Comment 15943

By beancounter (registered) | Posted December 21, 2007 at 23:05:35

Both Stanton, New Jersey and Denver, Colorado, dabbled with fare-free in the 1970s; both tried it during off-peak hours and both quit one year into the experiment

Austin, Texas, was the last American city to try ditching fares; they pulled out their fare-boxes between 1989-1990, something Joel Volinski says lead(sic) to "chaos."

Rowdy young passengers vandalized vehicles and scared off "core riders," said Volinski, who authored a major U.S. study in 2002 that concluded that citywide fare-free policies were a bad idea.

After one year, Austin bus drivers themselves rallied and had the program shut down.

Volinski saw a similar experiment fail when he was a director of a smaller transit system near Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Ridership soared when that system went fare-free, but it was soon carpe diem for hooligans there too.

"They'd jump on the bus, raise holy hell, then jump off two blocks later. They got a big kick out of that." "It has something to do with the question of value," he believes, "when people pay nothing for something, they just don't think it has value and they treat it as such."

The Austin experiment, his report states, "left lasting impressions on transit operators throughout the country." Nothing on that scale has been tried since.

Todd Litman thinks that, in Vancouver anyway, fare-free transit would attract the wrong kind of clientele. "I have pretty significant concerns about transit vehicles becoming shelters for homeless people." Fares, Volinski puts it bluntly, help keep off "the wacko element."

As the director of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute, Litman argues that if the over-arching goal of promoting transit is to combat global warming, the concept of a free ride is wrong-headed. "I think we need to be most concerned about the quality of public transit, not the cheapness," he said.

The above quotations are excerpts found today at

It would seem at this point that there has been little success with free transit in a city the size of Hamilton.

The idea of free transit does have a certain attraction to it. In spite of the problems mentioned above "The Tyee" also reports that San Francisco was studying the feasibility of free transit in the city by the bay as of July 2007.

And lists areas served by free public transit. None of them is a large city, however.

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