Fare-free transit has made headlines recently as more agencies propose bold plans to cut costs for riders. The latest ambitious proposal comes from Washington, D.C., which will eliminate fares on all bus rides in the city starting July 1 while also expanding 24-hour service. This is especially beneficial for low-income riders, although transit advocates often worry that eliminating fare revenues could force agencies to cut service or prevent them from making necessary improvements. These concerns raise important questions. How are these programs being paid for, and what are the prospects that they will be sustainable?
A recent report by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) highlights transportation inequities in the greater Chicago area. Big-picture findings support the region’s comprehensive plan, but the near-term recommendations focus on changes in transportation-related fees, fines, and fares—a small but important share of overall transportation costs.