Pros and cons: Make public transport free (2023)

Experts present their lists of pros and cons for making local public transport free of charge

December 13, 2019. Now that Kansas City has become thatfirst major US city to make all public transportation free, the debate over whether this is a viable option for most cities is back in the spotlight. The views of the following experts are still very relevant to today's discussion.

The following question was recently posted onQuote:"What are the arguments for and against free public transport?"

Read the many expert opinions below.

Don Johnson, urban planner and economist

Pros and cons: Make public transport free (1)

(Video) Should public transport be free? | Inside Story

There are some economic argumentsfree public transport(or at least cheaper than it costs to deploy :)

  1. impose carsmany costs to societythat drivers don't pay
  2. Everyone benefits when people can travel freely.

The technical term for the former is "negative externality," and there are two big ones associated with cars: pollution and congestion. Every time you start your car and drive away, you release nitrous oxides, VOCs, ozone and carbon dioxide into the air, making the road busier and therefore slower. These are real costs, measurable in terms of environmental damage, healthcare costs and lost timeothers have to pay.

Economists like efficiency, and efficient economies are ones in which people pay the costs directly because they can make rational decisions. (I'll wait for everyone to stop laughing before I continue.) That's why economists and planners have fantasized about itcongestion pricesso long - in a well-designed toll system, drivers actually pay more if they choose a congested road. And if there were an additional gas tax dedicated to reducing air pollution and improving respiratory health (the existing US gasoline tax only pays for roads), that would make drivers bear the cost of pollution, and would also be economically efficient. But in their absence, subsidizing public transport (which causes people to drive less than usual) is something of a second-best solution.

The technical term for the second argument is “public good”. It is good for everyone when transport costs are reduced – workers can get more jobs, companies can choose between more workers and more suppliers, people can go to shopping centers more spontaneously, etc.Robert J. Kolkerwill say that zeroing the price isn't free - somewhere someone is paying - and he's right, but under certain conditions you can probably show that everyone is collectively better off if everyone pays to get traffic for some to set people free. Again Robert will say that this is not fair, but this is not a fairness argument, it is a collective benefit argument. But in any case, our society is not governed by economic-philosophical kings.

Since economists are notoriously at odds on everything, I should point out that there are also economic arguments against free transit:

  1. Free transit is a poor substitute for drivers having to pay the actual fare
  2. Anything that's free leads to people consuming too much - cheap transport is theoretically just as bad as cheap driving anyway. Someone will end up paying for a lot of trips that really didn't need to be made.
  3. As mentioned above, people may feel that it is unfair to have to pay for other people's bus tickets, even when everyone is better off. Personally, I'm not very sympathetic - practically every decision society makes is unfair to someone. Is it fair to me that we spent $62 billion developing the F-22 fighter if it doesn't make me feel safer? But I digress.

In short, there is a lot of good thinking behind subsidizing public transport (even if it's not entirely free), and indeed most cities do.

Andre Levy


(Video) Is Public Transportation the Answer? | Ellen Emeric | TEDxUniversityofTulsa

  • We need more public transport.Buses, planes, trains, etc. pollute the environment just like cars. If everyone used public transport, more buses would pollute cities. It should also be mentioned that the manufacture and creation of a public transport system is very energy intensive, using mainly coal and fossil fuels as energy. This releases significant carbon emissions into the atmosphere.
  • With the financial crisis, we can't spend more money on something like that.It would cost the government too much to pay for public transport services. With the economic crisis, you have to spend the money on other more important things.
  • Car sales would drop significantly.If everyone could work for free, families wouldn't need two or three cars; only one or none at all, of course depending on the availability of public transport. Most families have multiple cars, and one is only used to drive someone to work each day. That wouldn't be necessary. It would hurt the auto industry and auto makers would likely lose their jobs and auto makers could collapse, which is very bad news.
  • There are many people who would also lose their jobs.People like conductors, parking attendants and many other people would no longer have their jobs because their services were no longer needed.
  • Some cities with public transport are already terrible; that would only increase the tension.Some public transport networks are already overcrowded and/or unreliable. With the increase in customers and pressure, these chains would not be able to cope.
  • If it were free, companies wouldn't be expected to provide top-notch service because they aren't paying customers.In general, when you pay a little more, you pay for good service. But if you don't pay anything and a lot of people use the service, you can't expect top-notch customer service. In general, people care more about paying customers. If it were free, companies could scale back their services under the excuse that their customers don't pay, so they should just "get what they get."
  • Many people do not like public transport and would still not use it.Many people will keep the car and some will even stop using public transport because it is free so many people will use it, it will become a mess and very crowded.





  • Free public transport would reduce the number of cars on the streets.Global warming is a serious problem and if public transport were free more people would use it and take cars off the roads. 1 train can take 2000 cars off the road. A 20-train public transit system could take 40,000 cars off the road. Some people would simply choose not to own a car, further reducing the number of cars on the roads. In dozens of cities across the country and thousands around the world, the result of free public transport would be a dramatic result in reducing vehicle emissions and combating global warming.
  • The government's job is to provide services.That would be a great service that anyone could use. Taxes already pay for health care, schools and roads, etc. So why not let the taxpayer see the benefits in a useful service that anyone can use?
  • The environment would benefit greatly.In addition to providing services, the state has to take care of the environment. No amount of money is too much to protect the environment.
  • We need more public transport employees.With bigger and better public transport, we would need more bus and train drivers, which would create jobs. This is great with the global financial crisis. And work makes it easy for people to get to work – they can just take a bus.
  • The government would be forced to improve public transport.With more users, the poor public transport networks would be improved by the government to make them worth using. Bad networks would be greatly improved and the benefits can be enjoyed by all. It's definitely a worthwhile incentive.
  • Many public transport companies are unreliable and need more customers.Most public transport companies offer a friendly and reliable service and could use a few more "customers". They would like to take them and it would take the cars off the road.
  • Flat or zero tariff maximizes the efficiency, comfort and attractiveness of public transport systems for users and operators in inner cities.“The option of a unique and potentially free public transport fare zone in the Sydney CBD should be viewed as an opportunity to immediately simplify fare structures, eliminate penalties for CBD exchange fees, eliminate other CBD fare anomalies, and improve efficiency, convenience and... Maximizing CBD public transport attractiveness to users and operators.” Independent Public Inquiry – Sydney Long Term Public Transport Plan, May 2010
  • Many people would be tempted by free shipping.If there were free public transport for everyone, of course they would use it. Yes, some people can keep their cars, but most think it's a great idea. If you could pay thousands to drive every year or catch a train for free every morning, what would you choose?
  • A lot of people would use it if it didn't cost so much.For many people, the only reason they avoid using public transport is that it is too expensive. If it was free, they would definitely start using it.




(Video) Public Transportation: Pros and Cons (Mostly cons)


Prashant Prasad

In my opinion, promoting public transport is a good way to reduce pollution and other traffic-related problems in any city. But in most cases, creating a free public transport system is not a viable solution.

The following are the advantages and disadvantages of providing public transport systems free of charge:


  1. The public transport system will attract more users as the preferred mode of transport, reducing the number of small private vehicles on the roads, resulting in less congestion and lower emissions (good for the environment).
  2. The time spent buying tickets is saved.
  3. It will also be accessible to the economically weaker strata of society.
  4. It will reduce the social gap between rich and poor in society as people of all economic classes can travel together.
  5. This will create job opportunities for more people as more public transport will be needed to get around the country.


  1. In populous countries like India, managing crowds on public transport will initially be a major challenge.
  2. It will be a burden for the government to maintain quality and ultimately preserve the public transport system.
  3. Many people will not use public transport because it is too crowded.
  4. Human psychology says that free things are not valued very much, so the system can be abused by the public.

However, there are countries like Germany where public transport is free for students and the money for this is charged as a semester fee. In countries like India, the challenge is unique. In India we have a variety of users from the homeless to the millionaire.

According to the literature, there are two types of users: voting drivers and captive drivers.

(Video) Free public Transport and It's pros and cons

  • selected pilots: Users who can afford to travel by other private means of transport
  • Captured Knights:Users who cannot afford anything other than public transport.

We need to find a balance between requirements and affordability, bearing in mind that everything we do takes money and money doesn't grow on trees. In order to attract both types of passengers to public transport, we need to keep the fare in an affordable range for the user groups and increase the quality of service to meet the needs of the selected passengers.

This can be done by creating segments in the public transit system:

  1. A higher quality of service, for which the fare will also be slightly lighter, since the affordable price range of the selected passengers is wider and
  2. A comparatively lower quality of service, aided by a lower fare, also fitting into the pockets of trapped passengers.

Fundraising opportunities to improve the service quality of the entire transport system:

  1. The recipe for higher quality of service can support lower quality to improve and reach the same level.
  2. The income from the freight transport system can also contribute to improving the quality of public transport.
  3. In order to keep the interest of the selected passengers, we have to think about offering some advantages over the higher price they will pay. Since less crowded in the upper class and a little nicer condition.

The whole process of improving the quality of public transport and reducing various problems with vehicles needs to be carefully worked out. This will take longer, but it should work better than making it completely free for everyone.

  1. Sign
  2. community development
  3. Economic development
  4. finance
  5. Transport


Why free public transport is a good idea? ›

Free fares won't pull low-income people out of poverty, but will keep money in their pockets and ensure everyone can travel when they need to. Ditching fares comes at a cost, but there are savings to be had by not investing in expensive ticketing systems and wider logistical and societal benefits.

What are the pros and cons of using public transport? ›

Below are some pros and cons of using public transportation to help better your commute.
  • Pro: Can be more productive while taking public transportation. When you're driving, you have to focus on the road ahead of you. ...
  • Con: Wait time/cost. ...
  • Pro: Environmentally friendly. ...
  • Con: Sharing the experience with others.
Nov 2, 2016

Do you agree that public transport should be free? ›

Yes because… By making public transport free, the Government would be encouraging people to use public transport instead of driving to and from work. Whilst there may be the initial lack of revenue from the ticket prices, the Government would benefit the environment.

What are the disadvantages of public transportation? ›

Threats to personal safety is a major disadvantage of public transportation. While less serious than deficits in coverage or the problem of crime, the unreliability of some systems remains one of the more significant disadvantages of public transportation.

Can free public transport really reduce pollution? ›

Less Pollution and Clearer Skies

Compared with driving alone, taking public transportation reduces CO2 emissions by 45%, decreasing pollutants in the atmosphere and improving air quality.

Does public transportation help the poor? ›

A household can save an average of $10,000 annually by taking public transit. Owning a car costs between $6,000 and $12,000 a year — it's not cheap. If we keep fares affordable, more people have access to the transportation they need.

What are 4 advantages of using public transportation? ›

it reduces congestion in towns and cities. using public transport is cheaper than owning and operating a car. no more sitting in traffic jams in rush hour thanks to bus lanes and other bus priority measures. it reduces your carbon footprint.

What is the biggest problem with public transport? ›

Congestion is one of the most prevalent transport challenges in large urban agglomerations. Although congestion can occur in all cities, it is particularly prevalent in those above a threshold of about 1 million inhabitants.

What are the advantages of pros and cons? ›

Weighing up pros and cons can speed up the decision-making process, improve your understanding of the situation, and help you avoid decision-making paralysis . Using a simple "pros" and "cons" list encourages you to approach your decision objectively, without letting your "gut feeling" impact your choice.

How does public transport affect society? ›

Public Transport enables mobility. In order to sustain a higher quality and standard of life, communities need access to vital services that will ensure the upkeep of physical and mental health, employment opportunities, social and leisure activities.

What is the advantage of using public transport instead of own vehicle? ›

Save Money. Taking public transit will save you up to four times the amount you would spend driving your own vehicle. Daily use of your personal vehicle can incur maintenance costs as well as other penalties such as parking fees, emission tickets, and speeding fines.

Is public transportation a good thing? ›

Public transportation can convey many more people in much less space than individual automobiles, which helps to keep traffic congestion lower, which in turn reduces air pollution from idling vehicles, and helps riders avoid the stress that comes from daily driving in highly congested areas.

What are 3 main disadvantages of the modern means of transport? ›

  • Loss of Goods: Because goods in bulk quantities are carried chances of goods getting lost are high in case of railway transport as compared to air and road transport.
  • Unsafe for transporting fragile Items.
  • Unsuitable for Short Distances.
  • Unsuitable for Rural Areas.
  • High Speed over Long Distances.

What are two disadvantages of transport? ›

Disadvantages of road transport for international trade
  • long distances overland can take more time.
  • there can be traffic delays and breakdowns.
  • there is the risk of goods being damaged, especially over long distances.
  • toll charges are high in some countries.
  • some countries have different road and traffic regulations.

Is public transportation a social issue? ›

Many do not realize that transportation is a socioeconomic issue just as much as it is about pollution or traffic congestion. It is a subject that is interconnected with class, race, ability, urban planning and so much more.

Is public transport good or bad for the environment? ›

The environmental effects of transport are significant because transport is a major user of energy, and burns most of the world's petroleum. This creates air pollution, including nitrous oxides and particulates, and is a significant contributor to global warming through emission of carbon dioxide.

How does taking public transport help the environment? ›

Use public transport

Did you know that a car with a driver uses 9 times the energy used by a bus? The same car also uses 12 times that of a train on a per passenger-kilometre travelled basis. Using public transport lowers your carbon footprint.

Do you feel public transport is eco friendly? ›

Public transport, which has operated with the focus on public convenience, is focusing on being eco-friendly these days. Using public transport itself helps reducing exhaust gas, but now there are continuous efforts to operate public transport in eco-friendly vehicles.

Does public transport improve economy? ›

An effectively functioning public transport system can increase productivity for the economy as a whole by enhancing access to jobs, increasing business and freight movement efficiently, and through easing growing road congestion pressures.

How does transportation benefit society? ›

Transportation moves people and goods to different neighborhoods, cities, states, and countries; and it allows people in those various places to trade and do business together.

Why is lack of public transportation a problem? ›

This disproportionately affects lower-income and marginalized communities that already face disparities. Public transportation is safer, cheaper, and more fuel-efficient than travel in private vehicles. Overall, it's estimated that public transportation saves the United States 6 billion gallons of gasoline a year.

What are the effects of poor public transportation? ›

Inadequate public transportation can also increase social isolation, particularly for older populations and people with disabilities or others who do not drive. This can increase the risk for early mortality, depression, and dementia.

What is the most serious disadvantage of public transport? ›

Disadvantages of Public Transportation
  • Some public transport systems are quite bad.
  • Long waiting times.
  • Unreliable in many regions.
  • Delays may imply problems at work.
  • Less flexibility regarding detours.
  • Transportation of heavy goods may be a problem.
  • Higher chance for infections with diseases.
  • Pretty crowded at rush hour.

What is pros vs cons? ›

The pros and cons of something are its advantages and disadvantages, which you consider carefully so that you can make a sensible decision.

What are pros and cons? ›

the favorable and the unfavorable factors or reasons; advantages and disadvantages.

Which is negative pros or cons? ›

When weighing options, we use “pros” to describe positives while using cons to describe negatives. The idiom “pro and con” compares the advantages and disadvantages of something with the intention to aid in the decision-making process.

What will happen if there is no transportation? ›

Without transportation, many people would not be able to get to work, causing labour shortages. People also would not be able to go to stores, banks, different places, to doctors in case of any emergency. They would have to get around by themselves, and it would be a lot harder for everyone around the world.

What are the pros of transportation? ›

Here's a look at eight transportation benefits to consider:
  • Improves Community Health. ...
  • Economic Benefits to the Community. ...
  • Improves Fuel Efficiency. ...
  • Public Transportation Reduces Air Pollution. ...
  • Improves Road Congestion. ...
  • Improves Community Mobility. ...
  • Provides an Equitable Transportation System.
Jan 25, 2021

What are the three disadvantages of using transport? ›

Disadvantages of road transport for international trade
  • long distances overland can take more time.
  • there can be traffic delays and breakdowns.
  • there is the risk of goods being damaged, especially over long distances.
  • toll charges are high in some countries.
  • some countries have different road and traffic regulations.

What are the 3 benefits of travelling? ›

  • Traveling Improves Your Health. ...
  • Traveling Lets You Disconnect From Your Daily Life. ...
  • Traveling Makes You Smarter. ...
  • Traveling Improves Your Understanding Of Other Cultures. ...
  • Traveling Makes You More Interesting. ...
  • Traveling Allows You To Try Amazing Food. ...
  • Traveling Makes You Feel Like An Adventurer.
Dec 15, 2019

What are 5 benefits of traveling? ›

7 Benefits of Traveling
  • Traveling Makes You More Mentally and Physically Healthy. ...
  • Traveling Can Improve Your Communication Skills. ...
  • Traveling Can Expand Your Horizons. ...
  • Traveling Can Make You More Mindful of Other People's Culture and Values. ...
  • Traveling Can Help You Make Memorable Memories.

What are the negative effects of travelling? ›

Tourism often puts pressure on natural resources through over-consumption, often in places where resources are already scarce. Tourism puts enormous stress on local land use, and can lead to soil erosion, increased pollution, natural habitat loss, and more pressure on endangered species.


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