Various cities have been experimenting with wavering fees for public transport in an effort to promote sustainable mobility, alleviate traffic congestion and decrease social inequality. This past February, Salt Lake City has paused fare collection for a month to reduce carbon emissions in the region. At the end of March, the Italian city of Genoa extended free access to some of its public transport networks, following a successful experiment which began at the end of 2021 and in an ambitious plan to become the first Italian city with free transportation. Meanwhile, the small duchy of Luxembourg became the world’s first country with free public transit in 2020.
Salt Lake City put in place a “Fare-Free February”, intending to mark the 20th anniversary of Salt Lake City hosting the 2002 Winter Olympics and reduce carbon emissions. The experiment resulted in a sharp increase in ridership. Other U.S cities such as Richmond or Kansas City have adopted fare-free transit in an effort to address social inequality.
The four-month experiment in Genoa was meant to help city planners and authorities understand how the fee waiver could change mobility habits before redesigning the urban mobility strategy. In March, the city reported an 18 per cent increase in metro usage, equal to 36,000 more passengers. Surveys have also highlighted that 25% of commuters have changed their travel habits, and 26 per cent of those use to travel using private vehicles. Now the city has extended free access to vertical lifts at all times and subway during certain times of day to promote more sustainable mobility.
In 2020, Luxembourg became the world’s first country to make all of its public transport free. The country features an extensive interconnected network of buses, trains and trams, which are now free for both residents and tourists, with the exception of first-class tickets, which still have to be paid for. In 2018, Estonia passed a law that allowed every county to implement free public transportation, while counties were also left the option to opt-out of the scheme. The capital city, Tallinn, has had free public transit since 2013. However, an audit from 2021 revealed that the scheme did not meet the goals of reducing car journeys, questioning the viability of such undertakings.