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18 Survey MethodologyâIdentIfIcatIon of fare-free SySteMS The purpose of any TCRP synthesis is to summarize the cur- rent state of the practice within the transit industry, usually requiring a survey of public transit agencies that provides information and insights on agency experiences. Because only a limited number of public transit agencies offer fare- free service, it was not practical to survey all transit agen- cies in the United States. Rather, the challenge was to find and survey only those agencies that offered totally fare-free service. No such list of such agencies existed, and most tran- sit professionals were only able to identify one or two when asked. Therefore, to identify the public transit systems in the United States that offer totally fare-free service, this project relied on information from a variety of sources: â¢ TCRP SA-26 project panel members â¢ The APTA Public Transportation Fare Database â¢ The Transportation Research Information Database (TRID) â¢ The National Transit Database â¢ Transit management companies including Veolia, McDonald, First Transit, MV, and Techtrans (all of whom typically manage smaller transit systems) â¢ Leadership APTA alumni (more than 300 transit man- agers representing transit agencies from all over the United States) â¢ Members of the TRB Marketing and Fare Policy Com- mittee and the Bus Transit Systems Committee â¢ The CTAA (typically representing small and rural tran- sit systems) â¢ Broad Internet searches through search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing â¢ State transit association directors â¢ More than 3,000 members of listservs maintained by the Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR) at the University of South Florida. Multiple sources of information were required since the public transit systems that offer fare-free service tend to be smaller, and may not be members of APTA. Smaller pub- lic transit systems rarely have the wherewithal to conduct advanced research, minimizing any research references to them. The National Transit Database shows the amount of fare revenues by mode, agency, service type, and year from 1984 to 2008. However, there was no single agency report- ing zero annual fare revenues. The best source of informa- tion came from CUTR Listserv members who generously responded to a request for information based on their indus- try knowledge and connections. The following simple communication was ultimately sent to more than 3,000 recipients from the categories noted earlier: I am the Principle Investigator for a TCRP synthesis project entitled âImplementation and Outcomes of Fare Free Transit Systems.â I am looking only at transit systems in which no one pays when they board any part of the transit system. . . . the project is not concerned with fare-free downtown service or fare-free service to certain components of ridership like seniors or kids, or fare-free temporary promotions. If there is a fare- free university based transit system that has a universal pass program that also allows others in the community to ride for free, we would be interested in knowing those as well. I have already identified a surprisingly long list of transit sys- tems that do offer fare-free service in the United States, but wanted to take advantage of your knowledge to ensure that I identify any systems that I have not yet discovered. While the focus is on fare-free systems in the United States, if you are aware of systems in other countries, we will be taking a quick look at those, too. If you know of any totally fare-free transit systems, could you please email me back and let me know the name and location of the system? Thank you very much!â (Joel Volinski, Directorâ National Center for Transit Research at USF.) The respondents to this request ultimately allowed the PI to identify more than 40 agencies that might provide fare-free service, or once did. A copy of the survey, which is included as Appendix A, was then sent to these agencies with the fol- lowing request: I am the Principle Investigator for a Transit Cooperative Research Program project entitled âImplementation and Outcomes of Fare-Free Transit Serviceâ (TCRP SA-26). The project panel has asked that I identify and then interview as many directors as pos- sible of fare-free transit systems in the country. Your system has been identified as one that offers fare-free service, and I am hop- ing you can help me with information about your systemâs experi- ence that I can include in the report. The project is not intended to determine whether a transit sys- tem should or shouldnât establish a fare-free system. The project panel is concerned with what the actual experiences have been in implementing and operating such a system. They basically want to know how, why, and where it is being done and what lessons they can learn, so that other systems in the country might be able to benefit in the event they are considering establishing such a fare policy. The report should be published in October, and I am sure you will be interested in the results. chapter three Survey reSultS: PublIc tranSIt SySteMS that have IMPleMented fare-free ServIce
19 Attached is a questionnaire that I have prepared. It is not a fill-in- the-blank type of instrument, because we need to know in more depth what your experience has been. If you have a report on your experience you can forward, that would be great. But we would also greatly appreciate your completion of the question- naire. Not every question might apply to you, but please answer those that do. If you would rather have me call for an interview, I will do that as well. But if you could fill out as much as you could beforehand, that would be very helpful to me. I could then follow up with only a few questions for clarification. I have been the director of a mid-sized transit system, and I know how busy your job is. I also realize there might be some survey fatigue among transit managers. However, this subject is of growing interest around the country, and your contributions will be very meaningful. Again, I truly appreciate your assistance and look forward to talking with you as well. A total of 39 transit systems were identified as providers of fare-free service as defined in the introduction of the report where all, or virtually all, of their service is provided on a fare-free basis to all passengers. In a few cases, some com- muter express services that leave the political boundaries of the funding community charge modest fares. Charging these fares was regarded as a political compromise during difficult budget times to maintain all of the rest of their service, includ- ing paratransit, as fare-free. The public transit agencies that provide fare-free service fall into one of three distinct categories: 1. Small urban and rural public transit systems 2. Public transit agencies serving university-dominated communities 3. Public transit agencies serving resort communities. These public transit systems are identified by catego- ries in the following three tables. Small urban systems are sometimes near other larger transit systems, but operate independently from them. Rural systems serve larger areas of relatively low density, usually distant from major urban centers. Seventeen public transit agencies that utilize fare- free policies and serve small urban and rural communities were identified and are listed alphabetically in Table 4. TABLe 4 SMALL URBAN AND RURAL PUBLIC TRANSIT SYSTeMS WITH FARe-FRee POLICIeS Transit Agency Service Area Population Annual Ridership Source of Local Revenue Number of Vehicles Advance TransitâHanover, NH 38,000 850,000 University, med center, towns, sponsorships, philanthropy 32 Atomic City TransitâLos Alamos, NM 18,550 433,800 Gross receipts tax (1/8th of 1%) 27 Canby Area TransitâOR 16,000 214,000 Employer payroll tax of 0.6% 15 CitylinkâEdmund, OK 81,400 180,000 City general fund and University of Oklahoma 7 CitylinkâKootenai, ID 144,000 556,000 Native American tribe (casino) 13 Commerce TransitâCA 13,000 1,000,000 State transportation tax 9 Deerfield Valley Transit AssociationâVT 4,000 280,000 State and local 21 East Chicago TransitâIN 30,000 250,000 City general fund 6 GoLine TransitâIndian River County, FL 174,000 900,000 50% state, 50% local general funds 12 Hele-on-BusâHawaii County 174,000 1,300,000 County general fund, weight tax, carry-on package fee 50 Island TransitâWhidbey Island, WA 79,250 1,100,000 0.9% general sales tax 56 Marion City TransitâIN 30,000 300,000 State dollars based on formula 10 Mason Transit âMason Co., WA 58,000 514,000 0.6% general sales tax 56 McCall TransitâMcCall, ID 2,500 26,000 City general fund 2 Niles Free BusâNiles, IL 30,000 300,000 State and city 10 North Central RTDâTaos, NM 218,000 112,000 Gross receipts tax (1/8th of 1%) 45 Treasure Valley TransitâID 8,700 57,835 Local option tax on tourism 3 Note: Information within table provided by responding transit agencies.
20 eight public transit agencies in university-dominated communities serve not just the university but the surround- ing community as well. However, substantial percentages (in six of the eight cases) of passengers are students who usually prepay through university fees for the service they receive. These agencies are listed alphabetically in Table 5. Fourteen public transit agencies that serve resort commu- nities, particularly ski resorts, were found to provide fare- free service. The communities these agencies serve may see their populations swell from a few thousand permanent residents to almost 100,000 when visitors arrive during high season. These public transit agencies are listed alphabetically in Table 6. IMPetuS for IMPleMentIng fare-free ServIce each public transit agency identified as providing fare-free service was sent a questionnaire with 34 questions (Appen- dix A). The questionnaire was reviewed and approved by the project panel and was designed to ascertain why these agencies implemented fare-free transit and what their experi- ences had been. Questionnaires were returned in writing by 28 public transit agencies, while the remaining four requested that they be able to answer by means of telephone interview. The 32 total responses represent a response rate of 82%. This chapter will provide the responses in a series of tables corre- sponding to the questions from the survey included as Appen- dix A. Appendix e provides the detailed responses provided by all agencies. Among the questions asked was why a fare- free system was implemented and if a benefit-cost analysis had been completed. Not every agency responded to every question, but the vast majority did. reaSonS for fare-free ServIce In SMall urban and rural areaS Table 7 reports the variety of reasons that different transit agencies have adopted fare-free policies. Although the num- bers from this table alone do not confirm this, answers to other questions in completed questionnaires made it clear that small urban and rural systems found that it simply made economic sense not to charge a fare. As the literature review also revealed, respondents representing small agencies noted that the costs associated with collecting a fare could come close to, if not exceed, the value of the revenues collected. even in conservative communities that might discourage offering a service that provides direct benefits to the user available at no cost, the economic logic of avoiding the capi- tal and operating costs and responsibilities associated with fare collection was compelling when the amount of expected revenue was relatively small. Many passengers using public transit services in these communities were reported to be on fixed incomes, and the benefit of not paying a fare was reported to be helpful to them, and well understood by the communities where they live. Various managers noted that the recession and con- tinuing uncertain economy has caused higher unemploy- ment and under-employment. The free fare is meaningful to the unemployed and working poor as well as those on fixed incomes. GoLine in Indian River County, Florida, noted that ridership grows disproportionally during times of increases Transit Agency Service Area Population Annual Ridership Source of Local Revenue Number of Vehicles ApplCARTâWatauga, NC 15,000 1,144,000 University, town of Boone 16 Cache Valley Transit District 80,000 2,000,000 Local option sales tax 32 Chapel Hill TransitâNC 100,000 7,500,000 University of North Carolina, towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro 98 Clemson Area TransitâSC 50,000 1,600,000 Clemson University, city and county 26 Corvallis Transit SystemâOR 54,845 Projected to be 850,000 City services fee 11 Go West TransitâMacomb, IL 20,000 1,750,000 Student fees, JARC, county 29 StreamlineâBozeman, MT 75,000 250,000 Montana state and city 10 UMASS TransitâAmherst, MA 110,000 2,766,000 Student fees, parking fees 38 Note: Information within table provided by responding transit agencies. JARC = Job Access and Reverse Commute program. TABLe 5 PUBLIC TRANSIT AGeNCIeS SeRVING UNIVeRSITY-DOMINATeD COMMUNITIeS
21 in gas prices and declines in times of accelerated economic activity. Small urban and rural service areas can often be quite large, and travel distances can be long for work, medical ser- vices, or training. One of the key reasons the large island of Hawaii implemented fare-free service was to reduce com- muting costs for its residents, some of whom need to travel up to 80 miles to work. A surprising number of small agen- cies operating in rural areas reported that they offer fare-free service to discourage the use of automobiles and to reduce traffic congestion. Three rural transit managers responded that another rea- son their rural systems adopted fare-free service involved safety concerns related to robbery, particularly in remote rural areas. In other rural locations that had state taxes dedicated to supporting public transportation, agencies concluded that charging a fare would be like asking someone to pay for the service twice. Link Transit in Chelan and Douglas counties in Washington State, a system that offered fare-free service until 2000, promoted its service with the following market- ing message: âTake the busâyou are already paying for it.â Many small urban and rural systems appreciated the value fare-free policies have in terms of increasing ridership, and in so doing, addressing the occasional political problems associated with those who complain about âempty buses.â Most of the small urban and rural respondents noted that FTA Section 5311 funding is reduced by the amount of money received in fares (although it is not reduced by the amount of other local matching funds). Therefore, local communities are taking advantage of the federal governmentâs contribut- ing what otherwise would be paid by their passengers. Fare-free transit provides agencies with the opportunity to improve performance metrics such as the passengers they carry per hour, per mile, and per capita in their community. This is not just a matter of making the transit agency look bet- ter on paper. Ironically, some small transit agencies reported earning more revenue by eliminating their fares. States such as Indiana and Florida provide block grants for operating transit services and capital assistance based on allocation formulas that take into account the passenger miles the sys- tem provides. As ridership increases as a result of free fares, the operating assistance received from the state increases as Transit Agency Service Area Population Annual Ridership Source of Local Revenue Number of Vehicles Aspen ShuttlesâAspen, CO 6,000 1,000,000 Sales tax 16 Breckenridge Free RideâCO 3,400 670,000 Sales tax, parking surtax 13 Community TransitâCape May County, NJ 121,000 218,000 Local general funds and casino revenues 9 Estes Park ShuttleâCO 6,000 35,000 City general funds 4 Glenwood SpringsâCO 8,200 526,000 Local sales tax 4 Mountain RidesâKetchum, ID 22,000 400,000 Local option resort tax 15 Mountain ExpressâCrested Butte, CO 2,000/3,000 585,000 1% dedicated sales tax, 1% tax on events and ski lift tickets 17 Mountain Village TransitâCO 1,200/3,000 2,500,000 Real estate transfer tax, lift ticket revenue 4 buses and a gondola system Park City TransitâUtah 8,000 2,000,000 0.25% sales tax 37 SPOTâSelkirk, ID 8,500 Starts 6/01/11 Local option resort tax 4 Steamboat Springs TransitâCO 12,000 1,050,000 City general fund 25 Summit StageâSummit County, CO 28,000 1,700,000 0.75% county sales tax 33 Telluride Galloping Goose TransitâCO 5,000 300,000 City general fund including Real Estate Transfer tax 11 Vail Transportation DepartmentâCO 4,200/28,000 3,200,000 City of Vail general fund and 4% surtax on lift tickets 35 Note: Information within table provided by responding transit agencies. TABLe 6 FARe-FRee PUBLIC TRANSIT AGeNCIeS SeRVING ReSORT COMMUNITIeS
22 well, owing to the higher number of passenger miles entered into the allocation formula. As an example, the Marion City Bus Department in Indiana decided to eliminate its $0.50 fare in 2008 and offer fare-free service. Revenue from the farebox had generated only $25,000 a year. However, rider- ship doubled with the elimination of fares, and the additional passenger miles they could report resulted in an increase of $45,000 in state financial assistance. By eliminating fares, the Marion City Bus Department not only doubled its rid- ership, but also almost doubled the amount of revenue that it formerly received through passenger fares. Although the agency had not predicted such a positive result, it is enjoying the increased revenue, and reported that the community and passengers are appreciating the money they save on fares that can now be used on other necessities. reaSonS for fare-free ServIce In unIverSIty-doMInated coMMunItIeS Students make up the vast majority of passengers who use fare-free transit in communities where the university is the dominant stakeholder. In the case of ApplCART Transit in Watauga, North Carolina, 85% to 95% of its passengers are students who prepay for their service through student fees and board by showing the driver their university ID. ApplCART received only 2% of its revenues through the farebox. The transit agency collected such a small amount in cash fares that it emptied fareboxes only once a month. When auditors told the agency it could have no more than $250 in fareboxes without needing to deposit the money, it was required to empty fareboxes more than once a week, which cost more than the money taken in. ApplCART suggested to the city of Boone that if it would pay the estimated annual fare revenue ($18,000), the agency could then make the buses fare-free for everyone. After the Boone Town Council agreed to do this, the ApplCART board adopted the new fare-free policy in July 2005. Go West Transit in Macomb, Illinois, reported that it started service on a fare-free basis for the university, but not the remainder of the community. According to its general manager, the agency was forced for a year to charge a fare ($0.50) to residents. That fare generated less than $10,000 a year, and although no one complained, ridership was clearly Reasons for Implementing Small Urban and Rural University Communities Resort Communities Total Agencies % of Agencies Costs Consume Revenue Collected 6 4 10 31 Taxes Already Pay for Service 4 1 5 15.6 Fare Collection Distracts Drivers 1 1 2 6.3 Concerns Over Crime and Robbery 3 3 9.4 Marketing, Increase Ridership, Convenience 5 3 4 12 37.5 Reduce Traffic Congestion 2 1 3 6 18.8 Reduce Cost of Commuting 2 2 4 12.5 Encourage Reductions in Auto Use 3 3 6 18.8 Administrative Difficulties with Fares 1 3 4 12.5 Reduce Dwell Time 3 3 2 8 25 Social Equity 3 3 6 18.8 Preserve the Environment 1 2 3 9.4 Reducing Use of Oil 1 1 3.1 Increase Livability 1 1 2 6.3 Economic Development 1 1 4 6 18.8 Fare Would Reduce Federal Match 2 1 3 9.4 Reduce Need for Parking 2 1 3 9.4 Accommodate Short Trips and Trip Chaining 1 1 3.1 Condition of Development Approval 1 1 3.1 Private Service Was Free 1 1 3.1 TABLe 7 ReASONS FOR IMPLeMeNTING A FARe-FRee POLICY
23 affected. The fare was eliminated after a year when the Illinois governor exempted senior citizens from paying fares since stu- dents and people with disabilities had already been exempted and university students were prepaid; the only people left pay- ing were the poorest people. There was general agreement that charging those few passengers a fare made no fiscal or socially responsible sense. UMASS Transit in Amherst, Massachusetts, reported that it carries ridership similar in nature to ApplCART. Approximately 85% of UMASS passengers are students, 13% are faculty and staff, and 2% are part of the areaâs general population. The universityâs strategy was if park- ing fees were increased and a fare-free public transit system was put in place, the result would be less traffic, reduced hitchhiking, and fewer cars on campus, and that is exactly what occurred. The transit service also operated much more efficiently by being able to board passengers from both doors of their buses. In the early 1980s, a doctoral student did an extensive analysis of the bus system and payment methods. One of the findings was that it would cost the system $0.15 to collect a $0.25 fare. The conclusion was to stay fare-free for many reasons. UMASS Transit now serves five different campuses and the communities between those campuses, and no one is required to pay a fare or show an ID. Chapel Hill Transitâs general manager and a university administrator provided the background behind the establish- ment of fare-free transit in their North Carolina community. For years, Chapel Hill Transit had charged fares while serv- ing that city, the city of Carrboro, and the University of North Carolina. The university, with its population of 45,000 stu- dents and faculty, was experiencing ever-increasing costs to administer a fair subsidy program through the sale of discounted passes for employees and students. As a result, it concluded that if it went fare-free through an approved student fee it could save significant costs in program admin- istration and generate substantial increases in ridership. With no room for increased parking on campus, it was also in the universityâs best interest to shift its focus to encouraging the use of park-and-ride lots on the edge of town with shuttles to the campus. The student body voted to assess themselves, as students at some other university campuses had done, to create a universal access program. This helped the uni- versity to reduce administrative costs dramatically. It also provided the revenue required for Chapel Hill Transit to increase service to the university and to the rest of the sur- rounding community. In 2001, Chapel Hill Transit conducted an analysis of rid- ership and fares. It determined that when university revenues were removed from consideration, there was approximately $250,000 in farebox revenues collected by the town that was not directly related to persons travelling to the university. Understanding that revenues from fares were relatively low (approximately 8% of total system operating costs), the town decided it could forego that amount of revenue to encourage greater utilization of public transit in the community. The town of Carrboro agreed as well, allowing the entire area to be served by one transit system in a fare-free environment. The policy-making environment in Chapel Hill is progres- sive, environmentally conscious, and transit-oriented. The community has viewed the transit system as a key player in the overall development of the community. Although many factors were considered, the fare-free public transit system contributed to the town of Chapel Hillâs being named âMost Livable Cityâ in America in 2009 by the Mayorsâ City Liv- ability Awards Program. Another example of a fare-free system in a university community is the Cache Valley Transit District (CVTD) system in Logan, Utah. Although students comprise 45% of all riders, its general manager reported that this powerful university presence was not the primary reason for estab- lishing a fare-free system as it was in North Carolina and Massachusetts. He noted that fare-free public transit is con- sistent with the CVTD boardâs adopted mission: The Cache Valley Transit District is committed to maintaining and enhancing the Regionâs quality of life by: â¢ Delivering reliable and safe public transit services â¢ Offering innovative services that reduce dependency on the automobile â¢ Providing progressive leadership for the regionâs transporta- tion needs â¢ Supporting efforts to improve air quality. According to the current general manager, the fare-free philosophy was initiated because the board at the time did not think the residents of the conservative community would ride the bus, but that a fare-free policy would help encour- age people to use the new service. Although the board anticipated the policy would only be in effect for the first year, it has remained unchanged for 20 years. Utah State University students do not pay a fee that goes toward the expense of the transit system; instead, the system is supported by a 0.3% local option sales tax that must be approved by all 11 cities that are members of the district. everyone can ride fare-free. The spirit behind this practice is evident by the phrase on the CVTD web- site: âCache Valley Transit District: Weâre Community, Weâre Family, Weâre CVTD.â The agency also receives FTA 5307 and 5311 grant funds. It has determined that it would be required to charge passengers $0.50 to recover the costs associated with fare collection. They also project that establishing such a fare could reduce ridership by as much as 50%. Fare-free transit was also reported to be consistent with uni- versity communitiesâ interest in sustainability and livability.
24 reaSonS for fare-free ServIce In reSort coMMunItIeS Public transit agencies in resort communities have their own unique reasons to offer fare-free service. In ski resort towns, as noted earlier, communities can be swamped by visitors on weekends and holidays in particular. The manager of the Vail (Colorado) Transit System reported that the number of visitors can exceed 100,000 on such days. Fare-free transit has helped to encourage people to park their cars and use public transit; the policy helps to relieve traffic congestion on local streets. Transit managers who are carrying more than one million passengers a year reported that they are taking between 300,000 and 500,000 cars off the roads as a result of their service, much of it owing to the attractiveness of fare-free transit. Most ski resorts were reported to be fairly compact, and the distance between origins and destinations is relatively short. Transit managers have stated that they would not expect peo- ple to pay a very high fare for many of the short trips taken on their buses. Surveys in Breckenridge, Colorado, revealed that people would prefer to move their cars more often than pay a fare for multiple short trips. eliminating the fare encourages those people who might otherwise walk or take short car trips to wait for the bus. Public transit managers noted that there can be crush loads of people looking to board at major stops such as hotels and ski lifts. Fare-free transit allows passengers to board from both doors, helping to speed the boarding process and reduce dwell time, thus allowing the bus to stay on schedule more reliably. One transit manager reported that dual-door board- ing has allowed them to reduce the rate of acquiring addi- tional equipment to remain on schedule, thereby minimizing the increase in capital and operating expenses caused by buy- ing and utilizing additional equipment. Agency managers observed that it is difficult for people wearing ski suits and heavy gloves during cold weather to access cash or passes. Some managers also pointed out that visitors to such resorts have been known to enjoy partying and drinking in the evening, and fare-free transit provides a safer means of travel for all involved. Another reported reason that ski resort communities offer fare-free transit is simply to remain competitive with other resort towns that offer well-used fare-free transit. Most resort communities clearly recognize fare-free transit as an essen- tial component of their communitiesâ economic develop- ment. Almost all the prominent ski resort towns in Colorado provide fare-free service as an element of community ser- vice their guests and visitors have come to expect. Ski resort communities are service-oriented, and anything to make a visitorâs stay more pleasant is in the townâs best economic interest. As one transit manager in a ski resort said, âevery- thing we do is feeding the economic engine.â In the same light, she also noted that her drivers love to serve as ambassa- dors to the community. Having a fare-free system allows the drivers to provide more information on the town to visitors since they do not have to deal with handling fares or answer- ing questions about fares. Public transit managers in some ski resort communities also reported that they took over providing shuttle service from resorts and hotels that had provided free service prior to the public system being established. A precedent to provide fare-free service had already been set and they were expected to provide no less, particularly when tourist taxes are typically paying for the service. As one transit manager in Idaho stated, âIn order for the hotels to advocate the Local Option (Resort) Tax there had to be a benefit to them directly. The fare-free public transit system was the benefit they were looking for.â Transit managers responded that land is often scarce, expensive, and challenging to develop in mountainous areas. This can minimize the amount of parking that resort munici- palities can offer. Providing fare-free public transit service encourages visitors to get to stores and restaurants without clogging the local roads and cruising the streets looking for a parking space. It also helps minimize the unwanted over- flow visitor parking that might occur in residential areas. One transit manager noted that there has been a dramatic increase in ridership for special events when parking is at a premium and transit can get people close to their intended target. Respondents to the survey noted that most resort towns are expensive places to live. The service workers in the com- munity can rarely afford to live in the heart of the resort area, and must sometimes live a considerable distance away before they can find affordable housing. Respondents reported that providing fare-free public transit to service employees is one way of attracting and retaining employees by reducing their expenses in towns where a living wage can be more than $17 an hour. The fare-free transit service reduces their cost of commuting, and provides reliable service during all weather. Who Was responsible for Initiating fare-free Policies? Responding agencies indicated that the most frequent initia- tors of fare-free public transit service have been the elected city or county council or the executive director of the pub- lic transit agency. However, fare-free policies have been initially promoted by a number of different stakeholders as noted in Table 8. Was a nominal fare of $0.25 or $0.50 considered rather than fare-free Service? Ten of the responding agencies indicated they had consid- ered charging a nominal fare rather than offering fare-free service. However, they reached the same conclusions as the
25 22 agencies that reported that they had not considered estab- lishing a nominal fare. The primary reasons for not charging a nominal fare was the very low net gain (or loss) in revenue after accounting for the expenses of collecting fares, and for the negative impact fares would have on ridership. In response to survey question 7 (see Appendix A), nine of the agencies reported that they had fares before establish- ing fare-free service. Three of these agencies served univer- sity communities and reported farebox ratios of 8% or less, with the largest amount of fare revenues being $250,000 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. However, the other five agen- cies reported more substantial farebox ratios of between 14% and 35% that provided revenues that would need to be replaced through local support; Hawaii needed to replace the largest amount of fare revenue ($800,000 a year). Two agen- cies noted that although the vast majority of their service was fare-free, they charged a fare for out-of-county service as a way of appeasing those in their community who did not fully support fare-free policies. Throughout their responses, a number of agencies noted that the Federal 5311 program has a provision that actually encourages nonurbanized areas to strongly consider eliminat- ing fares. FTA Circular C 9040 1F, dated 4-01-07 includes the following guidance on page III-11: Net operating expenses are eligible for assistance. Net operat- ing expenses are those expenses that remain after the provider subtracts operating revenues from eligible operating expenses. States may further define what constitute operating revenues, but at a minimum, operating revenues must include farebox rev- enues. Farebox revenues include fares paid by riders who are later reimbursed by a human service agency or other user-side subsidy arrangement. Farebox revenues do not include pay- ments made directly to the transportation provider by human service agencies to purchase service. However, purchase of tran- sit passes or other fare media for clients would be considered farebox revenue. A voluntary or mandatory fee that a college, university, or similar institution imposes on all its students for free or discounted transit service is not farebox revenue. In short, federal operating assistance that is provided to a nonurbanized local recipient is reduced by the amount of farebox revenue reported. However, if no farebox revenue is reported, the federal grant will be larger by the same amount. Consequently, a small local transit agency can eliminate fares and still receive the equivalent amount of revenue from its 5311 grant if the local community finds it accept- able to do so. This allows passengers to save the money that they would have otherwise spent on bus fares. The transit agency remains whole, and the passenger receives fare-free transit service. Question 8 of the survey asked if a cost-benefit analy- sis had been done prior to implementing the fare-free pol- icy. eleven agencies responded that they did do a thorough review of what the net costs or benefits would be if they went fare-free. eight indicated that they did not, with some indi- cating it appeared to be obvious that the revenues collected simply would not make the cost of collection worthwhile. Two implemented the fare-free policy on a trial basis with- out real analysis, whereas five others indicated they had per- formed an informal analysis. Policy-Making environment in Which fare-free Policies have been approved Twenty-four respondents to the survey provided their opin- ions on the policy-making environment of the communities they served in response to question 4 (see Table 9). Although the answers show fare-free policies have thrived mostly in Stakeholders Who Initiated Fare-Free Policies Number of Agencies Responding Mayor 2 Transit Agency Executive Director or Staff 8 Consultant 1 City/County Council 8 Local Businesses 1 Community Advisory Board 3 Transit Agency Board 1 University 2 National Park 1 Developer 1 TABLe 8 STAkeHOLDeRS CReDITeD WITH INITIATING FARe-FRee POLICIeS
26 progressive areas, communities described as conservative or mixed have also adopted and maintained such policies. In addition to noting their policy-making environment, respondents provided the organizational structure of which they are a part. Five of the agencies, all from small urban or rural areas, are operated by nonprofit agencies. Nine are regional transit authorities, and 13 are agencies within a city or county government. One is governed by a Native American tribe and county government, while another is a university-run system. effect of fare-free Service on ridership The effect of fare-free policies on total public transit rider- ship is invariably positive, many times at levels unanticipated even by the most optimistic transit managers or policymakers. Although the SimpsonâCurtin fare elasticity formula noted in the literature review suggests an increase in ridership of approximately 30% when fares are eliminated (reduced 100%), it is not always possible to rely on that formula. The inherent difficulty of applying this formula is that it is designed to be applied to small changes and to pre-existing fares. Any increase in fare above a zero fare is technically an infinite increaseâ there is no way to put a percentage on such an increase. In spite of these difficulties, the survey asked the following questions: Did the agency make a fairly accurate estimate or projection of the impacts on total ridership and any new expenses that would be incurred? (9) If you never had a fare and have always been fare-free, do you have any estimate of what instituting a modest fare would do to your ridership? (13) What were the intended/expected and actual outcomes of offering fare-free service? (15) Many of the systems did not provide statistical answers to these questions, simply responding that they expected increased ridership, and they got it. Almost 75% of the sys- tems responding to the survey began as fare-free systems, so it is not possible for them to provide comparisons of rid- ership before and after a fare-free policy was put in place. However, 22 public transit agencies provided actual numbers or best estimates of the effects of fare-free policies on their ridership (see Tables 10 and 11). At the island of Hawaii, the general manager responded that the Hele-on-Bus collected 35% of its required operating revenues through fareboxes before going fare-free. After a fare of $1.00 was eliminated in 2005, ridership jumped more than 200% from 425,000 to 1,300,000 passengers a year (in spite of a fee of $1 charged for carry-on items measuring more than 16 in. by 22 in. that generates $30,000 annually). Go West Transitâs general manager indicated that when the agency charged a fare of $0.50 for residents of Macomb (although students, the elderly, and disabled rode free), rid- ership from this segment of its service area remained flat Policy Making Environment Number of Communities Conservative 5 Mixed 6 Progressive 13 TABLe 9 POLICY-MAkING eNVIRONMeNTS OF COMMUNITIeS WITH FARe-FRee SeRVICe Agency Expected Ridership Increase Actual Ridership Increase Estimate of Loss in Ridership if a Fare Was Instituted Advance Transit No prediction. Fare-free was begun as a trial. 32% within one year of fare-free policy im plem entatio n 9% with a $0.50 fare up to 57% with a $2.00 fare Deerfield Valley Transit Association Has always been fare-free 20%â30% Edm und Transit 40% to 80% 200% increase in 18 m onths 50%+ East Chicago Has always been fare-free 50%+ GoLine Transit Has always been fare-free 33%, but depends on level of fares Hele-on-Transit Was 425,000 when charging $1 fare in 2005 Ridership increased 205% (not provided) to 1,300,000 by 2011. Mason Transit Has always been fare-free 40% TABLe 10 ACTUAL AND PROJeCTeD RIDeRSHIP IMPACTS OF FARe-FRee POLICIeS ON SMALL URBAN AND RURAL PUBLIC TRANSIT SYSTeMS ReSPONDING TO SURVeY
27 at approximately 100,000 riders per year. Once the fare was eliminated, ridership from that same segment increased quickly by 200%. Steamboat Springs, Colorado, experi- enced a 24% increase during the first year after eliminating a $0.50 fare and has doubled ridership in six years. ApplCART expected no more than a 10% increase in rid- ership when it went fare-free, since approximately 90% of its passengers were students who were already riding on a pre-paid basis and the farebox only generated 2% of the total revenue needed to operate the system. However, ridership increased 21% overall with the fare-free policy (see Table 12). At Chapel Hill Transit, ridership increased 43% during the period from January to September of 2002 compared with the same period in 2001 (from 2,100,866 in 2001 to 3,006,798 in 2002). Although service hours were increased 11.3%, the major cause of the dramatic ridership increase was the implementa- tion of the community-wide fare-free service. The program has enabled the university to move more of its parking to perimeter park-and-ride lots, allowing for more development of facilities on the university while also creating a safer pedestrian environ- ment. Since 2002, transit ridership has continued to grow and the system now carries 7.5 million passengers a year, making Chapel Hill Transit the largest fare-free system in the world. Agency Expected Ridership Increase Actual Ridership Increase Estimate of Loss in Ridership if a Fare Is Instituted Aspen Shuttles Has always been fare-free 26%â33% Breckenridge Has always been fare-free 35%â45% Glenwood Springs 125% within a few months Surveys indicate 22% would not ride if there was a fare. Mountain Village Has always been fare-free 25% Park City 125% in less than 6 months 25%â42% Steamboat Springs 20% 53% after the $0.50 fare was eliminated Summit County Has always been fare-free 20%â26% (not provided) TABLe 11 ACTUAL AND PROJeCTeD RIDeRSHIP IMPACTS OF FARe-FRee POLICIeS ON PUBLIC TRANSIT SYSTeMS SeRVING ReSORT COMMUNITIeS ReSPONDING TO SURVeY Agency Expected Ridership Increase Actual Ridership Increase Estimate of Loss in Ridership if a Fare Is Instituted ApplCART 10% 21% â CVDT Always been fare-free Made no prediction N/A 48%â54% Chapel Hill Transit 43% within 9 months â Clemson Always been fare-free N/A 50%+ Corvallis 20%â50% 43% after two months â Go West Transit Made no predictions 200% for non-student ridership after eliminating $0.50 fare â Streamline 200 a day 1,200 a day â UMASS Transit Always been fare-free N/A 50% â = not provided by transit agency; N/A = not available. TABLe 12 ACTUAL AND PROJeCTeD IMPACTS OF FARe-FRee POLICIeS ON PUBLIC TRANSIT SYSTeMS SeRVING UNIVeRSITY-DOMINATeD COMMUNITIeS
28 None of the responding agencies reported that capacity was a critical issue. even large percentage increases can be handled with existing capacity if the base number of passengers prior to fare-free policies is relatively small. For instance, even though Corvallis (Oregon) Transit reported a 43% increase in ridership after only two months, it had not yet experienced capacity problems. However, the more frequently any system might have fairly full buses before eliminating fares, the more likely it will have capacity issues that should be anticipated as a possibility depending on the nature of the community. South Carolinaâs Clemson Area Transit reported that it needed to purchase previously used buses from as far away as Fargo, North Dakota, to keep up with the demand for service. CVTD provided information from its Short Range Trans- portation Plan, which is provided here. It indicates that although there would be considerable losses in ridership if fares were instituted, the amount of the fare appeared to not make a great deal of difference in terms of the impact on ridership: Based on the Arc elasticity model, we believe the introduction of any fare would have a significant impact on LTD and/or CVTD annual ridership. Depending on a number of variables, ridership could decrease as much as 54% should LTD introduce a one-dollar base fare. The following table indicates an array of âprobableâ fare options. Proposed Fare Projected Ridership Projected Revenue $1.00 full fare $0.50 seniors/disabled 466,768 $186,707 $0.75 full fare $0.35 seniors/disabled 467,044 $140,113 $0.50 full fare $0.25 seniors/disabled 467,595 $93,518 $0.25 full fare Freeâseniors/disabled 469,246 $46,924 Note: FTA policy limits the senior/disabled component of a fare structure to no greater than 50 percent of the adult cash fare during off-peak hours. It is clear that the introduction of any fare structure on this his- torically fare-free service will have immediate and potentially long-lasting implications. We believe the preceding forecasts are tied in large part to the mere inclusion of a free component rather than the actual fare amount. Further, as the projections indicate, the impact of (subsequent) incremental fare adjust- ments is minimal once a fare has been introduced. It is important to note these projections are relatively short-term in nature (i.e., 12â18 months) and reflect solely a cash-based fare structure. Alternative fare media including monthly passes, discounted tickets, and free-ride promotions are often employed to minimize ridership loss. Further, our experience in numer- ous communities throughout the western U.S. reveals a tangible relationship between ongoing targeted marketing and sustain- able ridership growth. There are two other cases where even modest fares insti- tuted at formerly fare-free transit services resulted in substan- tial losses in ridership. Both the Miami Beach electrowave and the Santa Barbara, California, downtown electric shuttle, services providing 15-minute frequencies in popular tourist towns, instituted a $0.25 fare in the late 1990s after running their services for more than a year on a fare-free basis. Both witnessed a decrease in ridership of approximately 45% after instituting that modest fare (38, 39). Many of the trips that had been taken on the electric vehicles were short, and people might have elected to walk rather than wait for a bus. It can be noted, however, that the institution of the fare also discouraged what the agency regarded as âproblem ridersâ and allowed the service to operate in a more reliable manner, improving rider satisfaction. effects of fare-free Policy on Passenger Satisfaction The respondents to this survey indicated that there is also a very high level of customer satisfaction with the fare-free service they provide. Question 23 asked the following ques- tion: âHave you conducted surveys of your riderâs pre-and post fare-free service? Do you know your passengersâ opin- ions on fare-free service in terms of their satisfaction with the quality of the experience of using the free service?â In response to Question 23, small urban and rural systems pro- vided the following responses: â¢ Riders primarily support fare-free policies. â¢ Passengers all note the high quality of service. â¢ The vast majority appreciate it. â¢ Riders universally prefer free to paying a fare. â¢ Because we do not have that farebox barrier, our oper- ators are able to develop individual rapport with our passengers. â¢ 83% considered the service excellent, whereas the other 17% rated it good. Perhaps the response that best summarizes how riders in small urban and rural communities feel about fare-free ser- vice came from the North Central Regional Transit District in New Mexico: âWe offer a quality service for free, how can you beat it! Riders love it!â Transit managers reported that these services represent a lifeline for many people, particularly in rural areas, but the value is apparently appreciated by virtually all who use it for the many different reasons people travel. It is important to note that three agencies reported that passengers have asked if they can make voluntary contributions to the system in an effort to help ensure its continuance. Advance Transit in New england reported that it receives almost $100,000 a year from philanthropic contributions large and small, and has a donor base of almost 1,000 people. Fare-free systems serving university communities report similar passenger satisfaction: â¢ Passengers are very supportive of the fare. â¢ If not fare-free, passengers would seek alternative ways to get to the University and work. â¢ They could not survive without it is a common response.
29 â¢ Customer satisfaction surveys indicate a very high degree of satisfaction with the quality of our services. â¢ We have done 20 surveys and we get consistently excel- lent ratings. Fare-free systems serving resort communities provided fewer and more mixed responses to this question: â¢ Customers are satisfied but also would like to see expansionsâas long as it remains fare-free. â¢ We received high marks both before and after fare-free. â¢ Less than 1% found the service unacceptable. â¢ 22% do not want a fare and would not ride, whereas others say their experience on the bus has been less favorable. â¢ Receive complaints about vagrants, drug addicts, and alcoholics who we assume would stop riding if they had to pay. Issue of âProblem Passengersâ on fare-free Systems Question 21 of the survey asked fare-free public transit agen- cies if they had to put more resources into supervision or secu- rity as a result of rowdy passengers or vagrants. This question was included because earlier fare-free demonstrations in Denver, Trenton, and Austin all reported that the public transit systems experienced a higher-than-normal incidence of dis- ruptive passengers. However, the report on fare-free policies prepared for the state of Washington in 1994 argued that fare- free policies are easier to administer and result in fewer prob- lems in smaller communities (5). Answers provided by survey respondents support the findings from the state of Washington study. A summary of the responses received from current providers of fare-free service is provided in Table 13. A few respondents took pains to note that although they have protocol to deal with âproblem passengers,â they do not regard them as a major issue in their communities. GoLine stated that this issue appears to be no more frequent or notice- able than on peer systems charging a fare. Clemsonâs general manager noted that students will tend to be rowdy whether you charge a fare or not. Respondents from agencies serving smaller communities noted that the drivers might well know the family of a rowdy teenager, or that other passengers might help the driver in getting the problem passenger to modify his/her behavior. Other respondents noted that vagrants are an issue on their systems. One agency in a resort commu- nity regarded this as a significant problem, whereas others estimated that these types of passengers might represent no more than 1% of all riders. Many transit managers reported that they do not experience problems to any greater extent Responses from Systems Serving Small Urban and Rural Communities Responses from Systems Serving University Communities Responses from Systems Serving Resort Communities This is not an issue (five agencies provided this response) Video surveillance is in all buses We train operators We have a staff position dedicated to mentoring teens and ensuring passenger satisfaction Enforce Unlawful Conduct Ordinance Reserve the right to refuse service to disruptive passengers We get to know our youth by name Issue âblue slipsâ and deny service until meeting with agency resolves issues Student rider policies are distributed to high schools each year Drivers ask, âWhatâs your destination?â to discourage joyriding This is not an issue yet Security cameras on all vehicles and facilities Allow only one round trip and then put them on another bus Suspend disruptive rider and require a signed agreement to reinstate passenger Maintain a liaison with town police Disruptive passengers may be âtrespassedâ and not permitted to ride (two agencies provided this response) A no-loitering and no round- tripping policy is posted on the bus This is not an issue (two agencies provided this response) Security cameras are on all buses Local police respond within 5 minutes Adopted a âzero toleranceâ policy for disruptive behavior Drivers may eject passengers as long as they call supervisor and give location Adopted local ordinance to allow ejection of passengers for âhindering public transportationâ Developed a good relationship with law enforcement including the courts We have a police/security presence at certain times TABLe 13 WHAT FARe-FRee AGeNCIeS HAVe DONe TO DeAL WITH ISSUeS OF âPROBLeM PASSeNGeRSâ
30 than one might expect, and their experience is no worse than systems that charge fares. Two responding transit systems noted that they provide a police substation at their bus transfer center that deals with people who fail to cooperate with their code of conduct poli- cies. The Breckenridge Free Ride general manager reported on how riding privileges are suspended under its zero tol- erance policies and how word gets around pretty quickly among other youths when that happens. This helps to reduce the amount of disruptive behavior. The transit system in Corvallis reported that its issues with homeless passengers and vagrants have been not as noticeable as administrators thought they might be. Manag- ers reported that this could be attributable to the fact that two years before implementing the fare-free policy, the city allowed homeless men to travel from the Downtown Transit Center to the Cold Weather Shelter on a specific route once in the morning and once in the afternoon. This appears to have had two positive effects. First, it provided an opportunity at least partially to separate passengers using that route from the rest of the systemâs service. Second, the special route also familiarized those passengers with the bus systemâs code of conduct, which allowed for a smoother assimilation to the transit system once it became fare-free. Similar service to assist the homeless is also offered in the Washington, D.C., area (41). Although such service has multiple benefits for the homeless and for the transit system, transit agencies might need to recognize this as another cost and challenge of pro- viding fare-free service. Some form of education and mentoring might be neces- sary for systems to persuade teenagers to maintain a certain level of respect for others on board the bus. Although much of their noise is just youthful energy on display, general man- agers responding to the survey noted that behavior that is too loud and raucous can be uncomfortable and possibly intimi- dating, particularly to elderly passengers. The CVTD general manager provided the ordinance it has had approved address- ing acceptable behavior on buses; that document is included in Appendix D. Mason Transit in Washington State has a position dedicated to assuring customer satisfaction that focuses on mentoring teens. CVTD reported on how riding privileges are suspended for repeat violators and how word gets around pretty quickly among other youth when that hap- pens. This helps to reduce the amount of disruptive behavior. community acceptance Although it is clear passengers support fare-free service, the survey asked if communities also support it. Question 34 asked: âHave you ever had significant complaints from any element of the community that led to reconsideration of the fare-free system? For instance, some people say if the service is not important enough for the users to pay for, why should others pay?â The responses provided are included in Table 14. Small Urban and Rural Systems Responses University Community Systems Responses Resort Community Systems Responses No (five agencies) Many comments for and against. Complaints declined when we charged for out of county service Yes. This has to be defended every year before city/town councils No, we keep getting requests for more service and it has grown dramatically Not much, but occasional complaints that riders arenât paying their own way like auto users No, they are glad to have a regional service they never had before Yes, but far outnumbered by supporters Yes, but less intense as more support for transit occurs with higher gas prices A vocal minority state a fare should be charged, but system is voter approved Faction that thought we should charge has totally dissipated It continues to come up once in a while, but argument is moot since no local taxes are used Never, to the contrary, we are a source of community pride No significant complaints (two agencies) No (five agencies) With tightening budgets the desire to make transit pay for itself continues to be raised As they make service cuts, they have been asked to charge nominal fees Some talk about a fare, but no groundswell for change A majority of the community believes the fare-free system is vital to the community No, but we have scaled back summer operations to react to the economy Weâve been asked to let people donate rather than reduce service TABLe 14 HAVe THeRe BeeN SIGNIFICANT COMPLAINTS ABOUT THe FARe-FRee POLICY?
31 A few of the respondents indicated that there are occa- sional complaints from taxpayers who grumble about the service being fare-free, although the magnitude of these com- plaints has not been great enough for any system to reconsider their status as providers of such service. In some cases there are municipal officials whose jurisdiction provides match- ing funds to federal grants and who ask why their agencies should pay if the direct recipients of services are not paying. A number of respondents reported that as budgets get tighter, they have concerns about policymakersâ resolve in continu- ing to keep the service fare-free. Depending on the community, more security personnel might be needed to help prevent or attend to disruptive, unwanted, or criminal behavior. The following excerpt is from a letter to the editor written by a passenger of the Southeastern Regional Transportation Authority in New Bedford, Massa- chusetts, an agency that conducted a fare-free experiment dur- ing the summer of 2010. It provides an unvarnished opinion of one passengerâs experience during a planned three-month experiment of fare-free service, and shows how quickly a well- intentioned program may have to respond to negative impacts on passengers, operators, and the transit systemâs image: Our transit problem began with a seemingly wonderful offer: Free bus fare for the months of June, July and August. For me, that meant $120 in summer savings. In my mind, I had spent the money already. But the road to you-know-where was paved with good intentions; no good deed goes unpunished. everything began just fine, but soon changed. One-third-filled buses became two-thirds filled, and then filled to capacity. Soon it became standing room only! With the increased number came, shall we say, a different type of clientele: large groups of teenagers taking long-distance rides, mixed with the psychologically chal- lenged and just plain drunk. Human body odor became more and more obvious. With little space to sit or stand, I frankly became uncomfortable. Crowd trouble began to develop boarding the buses, and the police suddenly appeared at the station. Finally, buses could no longer keep up with the demand, and suddenly did not make stops at appointed locations and times. For me, this meant standing around for an extra 40 minutes more than sev- eral times. even this was not consistent. You just do not know. Finally, this generous program-turned-near-catastrophe ended the last day of June. SRTA has demonstrated gross insensitivity to myself and others. A more thoughtful approach to unheralded and ill-considered âinnovationâ would be appreciated (40). bus operatorsâ attitudes toward fare-free Service In an earlier fare-free experiment in Austin, operators were reported to be at a point of âinsurrectionâ over on-board con- ditions that they believed had badly deteriorated for them- selves and for long-time passengers (20). None of the managers responding to the questionnaire for this project reported anything as bad happening in their sys- tems, although it can be noted that none of the agencies listed in Tables 4, 5, and 6 are in communities that are even one- quarter the size of Austin. Most of the agencies that are now providing fare-free service have not found these concerns to be too difficult to deal with, but at least one manager serving a resort community stated he would rather see a return to some sort of fare. Although in the clear minority, he believes it would help to minimize the presence of undesirable pas- sengers and restore more respect for the service. Many of todayâs fare-free transit agency directors acknowl- edged that bus operators have had to deal with more homeless, alcoholics, and disruptive youth. However, based on the feed- back from this projectâs questionnaire, the vast majority of bus operators are happier not to be dealing with fares than they are concerned with how they must deal with a few more undesir- able passengers. Question 24 of the survey asked, âHave your operators embraced the fare-free system, or do they note any difficulties?â Many agencies did not respond because their system had always been fare-free and their bus operators had only worked in a fare-free environment and had nothing to compare their experience to. Table 15 provides comments from those who did respond. how fare-free Service affects Schedule reliability Survey respondents provided a mixed response to Question 25 which asked âDo you think fare-free service has allowed your buses to stay on schedule more easily owing to reduced dwell time, or does additional ridership cause the bus to oper- ate more slowly?â A number of responding agencies noted that reduced dwell time per passenger is often countered by the increase in the number of boarding passengers and addi- tional stops. Although time will be saved per boarding pas- senger by not collecting fares, the additional stops require more deceleration and acceleration of the bus, which can be more time consuming than the fare collection process, par- ticularly if passengers are already using fare media of some type that takes passengers less than two seconds to record their fare. Reducing the number of stops on a route can help minimize schedule delay, although the experience systems have had is that they have more demand at all their stops after implementing fare-free policies. Many university and resort communities reported that they could not possibly keep to schedules if they implemented a fare. The general manager of Aspenâs public transit system noted that adding a bus to a route to maintain published service frequency would cost almost $500,000 per year per bus. Table 16 displays the responses received from systems representing all the types of communities served. Intentional and unintended benefits of fare-free Public transit Service Survey question 20 asked respondents to identify what they considered the major benefits of fare-free service. The responses were quite varied and are provided in Table 17. Island Transit in the state of Washington reported that the benefits it has realized go far beyond operating efficiencies,
32 Small Urban and Rural System Responses University Community Systems Responses Resort Community Systems Responses Operators prefer it because of fewer arguments over fares Operators are grateful not to deal with fares Operators have had some difficulties with rowdy passengers Operators love it (two agencies) Operators totally embraced it Operators feel safer and many have come to work at their agency because it is fare-free Operators can serve as ambassadors for the system with more time to answer questions Operators embrace and support fare-free Operators have many distractions and are very pleased not to deal with fares Operators strongly desire it Operators appreciate not monitoring fares, but more need to police vagrants Operators were wary, but have been pleasantly surprised by lack of incidents Operators love it Operators glad not to collect fares, but sense a lack of respect Operators love to be ambassadors for the town Operators loved going to fare- free Our drivers love not dealing with money Drivers say there would be more arguments with fares Operators had mixed feelings, but believe a fare should be charged due to economy Operators can focus on the safe operation of their bus TABLe 15 FARe-FRee PUBLIC TRANSIT AGeNCIeSâ BUS OPeRATORSâ ATTITUDeS TOWARD FARe-FRee SeRVICe TABLe 16 HOW FARe-FRee TRANSIT AFFeCTS ON-TIMe PeRFORMANCe Small Urban and Rural Systems Responses University Community Systems Responses Resort Community Systems Responses Operates more efficiently by boarding through both doors (three agencies provided this response) Can factor less dwell time when designing bus schedules Experience delays because of increased boardings (two agencies provided this response) Average time per boarding is less, but increased boardings slow the bus Additional boardings during peak does not cause the bus to operate more slowly Allows better schedule adherence Faster without fares, dwell time minimized Load factors are huge, fares would cause schedule problems Saves time overall Stay on schedule more easily even with more passengers Increasing ridership causes major scheduling challenge Reduces dwell time Loading from all doors saves time, especially for people with ski equipment Free service facilitates on-time performance Fares would greatly impact schedule Staying on-time is easier Passengers in ski suits do not have to fumble for change reducing congestion/carbon emissions, or increasing rider- ship. The general manager believes the system is not just a bus service, but an integral component of the island lifestyle that has contributed to the following broader benefits: â¢ enhanced community bonding and cooperation â¢ Relationship building and social opportunities â¢ Building social skills and respect for personal space and individual property with youth â¢ Merging the elderly, disabled, and able-bodied commu- nity members â¢ Dramatically reducing the waiting lines at the state ferry docks â¢ Helping develop life-long relationships through the bus- riding âcommunityâ â¢ Promoting and encouraging public transit use â¢ Appreciating and protecting the islandâs eco-systems â¢ Having a bi-partisan service leading to more coopera- tive relationships and dialogue. Clemson Area Transit (CAT) also noted how its fare- free system has helped develop community pride through
33 the many awards they have received from the International City Management Association, APTA, and the state of South Carolina. Its fare-free service has helped to bridge the normal tensions between a university and its surrounding community. The International Town and Gown Associa- tion decided to locate its headquarters in Clemson because of the successful relationship-building that has occurred in CATâs service area. fare-free Public transitâs Impact on livability and development Question 18 of the survey asked âCan you attribute any advances in âlivabilityâ to the fare-free service?â while Ques- tion 19 asked âHave you been able to quantify any of the ben- efits to your community due to fare-free service?â Because livability can be subject to different definitions, the answers received were not always precise. Appendix e contains the detailed responses, although relatively few specifics were provided. However, one of the general themes was that pub- lic transit itself promotes livability and having it available at no fare promotes livability that much more. Four agen- cies noted that fare-free service attracts more choice riders, which translates to less traffic congestion and pollution and an improved quality of life. Go Line Transit reported that its fare-free service at the Vero Beach Marina is regularly acknowledged by the inter- national yachting community as a key local amenity and is called âthe best service of its kind anywhere.â After Cha- pel Hill Transit implemented fare-free service, the A&e channel recognized Chapel Hill as the number two city in their âTop Ten Cities To Have It Allâ and Money magazine rated the town as the âBest Place To Live in the Southâ (42). Hanover, New Hampshire, with the service area of Advance Transit, was rated the second-best place to live in the United States by CNN and Money magazine after it implemented fare-free transit (43). Three agencies indicated that they were an important part of making their communities more walkable. Aspen reported how its fare-free transit service complements the car-share and bike-share programs to promote community vitality and car-free living. The idea for fare-free service in Corvallis was promoted by the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition. Small Urban and Rural Systems Responses University Community Systems Responses Resort Community Systems Responses Provides more trips to residents No fares leave more revenue for residents to spend locally (two agencies reported this) Significantly reduces administrative costs Improves quality of life with free transportation (two agencies reported this) Increases ridership (five agencies reported this) Satisfied customers Modal split of 7% on one major corridor Carries several more passengers per hour than peer agencies that charge fares People leave their vehicles at home Ease of operation Provides affordable mobility for students, employees, and seniors Saved agency from providing 34,000 hours of service that would have been required if a fare was charged Provides users with a much easier system to navigate Faster boarding process Reduces driver complaints Students can get to classes at any of five colleges Increases social mobility for students on nights and weekends Increases ridership (four agencies reported this) Increases state and federal funding as a result of increased ridership Higher degree of local citizen support Reduces run times and boarding times People retire to the community partially because of fare-free service The transit system is a source of pride in the community Reductions in peak season congestion Fewer impaired drivers on the roads Eliminated 1,730,557 pounds of carbon Lodging, businesses, workers, and visitors use service more and more Reduction in administrative costs Ability to serve a larger area and more stops Allows parking to be reduced Remove between 300,000 and 500,000 trips a year from local roads Improves âsmall town characterâ Enhances the townâs economic competitiveness Reduces congestion, pollution, and gas usage (five agencies reported this) TABLe 17 THe BeNeFITS OF FARe-FRee PUBLIC TRANSIT AS RePORTeD BY SURVeY ReSPONDeNTS
34 A number of agencies provided estimates of the environ- mental benefits that their systems produce: â¢ The Breckenridge Free Ride transit agency submitted a Livability Grant to the federal government, citing the transit-oriented developments that are being built for affordable housing and the reduction of 202,336 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions in the prior year because choice riders used the system. â¢ Streamline Transit estimated a net reduction of 929,043 vehicle-miles traveled and a carbon diox- ide savings of 1,041,642 pounds during the first ten months of 2009. â¢ Aspen noted that traffic remains at 1993 levels thanks largely to fare-free public transit and its aggressive TDM programs. In 2004, the city of Aspen proudly became a PM-10 attainment area after 17 years of non- attainment status. â¢ Advance Transit determined that a fare of $1.00 would result in a diversion of 62,400 riders to automobiles, with a corresponding 15,200 pounds of additional emis- sions and an additional 336,960 vehicle-miles traveled requiring 13,478 gallons of fuel. effect of fare-free transit on Parking and development Question 16 asked âDid the implementation of fare-free ser- vice impact parking in any way, positive or negative?â while Question 17 asked âDid fare-free transit cause any increase in development or an influx of residents or employment or change in property values?â Table 18 provides the responses to the question dealing with parking. Based on responses to Question 16, it would appear that fare-free transit is attractive enough to entice people to either forego car trips or to park their cars and complete their trips by means of transit. However, there also appears to be a need to recognize that fare-free transit can result in the need for more designated parking to avoid conflicts with certain busi- nesses and residential communities. Island Transit has taken the concept of park-and-ride lots to a new level consistent with its practice of promoting envi- ronmental sensitivity in everything they do. The agency was successful in receiving state grants to develop âtransit parks,â with great care given to utilizing native landscapes and protecting natural environments and animal habitat. These facilities include walking trails and shelters designed by local artists. Community volunteers maintain the facilities and Island Transit ensures that there is hot apple cider avail- able in the colder times of year. Advance Transit in New england reported that it is in negotiations with a developer who wishes to build a mixed- use development that would include housing, offices, shops, and a new transit transfer hub. In response to Question 17 dealing with development, representatives of every community category frequently pointed out that real estate companies within their ser- vice districts advertised that they were on the free bus line (Advanced Transit, Island Transit, UMASS Transit, Clemson Small Urban and Rural Systems Responses University Community Systems Responses Resort Community Systems Responses None (four agencies reported this) Fare-free service has had positive im pact reducing the need for parking supply There are inadequate park and ride lots causing parking issues They provide flag stop service in rural areas and people som etimes park where they should not Keeps cars off the roads and reduces parking needs at major attractors Casinos need less parking Park-and-ride facilities are developed as ecologically sensitive âtransit parksâ âUnofficialâ park and riders caused bus service to be rem oved from major mall University eliminated parking lots and put in facilities Student parking decreased Inform al parking lots have caused towns to establish neighborhood parking perm it system One-third drop in parking tags on cam pus There are âstealth park and rideâ locations near established park and ride lots University had six parking lots in their master plan and never built one None (six agencies reported this) Success in getting people out of their cars and parking all day Greater use of transit for events where parking is at a premium Town has not had to add any significant amount of parking since fare-free transit and TDM programs were established Overflow parking affects residential neighborhoods Recent charges for parking has resulted in less parking and more use of buses Reduces âcruisingâ by those looking for parking spots TABLe 18 THe IMPACT OF FARe-FRee PUBLIC TRANSIT ON PARkING
35 Area Transit, Crested Butte, and Steamboat Springs); and how they believed their public transit service has a value- added impact in their communities. Park City Transit reported that fare-free transit has influenced new development with a âtransit oriented mindsetâ that influences where employees and residents look for housing, thus increasing property values with proximity to bus routes. According to UMASS Tran- sit and Breckenridge Free Ride, homes or apartments on the bus lines might not be worth more, but they tend to sell or rent more quickly. ApplCART reported significant infill development on its bus routes. CAT reported that a major development firm from Boston said it would invest $25 mil- lion if the community provided transit to its development; otherwise, it would build elsewhere. Chapel Hill reported that the development review process of the town of Chapel Hill emphasizes identifying ways that the development can support transit. challenges of Providing fare-free Service As noted earlier, most communities in which fare-free pub- lic transit is provided support the fare policy, bus opera- tors prefer it, and transit managers appreciate the beneficial effects on schedule adherence and marketing as well as the elimination of administration associated with collecting fares. How ever, this does not mean providers of fare-free service are worry-free. Question 26 asked âWhat are the challenges (anticipated or unanticipated) associated with your fare-free system?â The answers provided are in Table 19. Small Urban and Rural Systems Responses University Community Systems Responses Resort Community Systems Responses There are no challenges, it is all good (three agencies reported this) Need to contract for school buses for supplemental service Route deviation is provided in lieu of separate paratransit service Public perception that charging fares would solve tight budgets (two agencies reported this) The need to deal with increased vandalism, ridership, and operating costs Securing support from elected bodies when budgets are tight Accusations that riders are not âpaying their own wayâ Must provide free ADA service as well which increases costs Funding None More demand than supply and difficulties of funding additional service The number of riders is a challenge Increase in ridership requires much more maintenance Schedule adherence given the huge loads Need for tight ADA eligibility determinations Capacity is a concern (two agencies reported this) Funding (six agencies reported this) Fare-free attracts vagrants and suspended students Sustainability in terms of funding and the need for a dedicated source of funds What to do when budgets are being reduced and ridership is going up Increasing system capacity as ridership continues to grow Reduced services or shutdown due to lack of funding TABLe 19 WHAT ARe THe CHALLeNGeS ASSOCIATeD WITH PROVIDING FARe-FRee TRANSIT?