Free public transportation could get cities further

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In order to make public transportation a truly public service, cities across North America should eliminate rider fare.
 
A recent New York Times article explored the conversation happening in several American cities around waiving fare on public buses. The idea, which is gaining traction in US cities, has had tangible effects: the mayor of Lawrence, Mass., has implemented a two-year pilot eliminating the fare on the city’s buses with promising results. 
 
Effective public transportation is a basic need. It enables people to get to grocery stores to buy their food, and it allows them to pursue employment opportunities outside walking distance of their homes. Free public transit would be a positive step towards providing people with equal access to mobility within the area they live.
 
The fees collected from commuters don’t pay for all the expenses associated with public transit—cities already subsidize the service. If they subsidized it a little more, they could make public transit universally accessible.
 
Municipal governments should ensure that every citizen—no matter their level of income—has access to the city’s amenities and services, instead of prioritizing the small amount of money they make from fares.
 
Investing in free and effective public transportation is money spent toward better living quality and greater accessibility for a city’s residents. Beyond facilitating access to fundamental necessities like food and work, free public transit could empower residents to explore different areas in their cities.
 
Waiving fares also provides incentive for increased ridership, which is good for the environment and gets more cars off the roads.
 
The current model for public transportation in most Canadian municipalities—including Kingston—creates a socioeconomic barrier that prevents low-income residents from accessing services that facilitate social mobility. Those who can’t afford to pay the fare can’t take transit to access job interviews, social programs, or education opportunities that require transportation to attain. 
 
Taking things a step further, cities like Toronto and New York have invested millions of dollars into policing fare evasion on public transit. More often than not, people who avoid paying rider fare do so because they can’t afford it. This money being spent on policing should instead go toward subsidizing transportation costs for low-income commuters, not criminalizing those who can’t afford to pay for their ride.
 
Free public transit would benefit municipalities at every level: encouraging increased ridership, fostering a culture of interconnectedness, and eliminating the cost barrier to transportation. 
 
Eliminating rider fare has the potential to change public transit for the better. 
 
Canadian cities should move away from charging public commuters and instead move toward ensuring equal access to transportation.
 
 

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