Free Public Transport

Have you ever been tempted not to pay a fare? I imagine this will largely depend on the nature of the transport system you are using. In Paris, the barriers to enter the Metro are full height, so no chance of dodging them. In London, Underground barriers are about chest height, so probably too high to get over. In Warsaw, on the other hand, the barrier is only a turnstile, which I have seen jumped over (or slipped under) many times. Would a simple solution such as broader barrier stop this from happening? I’m pretty sure!

What about other situations? While Birmingham New Street railway station was undergoing redevelopment, there were no ticket barriers in place at all! Staff would check tickets on entry/exit, however they didn’t seem to enjoy working long hours, so these were often unmanned outside of peak hours. Therefore, if you knew that you were travelling between two stations where there are no/open ticket barriers, how much more likely were you not to bother buying a ticket? What were the chances of being caught and made to pay a penalty fare? (And at £20, was it worth it…?)

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Fare dodging justice?

This is the premise of a scheme running in Stockholm and described in this article in The Atlantic. Would making public transport altogether free be a good thing? It would appear not. The author goes on to quote examples of attempts to make public transport (PT) free – all of them unsuccessful. This is because making PT free switches other sustainable transport users (who walk or cycle), not car users, to PT.

Generally, the battle has always been to move people from cars to more sustainable forms of transport, such as walking, cycling and public transport, therefore any method of encouraging either of these would be considered a good thing. But ironically, in some cities where the PT system is already near capacity, for example in London, a switch from the overcrowded bus and tube systems to walking and cycling would be welcome.

Still, at least one successful lesson is quoted, namely encouraging off-peak travel by providing cheaper off-peak fares. This is particularly important, because most transport providers are only making a profit during peak hours, while running a half-empty bus or train for the rest of the day is not financially profitable.


Can you think of any other ways of encouraging patronage of public transport?

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