Here’s another bit of transit good news in the Midwest. The share of workers in downtown Columbus using transit to to comment rose from 5% to somewhere between 10-14% in only about a year. Columbus underground has the story.
This ridership surge is a result of the C-Pass program, which provides a free bus pass to downtown workers. I’ve argued for a while that small cities should have fareless transit. Their farebox recovery is generally very small. Overall ridership is low. And the system is mostly below capacity. What’s more, the riders of these systems are disproportionately poor.
The Columbus examples shows that going fareless can have a big impact. This is also de facto validated by the experience with road tolling in places like Louisville. Commuting across that city’s newly tolled bridges is $4/day, roughly equal to a bi-directional transit fare. This prompted huge diversion to the remaining free bridges, showing that people are willing to go out of their way to avoid paying even a relatively small user change.
And in another interesting Columbus transport story, that city is about to launch an app with integrated access to all transportation modes, public and private. This will also be something worth watching.
Benjamin Recchie says
I don’t normally think of my hometown of Columbus as a trend-setting place, but this program was very forward-thinking. Subsidizing transit via an SID is a novel idea, and it seems to be paying off. Now, if the city would just double down and build some dedicated bus lanes downtown…
Kevin Klinkenberg (@kevinklink) says
I’ve also been on the fare-free bandwagon for many typical American cities for about 10 years. It just makes sense, both fiscally and operationally – as long as there’s a solid sustainable funding strategy. Incidentally, KC is looking to be the first major metro to go fare-free for the whole system, quite soon. Stay tuned for details on this big change.
Its interesting – i’m friends with several people that are instrumental in making this program happen and their prevailing belief is that the educational component (talking to HR departments and employees at various companies) was as important or more important than the free passes themselves. I think this was quoted in the story as well – the adoption rate is much higher among new employees rather than existing, which is perhaps not too surprising.
P Burgos says
Does anyone have a good source for econometric estimates of the social benefits of a marginal public transit trip? I did a quick web search, and didn’t find anything that gives a straightforward estimate.