Fare, free, or something in between?

Document Type


Publication Date


Subject Area

planning - personal safety/crime, policy - fares, economics - operating costs


Crimes, Fares, Free fares, Labor costs, Maintenance costs, Operating costs, Public transit, Ridership


This synthesis offers information as to the impact, cost, advantages, and disadvantages of implementing systemwide fare-free policies in various transit systems. Information was gathered through the documented results of research done on case studies of fare-free experiments, and from active transit professionals with first-hand knowledge of the results of other fare-free demonstrations implemented by a variety of transit systems around the United States. Based upon the findings of this synthesis, it is concluded that a fare-free policy might be appropriate for smaller transit systems in certain communities, but is ill-advised for larger transit systems in major urban areas because experience shows that in larger systems, a tremendous amount of criminal activity, as well as a sharp increase in ridership, caused higher maintenance costs, labor costs, and operational costs and drove away existing riders.