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Fare-Free Transit – A Strategy for Sustainable Transportation


The Fare-Free Transit Program was initiated by the Town of Milton as a means to increase passenger participation during non-peak travel periods. By eliminating user fees, public transit was promoted as an inexpensive and sustainable transportation alternative targeting Milton residents who could most benefit from a free service, including seniors, students, and families with infants/young children. Corporate sponsorship was solicited and obtained to subsidize lost fare revenue, neutralizing the impact on the municipal operating budget. This report is a synthesis of Milton’s experience implementing a Fare-Free Program, including: communication plan development/implementation, observations/results achieved, issues brought forth, and subsequent policy recommendations for possible future opportunities. Performance data was collected through a combination of qualitative and quantitative statistical methods, including passenger surveys, daily operations tracking, and electronic farebox data recording. Upon completion of the Fare-Free Transit Program, positive results were observed from a ridership generating capacity and a customer satisfaction perspective. Ridership levels surpassed initial projections as a result of substantial support and participation in the program. Passengers were appreciative and supportive of the fare-free initiative to promote public transit in Milton, while also expressing interest for increased service levels and frequencies. Some passengers expressed frustration and concern with student overcrowding during school dismissal hours, increasing the potential for nuisance activity. Based on the findings of this report, it is concluded that the Fare-Free Transit Program was successful for increasing ridership during non-peak travel periods. Implementing a similar ridership growth program may be considered in conjunction with service expansion into newly developed areas. However, future ridership growth initiatives should be coupled with proactive service delivery support, including capital and operational resources, to accommodate expected ridership expansion and reduce the potential for passenger overcapacity.

Conference Paper Details

Session title:
Antonio D'Alessandro
Transportation planning