Free and Accessible Transit Now

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epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

Free Public Transport and the Right to the City


Free public transport and citizen participation

For citizens to be able to feel that their taxes are not going to be spent behind closed doors, a good idea could be the parallel introduction of participatory budgeting on a municipal level. In this way people will be able to determine what portion of the city’s budget should be spent in the form of subsidies for FPT, and thus have an idea of what the real costs are and how they can best be covered. As sociologist Erik Olin Wright suggests [8], public transportation has to be paid for but it should not be paid for through the purchase of tickets by individual riders—it should be paid for by society as a whole.

“This should not be thought of as a ‘subsidy’, in the sense of a transfer of resources to an inefficient service in order for it to survive,” he says, “but rather as the optimal allocation of our resources to create the transportation environment in which people can make sensible individual choices between public and private means of transformation that reflect the true costs of these alternatives.”

From this follows that FPT is not a panacea but should be thought of in relation to the general struggle for the right to the city. Its implementation through the current non-transparent mechanisms of local authorities can compromise the whole idea. Instead, FTP should be linked to projects like participatory budgeting and libertarian municipalism, in order to allow citizens themselves to observe the way their taxes are being spent.

The implementation of FPT cannot be left to local bureaucrats. There must be grassroots pressure by social movements. A good example for such activism can be found in the Swedish and Norwegian network Planka. Part of their activities is the so called freeriding insurance [9]. With it they aim at showing how FPT can function in a grassroots manner. In its essence it is a cooperative fund, to which members contribute monthly with certain small amounts of money, and in case they get caught riding public transport without a ticket or a card, the freeriding insurance covers their penalty. With this activity Planka attempts to not only help its members get around the city, but to advance a vision for a free public transportation, owned collectively by all citizens and controlled by the workers that operate it.

The example of Barcelona in 1936

In history there are also cases when citizens took their public transportation system in their hands. In 1936, during the Spanish Revolution, the rebellious population of Barcelona took the control the entire city. The public transportation system was placed under direct workers control [10]. The various modes — buses, subway, streetcars — were all managed through elected committees, answerable to assemblies of the workers. An engineer was elected to each administrative committee, to facilitate consultation between manual workers and engineers. There was an overall assembly for decisions that affected the transit-system as a whole, where all citizens could voice their concerns regarding the transportation system. There was no top manager or executive director. A 7-member elected worker committee was responsible for overall coordination.

One of the first acts of the citizens of Barcelona through this new self-managed public model was the abolition of the fare zone system – a zoning scheme which forced people taking longer commutes to pay more. This in practice affected mainly the poor that lived away from the city center. They switched instead to a flat fare throughout the metropolitan area, in order to make the transportation system more inclusive. Despite this lowering of the fare, the worker-run transit system operated at a profit.  This move was quite radical for its time and can be compared to the contemporary idea for FPT.

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

It certainly doesn't mean free transit, but starting this Sunday, TTC riders can ride for two hours, anywhere they wish, on one fare.  This might entice people who need to run errands -- i.e. make multiple stops -- to use the TTC rather than driving.

The one downside is that it's only available for Presto card users.  Cash and token fares are the same as usual.  The TTC was surprisingly honest about that though:  "We really want people to use the Presto system".


I suppose Presto cards are only for residents? Not via controls, but like our OPUS cards - one has to pay for them in addition to the fares, but they are good for several years. If so that is a bit of a shame because being able to hop on and off could be a draw for visitors.

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

As I understand it, Presto cards aren't hard to get, and involve no premium above whatever you choose to "fill" it with when you get it.  And if I'm not mistaken, each ride is about a quarter cheaper than cash fare.  The downside is that of course you cannot get on a streetcar with a $20 bill and get a Presto card... to get them it's stations only, if I'm not mistaken.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

Public Transport Should Be Free

We don’t put coins in street lamps or pay by the minute in public parks. Here’s why we should make subway and bus fares a thing of the past.

If we are to believe transport experts and practitioners, abolishing fares for all passengers is the last thing public transport operators should be doing. For Alan Flausch, an ex-CEO of the Brussels public transport authority and current Secretary General of International Association of Public Transport, “in terms of mobility, free public transport is absurd.”

According to Vincent Kauffmann, a professor at University of Lausanne and one of key figures in sustainable mobility, “free public transport does not make any sense.” Getting rid of tickets in mass transit is judged “irrational,” “uneconomical” and “unsustainable.”

However, if we turn to commentators from outside the field of transport, the perspective on fare abolition changes radically. Social scientists, activists, journalists and public officials—often speaking from cities where fare abolition has actually been put to the test—fervently defend the measure.

For Judith Dellheim, a researcher at Rosa-Luxemburg Stiftung in Berlin, providing free access to public transport is the “first step towards socio-ecological transformation.” For Michiel Van Hulten, one of the earliest proponents of free public transport in Europe, “it is about returning to the commons.” Finally, according to Naomi Klein, this is precisely what cities around the world should be doing —“to really respond to the urgency of climate change, public transport would have to become free.”....


Hi epaulo13!

If you haven't already posted this, I will do so again

I live in southern Ontario, rural and urban. And now with a pc government bent on cutting government spending, fair free rides on any subway bus or train in Ontario will probably never be realistic for another 30 years

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

..hello wwwtt. and txs.

..sometimes out of great adversity good things come. it seems that in trumpish times local level organizing has increased. maybe in due course the same will be said of ont. 

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

Metroshuttle: free bus travel in the city and town centres

Get on and off as often as you like

Metroshuttle route 1

Piccadilly Station; Portland Street (Chinatown); Peter Street (Manchester Central); Deansgate (Spinningfields); Deansgate; Victoria Station; Northern Quarter; Piccadilly Station.

Metroshuttle route 1 live departure times

Metroshuttle 1 service is in operation:

  • Monday to Friday: 7am to 7pm, every ten minutes.

  • Saturday: 8.30am to 6.30pm, every ten minutes.

  • Sunday and public holidays (excluding Christmas Day): 9.30am to 5.55pm, every twelve minutes.

Metroshuttle route 2

Piccadilly Station; Northern Quarter; Withy Grove (Printworks); Victoria Station; Deansgate; Deansgate Station; Oxford Road Station; Peter Street (Manchester Central); Deansgate; Victoria Station; Shudehill – Northern Quarter; Piccadilly Station.

Metroshuttle route 2 live departure times

Metroshuttle 2 service is in operation:

  • Monday to Friday: 6.30am to 6.30pm, every ten minutes.

  • Saturday: 8.30am to 6.30pm, every ten minutes.

  • Sunday and public holidays (excluding Christmas Day): 9.35am to 6pm, every twelve minutes.

Metroshuttle route 3

Piccadilly Station; Portland Street; Charlotte Street (Chinatown); Cross Street; St Mary’s Gate; Deansgate; (Spinningfields, peak times only); Deansgate (John Rylands Library peak times only); John Dalton Street; Cross Street; King Street; New York Street (Chinatown); Chorlton Street (Central Coach Station); Piccadilly Station.

Metroshuttle route 3 live departure times

Metroshuttle 3 service is in operation:

  • Monday to Friday: 7.25am to 7.20pm, every ten minutes.

  • Saturday: 8.35am to 6.25pm, every ten minutes.

  • Sunday and public holidays (excluding Christmas Day): 9.40am to 6.05pm, every twelve minutes.

These Metroshuttle services are funded by Manchester City Council and Transport for Greater Manchester.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

..this page is in estonian. i opened it with chromium browser and it translated the piece.

Free public transport rushes: the number of bus passengers grew almost all over Estonia

The number of passengers exploded in Ida-Viru County: when the number of public transport users in July last year was 126,523, this year the number of free public transport services increased by 242 408, which is almost twice as much as last year.

The descent of the number of users of public transport in Läänemaa is due to the administrative reform of the removal of the rural municipalities that joined the county of Pärnu. The smallest growth occurred in Pärnu County, where the number of passengers increased by only one percentage point, but one has to take into account the fact that Pärnumaa is one of the four counties where only part of the transport was transported.

In counties where transport is partly free, the number of passengers increased by an average of 15.5%. The average growth number of the other eleven counties is more than double: 37.63%.

Partly free transport was implemented in Lääne-Viru County, Pärnu County, Rapla County and Harju County - only young people and pensioners can travel only if they do not buy tickets.


I applaud both initiatives, but metroshuttle seems to target tourists above all - pretty much all those destinations are known to travellers. Yes, it will benefit some Londoners, especially those who work in the tourist trade, but not those who live and/or work in less-known areas.

There was a ringtram like that in Amsterdam (I don't think it was free, though) but it has been cancelled. A pity, because it had many passengers and not all were tourists.

Amsterdam is many, many times smaller than London.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture wpg there are 3 free lines called the downtown spirit. they travel the inner city and are used by shoppers and tourists but also serve a large segment of poor folk who live in the area. they don't run near as often as the metroshuttle nor are they as extensive in the area they cover. so i too applaud metroshuttle.


Yes, personally I think pretty much all such initatives are positive, and if they are free, some poor people will find ways to make it work for them. But of course we also have to discuss the inadequate transport in "marginal" areas. The Pink Line has many purposes, including easing overcrowding southbound on the Orange Line, but also the horrific travel times faced by workers in Montréal-Nord. It is no secret that many local residents, including those of Haitian origin, tend to work in the health sector. Some work closer by, but many work in the "superhospitals" in the heart of the city. The Pink Line would dramatically shorten their commute. It would to the same for people in Lachine. Some parts of southwestern MTL have métro stations close by, but not all.

The Blue Lines should also go west, but there is a lot of disagreement about the route. Initially CSL actually didn't want it because of the riffraff, but with so many senior residents  they are having second thoughts. But the huge industrial areas in Ville St-Laurent could also benefit from better and closer public transport...

Western NDG is also very poorly served. I'd love to be able to make a quick jaunt to Akhavan to pick up Iranian and Persian Kulturraum foods!

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

..there is tons of roadwork being done here at the moment. i suppose a lot of this is being done with the money from the feds. many buses are being knocked from their regular scheduals because of it to the point of being more unreliable than normal..which wasn't that bad imo. i would like to see the same amount of money going into improving the transit system..which is greatly needed. instead fares keep rising and the city has been paralysed for years in debate. there's been a plan in place for years yet nothing has happened.  

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

Liberals promise free public transit for seniors and students

Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard has promised to make public transit free for all seniors and full-time students across Quebec, if elected Oct. 1.

Couillard announced the plan in a busy common space at a Laval CEGEP Tuesday morning, leading to spontaneous applause from students who had stopped to listen.

"We want the next generation to develop the habit of using public transit, and to turn away, by choice, from driving solo," Couillard said....

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

..reason number 2,006 to go free transit.

The Presto fiasco: Another in a long line of Toronto transit disasters

It is hard to overstate what an utter fiasco the TTC's new fare payment system has been and the worst is likely yet to come.

There is the staggering cost. Metrolinx will have spent $1.2 billion to transition various provincial transit systems to Presto in the end. That could have built a lot of desperately needed actual routes. As The Toronto Star noted: "The whopping sum is equal to the entire construction budget for the 11-kilometre Finch West LRT."

In Toronto alone the installation will cost at least $487 million.

$487 million would have gone some ways towards John Tory's entirely fictional "Smart Track".

It is half-a-billion squandered in one city alone just to collect fares....


e paulo, Manon Massé found Couillard's clinging to the QS transport plan funny indeed! Idem the dental plan - Couillard knows very well that denying universal dental coverage seriously compromises overall health.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

..txs lagatta. i understand. listened to the english debate where massé accused couillard of stealing qs ideas. glad to see though that free transit made it into the debate forum.