Transit Authority
Marion, Indiana29,948Marion Area Transit System2008since 2008
Mason County, Washington61,019Mason Transit Authority (MTA)1992
Sandy, Oregon9,570Sandy Area Metro2000since 2000
Stanford, California13,809Stanford Marguerite Shuttle
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, Minnesota51,853U of M Transitway1992since 1992
Vail, Colorado4,589over 20 hours of service every day during winter
Vero Beach, Florida140,000GoLinefree 14-route public transit system serves 700,000 annual riders
Wilsonville, Oregon19,509South Metro Area Regional Transit

Perception and analysis[edit]

Free public transport creates the perception of a no-cost service, just as car drivers commonly perceive no cost to deciding to take their car somewhere. The catch of the car-based system is that the car trip is not in fact free, 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 since the mid-seventies have had their own Carte Orange – the remainder of the funds needed to pay for these services comes from other sources (mainly in this case from employers, local government).

Left-wing advocacy groups, such as the Swedish network, see zero-fare public transport as an effort in the redistribution of wealth.[24] It is also argued that transportation to and from work is a necessary part of the work day, and is essential to the employer in the managing of work hours. It is thus argued that financing of public transportation should fall to employers rather than private citizens.[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ '10 jaar gratis openbaar vervoer' (in Dutch) on the city's official website
  2. ^ - Franse chauffeurs voor gratis buskaartje (in Dutch)
  3. ^ a b Perone, Jennifer S. (October 2002). "Advantages and Disadvantages of Fare-Free Transit Policy". NCTR Report Number: NCTR-473-133, BC137-38 (National Center for Transportation Research). Retrieved 01/11/2012.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  4. ^ municipal website retrieved 2009-05-07 (in French)
  5. ^ Smogový regulační systém, ENVIS Praha
  6. ^ Tarif PID, XIV., 3.
  7. ^ municipal website (in Spanish) retrieved 2009-05-08
  8. ^ Kiruna municipality website (in Swedish) retrieved 2012-07-09
  9. ^ - Premiera in Romania: Municipiul Lugoj va avea transport in comun gratuit
  10. ^ [1]
  11. ^ [2]
  12. ^ Ilioupoli
  13. ^ [3]
  14. ^ a b c "Transporte público grátis já existe em cidades brasileiras". Envolverde. Retrieved 2013-06-22. 
  15. ^ a b c "Transporte gratuito é realidade em cidades brasileiras". A Tarde. Retrieved 2013-06-22. 
  16. ^ a b "Tarifa zero é possível: conheça cidades que têm transporte público gratuito". Brasil Metrópole. Retrieved 2013-06-22. 
  17. ^ "Prefeitura de Potirendaba garante circular gratuita para população". Prefeitura de Potirendaba. Retrieved 2013-10-25. 
  18. ^ "Moura Júnior anuncia tarifa zero no transporte público de Paulínia, SP". G1. Retrieved 2013-10-25. 
  19. ^ "Tarifa zero: transporte público é de graça em Muzambinho, MG". G1. Retrieved 2013-10-25. 
  20. ^ "“Tarifa zero” é realidade em alguns municípios pequenos do Brasil". Gazeta do Povo. Retrieved 2013-10-25. 
  21. ^ - Microsoft Word - AppalCART Overview110125.doc - overview02-01-11.pdf
  22. ^ "Transportation Services". City of Commerce, California (municipal web site). Retrieved 01/11/2012.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  23. ^ "Corvallis Transit System drops bus fares". Corvallis Gazette-Times. February 1, 2011. Retrieved 19 June 2013. 
  24. ^ Free Public Transport
  25. ^ Kollektivtrafik ska vara avgiftsfri (Swedish)

External links[edit]