Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Free transit is just the beginning

Protesters jump turnstiles in the New York City subway, during a protest against police presence in the MTA on November 1, 2019. [Photos via Decolonize This Place, by Javier Alvarez.]
Militant transit struggles are breaking out across the Americas.In Chile, transit riders responded to a proposed 4 per cent fare hike with explosive protests that included mass turnstile jumping, peaceful marches, and vandalism or destruction of subway stations in Santiago. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s decision to hire 500 more transit cops for New York City’s subway – along with increased fares and a series of viral videos of incidents of police violence in the subway – have triggered massive fare evasion actions and rallies.
Last week, bus riders in Vancouver were refusing to pay fares until TransLink offered a fair contract to transit workers, while activists in Montreal marched for a transit-focused Green New Deal. Others in Toronto plastered the city with beautiful posters calling for free transit and proper funding of the TTC. Fare strikes and rallies for free transit are scheduled in several cities for November 29 – the same day as the global climate strike. Transit workers are striking against their private employer in Washington, D.C. while Vancouver SkyTrain workers voted 96.8 per cent in favour of job action. Campaigns continue to escalate in power and scale.
But it’s the specific demands for free transit that knit seemingly disparate movements for climate action, anti-poverty, and prison and police abolition together into a potentially world-changing force.
It’s no coincidence that these efforts are all taking place at the same time. Public transit is one of the most powerful sites of struggle that we have in our cities, given it’s the backbone of how many people get to work, grocery stores, schools, and social activities. The physical nature of the service – requiring strangers to congregate in bus shelters and train stations, often anxious about delays and costs – represents a site of highly effective collective power if harnessed. But it’s the specific demands for free transit, through spontaneous actions of turnstile jumping and campaigns like “swipe it forward,” that knit seemingly disparate movements for climate action, anti-poverty, and prison and police abolition together into a potentially world-changing force.
Technocratic transit wonks often condescend to advocates of fare-free transit, arguing that municipalities need more funding to improve service and that calls for free transit undermine that goal. Of course it’s true that transit departments need massive amounts more money – but that shouldn’t be coming from regressive fares that increasingly benefit corporate owners like SNC-Lavalin’s botched light-rail project in Ottawa. Instead, excellent transit systems can and should be fully funded by increasing taxes on rich households and corporations and rerouting current spending on roads and highways.
Such a transition will have a huge range of benefits: boosting ridership, cutting emissions, making streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists, and ensuring that everyone has the ability to travel regardless of income. It’s an exceptionally straightforward policy to implement, and can serve as a clear rebuttal to the growing trend of privatization and austerity.
Transit agencies will no longer have to worry about “fare evasion,” which has long been used to justify dystopian securitization measures. After the TTC’s alleged loss of $61 million due to fare evasion in 2018, it launched a widespread ad campaign to threaten riders with $425 fines and dozens of new fare inspectors and transit enforcement officers. Similarly, New York responded to a reported loss of $215 million last year from fare evasion by hiring 500 more Metropolitan Transportation Authority cops – costing almost $250 million over four years (that’s in addition to the over 700 existing transit police and 2,500 NYPD officers who patrol the city’s subways and buses).
Unsurprisingly, such enforcement is highly racialized: two-thirds of the MTA riders arrested for fare evasion in the second quarter of 2019 were Black, while a decade’s worth of TTC data indicated that Black transit users have been fined at a rate almost double their demographic. Transit police are increasingly profiling and detaining undocumented people on transit, leading to deportation and incarceration. While getting rid of fares doesn’t eradicate racist policing, it removes one of the main tools used to harass and detain in transit spaces.Free transit also protects transit workers. Bus drivers, especially, are forced to bear the brunt of rider anger at high fares and poor service. According to a survey conducted by the Amalgamated Transit Union of drivers, 73.6 per cent of assaults are caused by fare disputes. If we want to reduce the very threat of attack and abuse that workers face on the job, we should remove the primary source of incidents: fare disputes.
Ditching fares means that people are no longer denied transportation due to lack of money. It also means that riders can board the bus far more efficiently, not having to scan their transit pass or put a pocket full of coins in the farebox, increasing the ability for the vehicle to remain on schedule, and for riders to be able to rely on its service. Some cities have half-heartedly introduced low-income transit passes but they’re often still far too expensive or require a byzantine means-testing process. It would be far simpler just to abolish fares.
It’s not some utopian demand. Over 100 transit systems operate fare-free around the world, including much of Estonia. Dunkirk, France, became one of the largest examples, when it introduced free buses to its population of 200,000 last year. About half of riders surveyed said they were new transit users and were using it instead of driving a car, a clear indication of the policy’s power to reduce transportation emissions in a city. Such an approach can be scaled up to any level, of course, including to intercity bus service or national passenger rail.
Free transit is about much more than transit: an end to austerity, a refusal of police power, and a demand for decommodified and universal public services. We simply can’t build the world we dream of until we confront ruling class power in all its forms. As geographer Juan Correa told CityLab, people in the highly unequal country of Chile attacked the subway because companies were extracting profits from them through higher fares: “This was a moment of rage, of stating that this institution was public, but they make me pay and with a hike that is unjustified.”
Free transit is a struggle for genuinely public and democratic control of our society. Activists in Chile and New York City are showing us how to win. Let’s join them at the turnstiles today.


James Wilt is a freelance journalist and master’s student based in Winnipeg. He has also written for The Narwhal, VICE Canada, Canadian Dimension, and the National Observer, and is working on a book about public transit. He tweets at @james_m_wilt.

Monday, November 4, 2019

The Daily Blog - NZ - calls for free public transport

Free public transport: Synchs in with environmentalism, reducing poverty & inequality. Demanding all cities have free public transport would help the poorest amongst us, demand more growth for public transport and take some of the stress out of our groaning roading system that can’t cope as it is. Major way to directly combat climate change.

Monday, October 7, 2019

UK Green Party wants to scrap plans for new roads, use cash for free bus travel for all

By Phoebe Weston, the Independent, 4 October 2019.

The [UK] Green party wants to scrap the Conservatives’ £6.5bn plans for new roads and will instead use the cash to fund free bus travel for all.

The proposals, which will be laid out at the annual party conference in Newport, are part of the party’s Green New Deal, which looks to shift focus from economic growth towards tackling the climate emergency and protecting nature.

Jonathan Bartley, co-leader of the Green party, says the move will slash emissions from private diesel and petrol vehicles as well as helping low-income families.

He said: “Our reliance on cars is driving up our carbon emissions – a third of the UK’s emissions come from transport.

“Road building currently generates more car journeys, creating a vicious and harmful cycle. This money would be much better spent on reducing CO2 emissions by encouraging the use of public transport as part of a Green New Deal.”

To pay for the Free Bus Fund, the party would allocate £5bn of proceeds from the Vehicle Exercise Duty (VED), which under current Tory party plans is earmarked for road building from next year. The remaining £1.5bn from the VED would be spent on maintaining major roads.

Rebecca Newsom, head of politics at Greenpeace UK, said: “With bus use declining, this proposed fund for free bus travel is exactly the sort of vision needed to make public transport a more viable option for people across the UK, helping reduce emissions at the same time.

Our government should put its money where its mouth is, instead of committing billions to policies which will increase road use and emissions and worsen the climate emergency.”

The party would also increase corporation tax to 24 per cent and spend the extra revenue on funding local authorities by £10bn a year, it says.

It claims the funding would help local authorities maintain roads and deliver more bus services, which have become 65 per cent more expensive to use over the past decade.

Air pollution is currently linked to the premature death of 40,000 Britons a year and the Free Bus Fund would also be topped up by saving from reduced health costs due to less pollution on roads, the party says.

Free bus travel would be implemented in England but not in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as this is a devolved issue.

The news comes days after the Green party also said it would ban adverts for petrol or diesel cars and flights across Europe. The move would use the same powers that enabled Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, to ban junk food adverts on the London Underground.

Deputy leader Amelia Womack said: “Excessive flying harms our health just like smoking and advertising only increases this harm. The climate emergency will cause 250,000 additional deaths year from 2030, comparable in number to deaths caused by smoking.”

The Green New Deal legislation would also look at ways to cut consumption of meat and single-use plastic.

Caroline Lucas, a former Green leader, said adopting the deal was “essential” to avoid environmental and political breakdown.

She said: “If we are to mend our broken democracy and give people hope for their future, we must invest in an economy where we live sustainably, differently and more equally.”

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

South Auckland candidate proposes free public transport trial

Statement by Brendan Corbett:

Mangere-Otahuhu Local Board candidate Brendan Corbett proposes a six month trial period for free public transport in South Auckland, to get commuters out of cars and end daily traffic congestion. Corbett says free public transport could transform the city and be an innovative move to combat climate change.
This plan is similar to the proposal floated by the Manukau City Mayor, Sir Barry Curtis 13 years ago. 
[‘Curtis says Manukau rail spur threatened’ NZ Herald 21 February 2006: https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10369485 ]

Mayor Curtis nominated three of his city's suburbs for trials of free bus services, which transport authority chief executive Alan Thompson had indicated could prove a very useful investigative exercise. [‘Increased subsidy hits free bus trials’ NZ Herald 7 Sep, 2005 - 

A 4000 signature petition supporting a proposed free bus trial in Manukau, was presented to the Auckland Regional Transport Authority. But opposition from Auckland’s then main bus operator, the multi-national bus company StageCoach, stymied Curtis’s initiative - “a good reason why public transport should be publicly owned and operated” added Corbett.

Free public transport has successfully ended traffic chaos in many overseas cities including Estonia’s capital, Tallinn, and the French city of Dunkirk. “If they can do it, why can’t we?” asks Corbett.

Sent from my iPhone

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Christchurch Mayoral candidate’s statement

It was fantastic to see so many people out in the square today, marching for action on climate change

In Christchurch, 53% of our carbon emissions come from transportation – mainly cars and trucks 🚗

We can significantly reduce this by creating a better public transportation system, including FREE & frequent buses.

A person who switches from their car to a bus has 15x lower greenhouse gas emissions 🌱

Now before you panic — This forward-thinking idea has already been implemented in cities around the world... and it's working! There have been significant financial and environmental benefits to these schemes, so it really is a WIN/WIN.

Many of you have asked - "BUT WHO PAYS?!?"

Here in Ōtautahi, we have a dramatically imbalanced funding allocation between road development and public transportation. This NEEDS to be fixed ASAP.

Funds will be redistributed more practically between both road development & public transport so that we can invest in a more sustainable and practical future for Christchurch.

This would require negotiation with the government and ECAN but, this will be easily achievable. The policy would lead to a rethink of the hugely expensive and unsustainable roading projects currently being developed for Christchurch.

In short: there are no increased rates or other tax increases needed to implement this policy, as we will be rebalancing the allocations between road dev and public transport. It's that simple.

This really is the BEST way forward for Christchurch.

❓ What are the benefits ❓

✅ EVERYBODY benefits – even those who never use a bus or train will be able to travel In a gridlock-free roading network.

✅ More time at home instead of buried in traffic congestion.

✅ No extra charges for anyone – no rates increases, no extra fuel taxes, no congestion charges, no network charges, no toll roads, no PPPs, …

✅ Improved productivity – roading congestion costs Christchurch tens of millions in lost productivity every year.

✅ Revitalising central Christchurch as more people travel to enjoy the central city, Lyttelton and the city beaches.

✅ Savings for workers and reduced income inequality. The Mayor of Tallinn has called it the “13th monthly salary” because of estimates the policy saves a month’s salary each year for workers using free public transport.

✅ Economic stimulation as workers have significantly more to spend in the real economy.

Find out more info about this policy here 👇


Innovative city award to fare-free Tallinn

Tallinn has been recognized as an innovative city in China 

By Toomas Raag, Pealinn (Estonian newspaper) 27 September 2019

The European-Chinese Green and Smart Cities Summit [took] place in Nanning, China from September 1 to September 5, where Tallinn [capital city of Estonia] was recognized as an innovative city in the category of free public transport and the launch of the Park and Travel system. 
The award was received by Tiit Terik, (pictured below) Chairman of the Tallinn City Council, who also gave a presentation on "Free public transport in Tallinn and Estonia - either an experiment or an experience".

Former French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin is one of the keynote speakers at the event, who said that smart and green solutions in the European Union and China must serve the interests of the environment and people, and that they must work together. 
 In his presentation, Tiit Terik pointed out that free public transport is a good solution for reducing passenger cars and avoiding congestion in cities. 

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Mayoral candidate pledges free buses to combat climate change

Christchurch mayoral candidate, John Minto says "Free Public Transport is an important part of fighting climate change - Minto for Mayor will get it going in Christchurch!"

Today Minto welcomed an important "breakthrough in the debate about free public transport":

Website: www.MintoforMayor.nz
Facebook: Minto For Mayor 2019

Free public transport and more govt action called for

Dunedin's bus Hub. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery

"A lot can be done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transport," he said yesterday.
Transport had a crucial role to play, and he urged "more promotion of public transport, with introduction of "free city transport offered by local governments, paid by ratepayers, at least as a trial exercise".
Some fare-free public transport had been offered in Auckland and he would like to see this extended and offered elsewhere.
Sir Alan is a University of Otago botanist and chairman of the Wise Response Society, a group that promotes sustainable approaches and a "wise response" to climate change challenges.
There was "no substitute for reducing emissions", rather than simply trying to capture carbon through extensive exotic tree planting, he said yesterday.
Such emission cuts required promotion, policies and regulations by central and local governments.
And cuts were vital "in effectively addressing global warming and associated climate disruption", he added.

"We believe the billion trees programme needs urgent review, particularly the use of commercial plantations of exotic conifers with their relatively short rotations.
"Permanent forests, exotic or native, would be more effective in sequestering carbon, " he said.

 - This story is part of the Otago Daily Times contribution to Covering Climate Now, an international campaign by more than 170 media organisations to draw attention to the issue of climate change ahead of a United Nations summit on September 23. To read more of our coverage, go to odt.co.nz/climate.

Submission on Zero Carbon Bill

Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill

Submission by Fare-Free NZ editor Roger Fowler (July 2019):

I support the general thrust of the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill with the strongest possible targets and serious and concerted action planning to achieve those targets.


I submit the following proposal as a viable action towards achieving the short term and long term robust targets of the Bill to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

1. The Government should immediately declare a nation-wide 'climate emergency' to set the country on the equivalent of a 'war footing' to mobilise maximum support for concerted planned action to combat climate change. The government needs to lead a serious response to this climate emergency and discard empty slogans and ineffective piece-meal gestures. The action has to be big and bold to produce a national mind-set turn-around needed to be successful.

2. Recognising that the proliferation of cars and chronic daily traffic congestion in our cities is already causing record vehicle emission levels and hundreds of premature deaths, plus extensive heart and acute respiratory diseases, and that the impact on the environment is rising, the Government should make urgent steps to place public transport into the hands of appropriate elected governing bodies and plan to upgrade all public transports services and infrastructure to cater for a major increase in usage, and to allow for the introduction of fare-free, quality, no-emission public transport in all the main cities. These moves will have a huge 'big and bold' impact of attracting a large bulk of people out of cars and onto quality, modern, integrated public transport and ending chronic traffic congestion - a major source of greenhouse gas emissions.

To support this submission I attach a paper I submitted to Auckland Transport's 'Big Idea' project last year:

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Youth advocate says: Get rid of transit fares

Top of Form
Bottom of Form
Youth Perspectives on Transportation: Free Public Transit for a More Just, Equitable, and Sustainable Urban L.A.
Youth advocate interning with ACT-L.A. urges city to get rid of transit fares

By Eli Pallrand, StreetBlogLA, 13 September 2019
When you wake up each morning, what do you think of first? You probably think about what you’re going to do that day. Off to school, then back home, but do you ever pause to think about how you’ll get there? Probably not, but take a second to consider it, because whether you step out into the crisp morning air and into the driver’s seat or into the nearest subway car can change a lot. It’s not just a matter of how you get to where you’re going, but the means of getting there. 
Building networks of public transit users – ones from across the spectrum of people who live in Los Angeles – requires removing the biggest barrier to use: the transit fare. It’s imperative that the change be made now.
Compared to public transportation, a single car throws vastly more carbon into the atmosphere, fits fewer people, and isolates us from our communities. Like any other essential program, say healthcare or college, we need free public transportation. Until transit is free, every city without it will be plagued by the dominance of cars – and car companies – which destroy an environment already under siege.


Friday, September 13, 2019

Kansas City considering #freepublictransit

Could Kansas City become the first major US city with totally Free Public Transit?

The Kansas City streetcar is already free to ride, thanks to a taxing district whose revenues pay for its operation. City officials hope to use a similar method to make all buses in the city free.


Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Public Transport Can Be Free

By Wojciech Kębłowski, International Viewpoint, 10 September 2019.
We don’t put coins in street lamps or pay by the minute in public parks. Here’s why we can make subway and bus fares a thing of the past.
If we are to believe transport experts and practitioners, abolishing fares for all passengers is the last thing public transport operators should be doing. For Alan Flausch, an ex-CEO of the Brussels public transport authority and current Secretary General of International Association of Public Transport, “in terms of mobility, free public transport is absurd.”
According to Vincent Kauffmann, a professor at University of Lausanne and one of key figures in sustainable mobility, “free public transport does not make any sense.” Getting rid of tickets in mass transit is judged “irrational,” “uneconomical” and “unsustainable.”
However, if we turn to commentators from outside the field of transport, the perspective on fare abolition changes radically. Social scientists, activists, journalists and public officials—often speaking from cities where fare abolition has actually been put to the test—fervently defend the measure.
For Judith Dellheim, a researcher at Rosa-Luxemburg Stiftung in Berlin, providing free access to public transport is the “first step towards socio-ecological transformation.” For Michiel Van Hulten, one of the earliest proponents of free public transport in Europe, “it is about returning to the commons.” Finally, according to Naomi Klein, this is precisely what cities around the world should be doing —“to really respond to the urgency of climate change, public transport would have to become free.”


Public Transport Can Be Free 

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Minto for Mayor - get Christchurch moving.

Children ride for free

Free child fares on Auckland’s public transport at weekends

Our Auckland, 2 September 2019

[Photo: Metlink]

From Saturday 7 September, children aged 5 to 15, using a registered AT HOP card, will be able to travel free on Auckland Transport’s bus, train and select ferry services during weekends and public holidays.

 Children under the age of five already travel free with a paying adult at any time.
This change comes as part of the $1.1 million contribution from Auckland Council towards public transport initiatives announced earlier in the year.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says the free travel will encourage the next generation of public transport users.
“We’re spending more than ever before on building our public transport network across the region. Aucklanders are embracing transport choice, with more than 100 million journeys taken on public transport in the past year,” he says.
“Making public transport free for under 16s on weekends and public holidays will encourage more people to leave their cars at home and use existing capacity. Every person on public transport is one less car on the roads, helping to reduce carbon emissions and traffic congestion.”
Colin Homan, AT Group Manager of Integrated Networks says public transport will now be accessible for all young Aucklanders.
“We’re really excited about this, families will be able to enjoy some time together and explore the region without worrying about the traffic.”

Travel for free

There are a few things that you need to do before you head out on public transport.
You need to make sure that your kids have an AT HOP card and it is registered with a child concession.
Setting up a child discount concession is easy:
  1. Buy an AT HOP card for each of your children aged 5 to 15
  2. Create a MyAT account
  3. Register your child’s AT HOP card
  4. Start your adventure!
A child concession will be applied automatically when you register your child’s AT HOP card with the correct date of birth.
It may take 24 - 72 hours after registration for the concession to be applied, so make sure you register the card/s at least two days before you intend to travel.
To find out more, visit at.govt.nz/childweekendfares
Ferries services that are included:
  • Bayswater
  • Beach Haven
  • Birkenhead
  • Devonport
  • Half Moon Bay
  • Hobsonville

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

French city of Dunkirk tests out free transport – and it works

People cross a square with a 100% free autobus parked in background in Dunkirk, northern France on October 30, 2018.[Philippe Huguen, AFP]
The city of Dunkirk in northern France launched a revamped bus system last year with a twist – it’s completely free. A new study shows that the programme is not only revitalising the city center but also helping the environment.
Dunkirk, which sits on the “Opal Coast” at the northernmost tip of France, is best known for the battle and evacuation of hundreds of thousands of Allied soldiers to Britain during the Second World War. After the war, the port city was rebuilt as an industrial hub, with oil refineries and a major steel mill.
Now the city (population 90,000) seeks to become a beacon of a greener economy, by building infrastructure such as a large-scale wind farm off the coast and transforming its city center to be more pedestrian-friendly. Key to this effort is its free bus system, inaugurated on 1 September, 2018. The network connects Dunkirk to a cluster of neighbouring towns, with five express lines running every ten minutes throughout the day, and a dozen other lines serving less dense areas. Altogether, it serves some 200,000 residents.
For many, the effect has been nothing short of liberating, says Vanessa Delevoye, editor of Urbis, a magazine of urban politics published by the local government. To get around town, you no longer need to look at the schedules, buy tickets or worry about parking, she says. You just hop on the bus.
“It’s become a synonym of freedom,” she says, attracting those who might not otherwise have used public transport. In this largely working-class city, “people of limited means say they’ve rediscovered transport” – a prerequisite to finding a job, maintaining friendships or participating in local arts and culture. But it’s not only disadvantaged or working-class people who take the bus. It is also attracting white-collar workers, students and pensioners, according to Delevoye.

A postwar industrial hub, Dunkirk now seeks to become a beacon of a greener economy. [Etienne, Flickr Creative Commons]
Accessibility has been “one of the keys of Dunkirk’s success” with free transport, says Maxime Huré, a political scientist at the University of Perpignan and president of the think tank VIGS, which specialises in urban development and transport issues. Over the past year, Huré has led an in-depth study of Dunkirk’s free bus experiment, commissioned by the city and carried out by an independent team of social science researchers. The study will officially be released on 11 September, but some of its initial findings have already been published. They show that ridership has spiked over the last year, more than doubling on weekends and increasing by around 60 percent during the week.
Going car-free
More revealing than the simple increase is the way that the free buses are changing residents’ habits. In a town where a large majority of residents (about two-thirds) have typically depended on their cars to get around, half of the 2,000 passengers surveyed by researchers said they take the bus more or much more than before. Of those new users, 48 percent say they regularly use it instead of their cars. Some (approximately 5 percent of the total respondents) even said that they sold their car or decided against buying a second one because of the free buses.

Source: VIGS. Infographic by AGUR, courtesy of Urbis magazine. Adapted by France 24.
“My car was getting old, it needed major repairs, so I gave it up and I told myself, the new bus network is coming, I’ll see how it goes,” one retiree, Philippe, told the VIGS researchers. “In the end, I don’t need it – I do everything by bus and on foot.”
For some young people, the reliable bus service means they may not need to start driving at all. “My cousin started taking lessons to get her driver’s license, she failed, and she dropped it because she found a job and the bus takes her straight there from her house,” said Laure, another passenger.
Despite the clear implications for reducing pollution, fighting climate change was not the main goal of Dunkirk’s free bus campaign, says Delevoye. If nothing else, though, it’s a welcome side effect.
The free buses are a step in overhauling the car-centered model that has shaped European and North American cities since the Second World War. That model has shown itself not only to be environmentally unsustainable, but “disastrous” for urban life, argues Delevoye.
Could the Dunkirk model catch on?
Styling itself as a “laboratory” of free transport, Dunkirk has attracted an “incessant” stream of visitors intrigued at whether it could work in their cities, says Delevoye. Among them was Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who took a ride on Dunkirk’s buses last October. A few months later, she announced that Paris would extend free transit passes to children under 11 and young people under the age of 20 with a handicap, taking effect this Sunday, 1 September. That’s in addition to senior citizens earning less than €2,000 a month, who already benefited from free ‘Navigo’ passes.
Such measures remain a far cry from Dunkirk’s model, whose appeal rests in part on there being no forms to fill in or criteria to meet. Expanding free public transport to the level of a major city like Paris poses a completely different set of challenges, says Huré. Before the network was revamped in Dunkirk, buses were often almost empty – a problem common to many small and medium-sized cities. Major metropolises tend to face the opposite problem: a public transport system that is saturated, especially at peak hours.
Historically, the lack of travelers on Dunkirk’s buses also meant that ticket sales contributed only a small amount – about 10 percent – of the system’s funding. The rest was publicly subsidised.

Dunkirk is known for its colourful annual carnival. This year, the carnival period saw a spike in bus ridership. [Etienne, Flickr Creative Commons]
For Dunkirk’s left-wing Mayor Patrice Vergriete, who took office in 2014 after campaigning in large part on the free bus pledge, the small share of ticket revenue was less a problem than an opportunity. It meant that the city could get rid of fares without a major impact on its budget.
In short, finding the resources to make buses free came down to a “political choice”, says Delevoye. Even in Paris, which is on the high end of funding from customers at 28 percent, the transport system is paid for largely by taxation. In other words, the obstacles are less financial than political.
A “figurehead” for post-industrial urban transition
Meanwhile, several cities closer to Dunkirk’s size are testing out their own versions. Among them is Calais, less than 50 kilometers down the coast. Mayor Natacha Bouchart, of the right-wing Républicains party, presented the measure as a response to the Yellow Vest movement’s demands for greater purchasing power and better public services. It was voted for unanimously by the local government and will take effect in 2020, affecting 100,000 residents. As well as Calais, Chateauroux (population 44,000) and Niort (population 59,000) in central-western France have also made their buses free in recent years, although without necessarily improving the service.
Valenciennes, another city in France’s industrial north, is taking a step in the same direction. Starting this Sunday, residents under the age of 25 can sign up for a pass that will allow them to travel around for free, after a €20 registration fee.
For Vincent Jarousseau, a photojournalist who spent two years documenting life in neighbouring Denain for his book Les racines de la colère (The Roots of Anger), the interest of Valenciennes’s approach is mostly “symbolic”. For one thing, students, who are among the main users of public transit in the area, already benefit from steeply discounted passes. And those who wish to take advantage of the new policy face an initial bureaucratic hurdle – they can’t just step on the tram.
Still, Jarousseau says the push toward free transport could help relieve the pressure on some young residents, who risk confronting ticket controllers when they can’t pay the fare. Denain, which is part of the Valenciennois transport network, is one of the poorest cities in France, its economy decimated by the closure of an iconic steel plant in the late 1970s as well as surrounding coal mines. It was an early base of support for the Yellow Vest movement last fall and winter.

Dunkirk remains a heavily industrial, working-class city with an active harbor.[Etienne, Flickr Creative Commons]
For Damien Carême, the mayor of Grande-Synthe (which neighbors Dunkirk), improving the lives of working-class residents, revitalising small cities and fighting climate change go hand in hand. Speaking in 2016, Carême (of the Green party, Europe Ecologie les Verts), said he hoped Dunkirk’s fare-free model could “make the urban area a figurehead for industrial territories undergoing environmental transition.”
So far, it’s been a “winning bet”, says Huré. He adds that, despite the different challenges they face, larger cities should not rule out going fare-free. In the interim, Dunkirk’s example is winning over skeptics. Even for supporters like Delevoye, the policy has revealed unexpected benefits. One year in, free transit is increasingly looking like an idea whose time has come.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Public transit advocate says benefits of fare-free outweigh costs

An advocate for free public transport in Auckland believes the benefits would far outweigh any cost of setting it up.
Hamilton's mayor wants all buses to be free, all the time, following a free bus trial for under-18s over the weekend.
Auckland Council's Seniors Advisory Panel member, Roger Fowler told Tim Dower it would cost a lot to set up free public transport, as services would need to be improved.
But he says no one seems to bat an eyelid over the cost of new motorways.
"You raise the question of making public transport a decent public service and attracting people onto it, some people throw their hands up in horror."
In Auckland, public transport will be free for five to 15-year-olds at weekends from September.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Auckland public transport booms in popularity with region's first fare-free day

By Todd Niall and Caroline Williams, Stuff, 23 June 2019

Photo / Greg Bowker NZ Herald

Families and children are expected to be big users of Auckland's fare-free Sunday public transport promotion.
Aucklanders have enjoyed their first all-day chance to use public transport without paying on Sunday, with services across the network humming with passengers.
Auckland Transport put extra staff in key locations for the initiative which it hoped would get more people hooked on public transport.
The fare-free Sunday was announced a fortnight ago as a way of celebrating the milestone of 100 million public transport trips being made in a 12-month period.
AT expected a far bigger than normal turnout on the network, especially from families.
"Kids love going on double-deckers, it's one of those novelty things, and I think a lot of families will try to get out on the trains," Stacey van der Putten, the group manager of metro services, said.
Auckland Transport spokesman Mark Hannan said although exact numbers were not yet known, public transport services across the network had been busy.
However, buses in particular had been "very busy" and all train services were double-carriaged. 
Ferries had also proven popular, with queues of people being asked to wait for the next service due to ferries reaching max capacity.
Half Moon Bay, east Auckland, was an early contender for busiest ferry service while Devonport ferry services were reshuffled in anticipation of high demand.
Hannan himself travelled from Britomart to Sylvia Park and back on a full train, where he observed some passengers who had never been to Britomart before.
"[There are] lots of people trying things for the first time. It's generally gone pretty well." 
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff tweeted about the occasion, stating central hub Britomart had been "bulging" with four times more people than usual.

There were stand-by buses for the northern busway, which is mostly served by double-deckers, and extra capacity on some ferry routes.
The Waiheke Island ferry, which operated outside the public transport network, was not be fare-free, except for holders of multi-journey passes issued by Fullers.
Public transport enthusiasts launched a challenge on social media – with the hashtag #akltransitchallenge – in which the aim is to pass through every train and busway station.
The challenge would start and end at the downtown Britomart terminus, and participants were encouraged to post on Twitter a photo from the outer end of each rail and busway line.
Discounted or fare-free public transport moves have gained momentum in Auckland this year to try to accelerate patronage, which is already rising at nearly 8 per cent.

Auckland Council this month voted to make weekends fare-free for under-16s, starting in September.
A wider range of ideas to shift more commuters out of their cars is being worked on jointly by the council, AT and the Government.
In March, the youth climate change lobby group Generation Zero launched a campaign calling for cheaper fares, free weekend travels for families, and a new range of daily and weekly fare caps.
Generation Zero also proposed boosting the tertiary fare discount from the current 20 per cent level to 50 per cent, free travel for under-12s, and creating optional extras for holders of the AT HOP travel card, such as being able to buy an unlimited weekend travel pass.
Other ideas included extending the period allowed to transfer between services without extra cost from 30 minutes to an hour.