Houston METRO transit sign

Would Free Transit Incentivize More Riders?

Transit agencies around the country, including in Houston, are considering whether to eliminate or reduce their transit fares.

If you ride a local METRO bus in Harris County it will most likely cost you $1.25, though there are also half-priced fares for students, seniors and people with disabilities. But what if you didn’t have to pay at all?

Tory Gattis from the Center for Opportunity Urbanism said he’s been encouraging METRO to take a fresh look at its fares.

“We have to wonder, if we were able to reduce or eliminate these fares, how many more riders would we get on these HOV buses and how much would this reduce congestion on the freeways,” he said.

Click play to listen to the interview:

Gattis, who also writes the transportation blog Houston Strategies, said the benefits would include reduced traffic congestion, increased air quality and faster travel times.

As it stands right now, most of METRO’s operating funds don’t come from the fares. The transit agency gets most of its money from a one-cent sales tax, which caught the attention of Harris County Precinct 3 Commissioner Steve Radack.

Radack recently spoke before the METRO board on why the agency should consider free or reduced fares. He said that people are already paying for the transit service through the sales tax and a financial incentive for riding could get more people on board.

“And so if we just keep going the way we’re going, we’re going to build more freeways, we’re going to continue to do other forms of transportation, but at the end, it makes no sense to have buses only partially full running around,” said Radack.

Read the rest of the story in: Houston Public Media.