Controlled Public Transport Fares in the Developing World: Help or Hindrance to the Urban Poor?

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

operations - coordination, policy - fares, organisation - privatisation, organisation - privatisation, place - urban, mode - bus, mode - mass transit


Urban transportation policy, Under developed countries, Travel patterns, Transportation modes, Transit, Third world, Subsidies, Public transit, Privatization, Privatisation, Poverty, Poor people, Modes, Mass transit, Low income groups, Low income families, Local transit, Less developed countries, Intracity bus transportation, Fares, Developing countries, Coordination, Case studies, Cairo (Egypt), Bus usage, Bus travel, Bus transit operations, Bus transit


Transportation is an important element in combating urban poverty in developing countries. This article draws data from an extensive transportation study of the Cairo regional area to discus the status of the current public transportation system and travel patterns of the urban poor. Fare levels in the formal public transportation sector have been virtually frozen, ostensibly for the benefit of poor residents. Although this policy is well-intentioned and may benefit some segments of the population, parallel problems have arisen. Formal bus operations yield insufficient cash flow to upgrade services and their fleet. This has led to a deterioration in the quality of formal bus services in Cairo. As a result of the poor service, many residents must rely on more expensive shared taxi services and modal interchanges. A targeted subsidy, coordination among different public transportation modes and gradual transition toward privatization of transport services may ultimately improve the transportation situation of Cairo's poor.