Free public transport: A socio-cognitive analysis

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - europe, economics - pricing, ridership - mode choice, planning - surveys


Free public transport, Socio-cognitive analysis, Mixed logit model


In this study, the modal shift potential of introducing a free alternative (free public transportation) and of changing the relative prices of transportation is examined. The influence of a cognitive analysis on the zero-price effect is also analyzed. The data used for the analysis stem from a stated preference survey with a sample of approximately 670 respondents that was conducted in Flanders, Belgium. The data are analyzed using a mixed logit model. The modeling results yield findings that confirm the existence of a zero-price effect in transport, which is in line with the literature. This zero-price effect is increased by the forced cognitive analysis for shopping trips, although not for work/school or recreational trips. The results also demonstrate the importance of the current mode choice in hypothetical mode choices and the importance of car availability. The influence of changing relative prices on the modal shift is found to be insignificant. This might be partially because the price differences were too small to matter. Hence, an increase in public transport use can be facilitated by the introduction of free public transport, particularly when individuals evaluate the different alternatives in a more cognitive manner. These findings should be useful to policy makers evaluating free public transport and considering how best to target and promote relevant policy.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Elsevier, copyright remains with them.


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