A growing number of U.S. cities are allowing public transit riders to hop on board for free. Proponents of the zero-fare movement argue that eliminating fares boosts ridership by removing cost burdens — particularly for lower-income passengers, who typically rely most on public transportation.
Kansas City, Missouri, was the nation’s first large city to adopt a free transportation service in late 2019. Matt Staub, a founding member of Kansas City’s fare-free streetcar, described the broader impact of that policy shift in an interview with CNBC: “It feels like much more of a community space and I think that’s because it’s something you can freely enter and exit.”
Additional cities such as Alexandria, Boston, Denver, and Richmond, among others, have since rolled out their own temporary free transit initiatives.
Cities experimenting with zero-fare systems also hope to reduce the number of cars on the road, decreasing pollution as a result. After a one-month fare free pilot program last year, Salt Lake City saw “an estimated savings of 68 tons of criteria air pollutant generation due to transit ridership” (Utah Transit Authority).