Author Topic: Zero Fare Mass Transit New Trend?  (Read 544 times)


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Zero Fare Mass Transit New Trend?
« on: January 30, 2023, 06:33:13 PM »
Washington, DC, is replacing Kansas City, MO, as the largest city with a zero fare bus system.  JTA should at least look into this as it may be spending as much to collect fares as it gets in revenue.  Further, if it increases the use of mass transit, maybe we will need less investment in roads which can also be used to offset any revenue losses.  And, why should taxes only pay almost fully for road users and not also for mass transit riders?

Washington D.C.’s free bus bill becomes law as zero-fare transit systems take off

Washington, D.C., has enacted a zero-fare bus bill into law, according to the D.C. Council.

Mayor Muriel Bowser declined to officially approve the bill, which eliminates the $2 fare for all city buses, adds a dozen 24-hour bus lines starting in July and calls for a $10 million investment into other service improvements to the bus lines.

But the council enacted the proposal without the mayor’s signature, making Washington the largest U.S. city to codify a fare-free transit system as the movement takes off nationwide. Kansas City, Missouri, previously the largest city with such a law, made its own transit system zero-fare in 2019, though that city doesn’t have a train system.

In December, the D.C. Council unanimously passed the bill, but it had been waiting on a response from the mayor’s office before it could officially become law, said Councilmember Charles Allen, who initially proposed the Metro for D.C. bill in 2021.

Earlier this month, Washington’s chief financial officer approved the funding for the fare-free bus service, baking in $11 million for fiscal year 2023, $43 million for fiscal year 2024 and increasingly more for each fiscal year afterward.

The council was made aware of the mayor’s decision not to sign the legislation last week, according to Allen, and it was enacted without her signature on Thursday. The council officially announced the mayor’s decision on Monday.

It’s now debating whether to add an amendment that would subsidize rail travel for city residents, but the current version of the bill will go into effect in the meantime, Allen said.

“It’s full steam ahead now,” he said, adding that the mayor’s resistance to sign the bill is largely symbolic.

“There’s no practical difference at all,” Allen said. “Maybe you might think of it as reflecting a different level of enthusiasm.”

Bowser had previously taken issue with the fact that Maryland and Virginia weren’t helping to fund the bill despite the benefit to their residents, NBC Washington reported. The mayor’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
« Last Edit: January 30, 2023, 07:02:39 PM by jaxlongtimer »


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Re: Zero Fare Mass Transit New Trend?
« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2023, 10:19:25 PM »
Personally, I think it's generally much more worthwhile to invest in making the service better than in eliminating fares. Removing fares often doesn't help with ridership unless the service is sufficient (like it is in decent portions of DC) to make the opportunity cost for riding lower than that of driving, and I'm not sure that's true for most people in Jacksonville. Bus routes are too slow without enough dedicated lanes, we don't have any faster trunk rail lines to feed buses off of, development patterns are a disaster that make trips long and difficult, while parking is cheap and plentiful with constant highway expansion. Those patterns have to be changed to support substantive ridership increases under fare-free systems.

A lot of fare-free programs ultimately pull walkers and bike riders onto unimproved transit networks instead of drivers, and Jacksonville probably doesn't have a big enough base of walkers and bike riders to make that effect happen either. Another problem is that the logic of fare-free programs generally relies on public officials making the consideration to actively support transit in their city instead of passively tolerating it, and I'm not sure Jacksonville's officials are going to do that, especially when we're talking about bus lines and not fixed infrastructure like the Skyway.

I will grant you that JTA has plans to study fare-free programs in FY 2024 so it's possible they'll be convinced otherwise. Also that according to JTA's most recent budget, they currently make about $9 million from fares, ~$7 million of that from bus operations, which is slightly more than their federal preventative maintenance funding but definitely a fraction of the $136 million budgeted to actually run the bus system. But I'm not sure how much faith I have in the city or state to fill that gap if the choice was made to go fare-free.
So, to the young people fighting in this movement for change, here is my charge: march in the streets, protest, run for school committee or city council or the state legislature. And win. - Ed Markey