RTA has launched a study on the potential for launching a “zero fare” pilot — in some form — as a follow-up to the regionwide suspension of fares in spring 2020 due to coronavirus, and as a next step in the region’s ongoing zero fare journey for transit.
This study will also examine possible zero fare pilot options to maximize benefits and value, while minimizing risk. A pilot will be an important part of the discovery process on the potential, and potential challenges, associated with a potential broader roll-out of zero fare for everyone in our market.
RTA Leadership Team member HDR is conducting the initial study for RTA during spring 2020. The regional business community is committed to supporting transit and helping maximize the success of the next potential zero fare for everyone pilot in our region.
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
However, a 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
At its core, a policy of zero fare for everyone — that is, no longer requiring either obtaining a pass, or making a fare payment — would eliminate three barriers to transit usage: financial, mental, and physical.
- 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 physical barrier – Zero fare for everyone will eliminate the entire payment and pass usage process, keeping buses moving, benefiting transit users, the agency, and all other vehicles.