RTA supports a permanent Zero Fare For Everyone policy for all of our region’s bus transit systems.
Zero Fare in brief: Triangle bus systems already subsidize almost the entire cost of bus operations, so the Zero Fare business case here is to cover the rest of those costs without using fares, and thereby get more ridership, faster transit service, more value for our regional transit investment, and more equity.
Staged implementation: RTA supports a staged “zero fare weekends” rollout whenever necessary to address concerns or issues. This could be Saturdays only (if just one day), both Saturday and Sunday, or Friday through Sunday (to incorporate one weekday).
RTA Leadership Team member HDR completed an initial zero fare study for RTA during spring 2020.
HDR then created a series of policy briefs on zero fare for RTA in spring 2022. You can view them here:
- RTA Zero Fare Policy Brief 1 – Removing Barriers to Transit
- RTA Zero Fare Policy Brief 2 – Benefits for Companies
- RTA Zero Fare Policy Brief 3 – Benefits for Agencies
- RTA Zero Fare Policy Brief 4 – State of Zero Fare in America
- RTA Zero Fare Policy Brief 5 – Cost Curve Benders
The regional business community supports zero fare to maximize the success of transit in the region — and the success of our region’s people. At its core, a regionwide Zero Fare for Everyone policy is a purposeful, proactive action to advance equity across our entire metropolitan area.
The Triangle Region’s Zero Fare Journey
The concept of zero fare for transit is not new. In fact, our region has developed a zero fare policy for many populations and customers over the past three decades, including:
- 1981 – Duke University Transit – system opens; zero fare for all users; fares covered in part by student fees
- 1989 – NC State University / Wolfline – zero fare for university users; fares covered in part by student fees
- 2002 – Chapel Hill Transit – zero fare for all users; fares covered by student fees, other UNC Chapel Hill contributions, and municipal contributions
- 2007 – NC State University / Wolfline – zero fare for everyone; fares covered in part by student fees
- 2018 – Everyone 18 and under regionwide – zero fare for youth riders with a Youth GoPass; fares covered in part by half-cent sales tax
- 2019 – Everyone 65 and over regionwide – zero fare for senior riders with transit agency Senior IDs
- 2020 – Systemwide fare suspension – all fares temporarily suspended due to coronavirus pandemic
The ongoing regionwide suspension of fares since spring 2020 due to coronavirus has served as an important next step in the region’s ongoing zero fare journey for transit. A permanent regionwide policy of Zero Fare for Everyone would be transformative — for current patrons, future patrons, our region’s transit agencies, and even members of the public who may never use transit.
Zero fare policy and removing barriers
A policy of zero fare for everyone — that is, no longer requiring either obtaining a pass, or making a fare payment — would eliminate financial, mental, and time barriers for those using or considering transit.
- Eliminates a financial barrier – Zero fare for everyone would particularly help many current transit users, for whom transit fares can be a significant expense
- Eliminates a mental barrier – Zero fare for everyone eliminates the question of how much and how to pay for transit, as well as how to purchase or obtain a pass, which helps those who otherwise may not even consider transit as an option
- Eliminates a time barrier – Zero fare for everyone eliminates the farecard purchase and use process, along with the time spent paying fares on buses. Zero fare saves patrons time before their trip, and it keeps buses moving during the trip — benefitting transit users, the agency, and other vehicles.