Free public transport
Free public transport, often called free public transit or zero-fare public transport, refers to 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. See Free travel pass for more on this.
 City-wide systems
Several mid-size European cities and many smaller towns around the world have converted their bus 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.
- See list below.
 Local services
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
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 in many cases. A notable example is the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, which provides much of the funding to operate the Stevens Point Transit system. As a result, all students enrolled 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
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.
 Commercial benefits
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
- Road traffic can benefit from decreased congestion and faster average road speeds, fewer traffic accidents, easier parking, savings from reduced wear and tear on roads
- Environmental and public health benefits including decreased air pollution and noise pollution from road traffic
 Global benefits
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 Department of Transport report suggests that, while transit ridership does tend to increase, there are also some serious disadvantages to converting to fare-free operation:
- A sharp increase in vandalism and hooliganism
- Transit vehicles turning into de facto homeless shelters
- In large transit systems, significant revenue shortfalls
- A significant increase in driver complaints and staff turnover, even though farebox-related arguments are all but eliminated
- Slower service overall (not collecting fares has the effect of speeding boarding, but increased crowding tends to swamp out this effect)
- Declines in schedule adherence
- Increased costs in security and vehicle-maintenance
This report also suggests that, while ridership does increase overall, the ultimate goal of reducing emissions by enticing drivers to take transit instead is rarely met: in fact, 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—the exact opposite of the desired effect.
 List of towns and cities with area-wide zero-fare transport
- For local and/or limited services, see List of free public transport routes
|Aubagne||42,900 (100,000 in the area concerned)||since May 15, 2009|
|Bar-le-Duc||15,700||since 1 September 2008|
|Castres||62,500||since October 2008|
|Colomiers||28,538||In 1971 it became the first area of France to offer zero-fare public transport which is still in operation at present|
|Figeac||9,900||since its inception in September 2003.|
|Issoudun||13,500||since its inception in 1989 - has Free in the name of the service (Transport Issoudun Gratuit)|
|Libourne||23,000||since 1 January 2009 for under 18s and 28 August 2010 for everyone|
|Manosque||22,200||since 1 January 2010|
|Vitré, Ille-et-Vilaine||15,313||since spring 2001, first French urban agglomeration to do so.|
|Lübben||14,500||influenced by Hasselt, has been stopped|
|Templin||16,500||has been stopped|
 Czech Republic
|Třeboň||8,700||ČSAD Jindřichův Hradec a. s.||between February 2002 and August 2007, under the mayor Jiří Houdek (KDU-ČSL), city transport has only one bus line (No 340300), influenced by USA school buses|
|Prague||1,285,000||many operators (first of all Dopravní podnik hl. m. Prahy)||between 2002 August 15 (ca) and 2002 August 25, during the Vltava flood and flooding of the Prague metro. Also always during time of the smog or other emergency situation (used rarely - 1996/1997 for 2 day, 1992/1993 for 4 days).|
|Hořovice||6,800||Probo Trans Beroun s. r. o.||since March 2008, city transport has only one bus line (No 210009 alias C09 or C9)|
|Valašské Meziříčí||27,300||ČSAD Vsetín a. s.||between June 14 and July 14, 2009, city transport has 5 bus lines|
|Přelouč||9,000||Veolia Transport Východní Čechy a. s.||between 2009 December 1 and 2010 March 6, initial price at the newly established first city bus line (No 665101)|
|Frýdek-Místek||58,200||ČSAD Frýdek-Místek a. s..||since 27 March 2011, only 365-day chip coupon (howerver the chip card costs 300 Kč and prolongation 1 Kč) and user must to not be a debtor toward the city. This was introduced temporarily until the beltway will be finished.|
 Other European countries
|Gibraltar, Gibraltar||29,500||state||since May 2011|
|Nova Gorica, Slovenia||31,000||-|
|Hasselt, Belgium||72,000||De-Lijn||since July 1, 1997; 1300% ridership increase. Since 2013, Hasselt stop free bus |
|Mons, Belgium||92,000||TEC Hainaut||since July 1, 1999;|
|Kiruna, Sweden||18,090||since 2011. Project ends in December 2012.|
|Övertorneå, Sweden||2,000||even 70 km free rides on local buses in this rural community|
|Mariehamn, Åland||11,000||in 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).|
|Tallinn, Estonia||420,000||Since 2013. Tallinn is currently the largest city offering free public transport for its residents. Commuter trains and regional buses are excluded from the scheme. Tallin is also first state city which offered this.|
|Keila, Estonia||9,873||Since February 2013.|
|Żory, Poland||62,625||Starting no later than on 1 January 2014 - because before it must quit public transport union of upper Silesia.|
|Cheremushki, Russia||9,000||trams are serviced by Dam's staff||zero fare is official to anybody (de jure service line because the taxes would be higher than revenues)|
Polling place in the historic tramway Gotha G4-61
 United States
|Commerce, California||41,000||all transportation services are free of charge|
|Emeryville, California||9,727||Emery Go Round|
|Boone, North Carolina||17,122||AppalCart||Since 1981, combination of funding from the town, Appalachian State University, Watauga County, and state and federal agencies.|
|Mammoth Lakes, California||8,234||Eastern Sierra Transit Authority|
|Stanford, California||13,809||Stanford Marguerite Shuttle|
|Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and UNC-Chapel Hill, North Carolina||70,000+||Chapel Hill Transit||operated by the Town of Chapel Hill to serve Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and UNC-Chapel Hill; supported by taxpayers and University fee-payers. The system has been fare-free since 2002.|
|Clemson, South Carolina||11,939||Clemson Area Transit||partnership between Clemson University and surrounding communities|
|Vail, Colorado||4,589||over 20 hours of service every day during winter|
|Coral Gables, Florida||42,871|
|Vero Beach, Florida||140,000||GoLine||free 14-route public transit system serves 700,000 annual riders|
|Ketchum/Sun Valley, Idaho||3,003||Mountain Rides|
|Cache Valley, Utah||since 2000|
|Logan, Utah||49,534||since 1992|
|Canby, Oregon||15,829||Canby Area Transit|
|Sandy, Oregon||9,570||Sandy Area Metro||since 2000|
|Wilsonville, Oregon||19,509||South Metro Area Regional Transit|
|Island County, Washington||81,054||Island Transit||since 1987|
|Macomb, Illinois||20,000||Go West Transit||since 2006|
|Marion, Indiana||29,948||Marion Area Transit System||since 2008|
 Perception and analysis
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (July 2008)|
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, far from it, 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 Planka.nu, see zero-fare public transport as an effort in the redistribution of wealth. 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.
 See also
- Universal transit pass
- Planka.nu Swedish membership network which pays the penalty fare if you get caught without paying ticket
- '10 jaar gratis openbaar vervoer' (in Dutch) on the city's official website
-  (in Dutch)
- 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.
- http://fr.ekopedia.org/Transports_en_commun_gratuits (in French)
- http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boulogne-Billancourt#Transports_en_commun (in French)
- municipal website retrieved 2009-05-07 (in French)
- Smogový regulační systém, ENVIS Praha
- Tarif PID, XIV., 3.
- Darek Štalmach: I dlužníci chtějí jezdit MHD zdarma. Uhradili stovky tisíc korun, iDnes.cz, 26. 2. 2012
- municipal website (in Spanish) retrieved 2009-05-08
- Kiruna municipality website (in Swedish) retrieved 2012-07-09
- "Transportation Services". City of Commerce, California (municipal web site). Retrieved 01/11/2012.
- Planka.nu: Free Public Transport
- Planka.nu: Kollektivtrafik ska vara avgiftsfri (Swedish)