Free Fare Proposal Getting Attention

Free Fare Proposal Getting Attention

In an effort to reduce traffic congestion, increase air quality, and speed up travel times, Houston blogger and Fellow with the Center for Opportunity Urbanism, Tory Gattis, is proposing that Harris County’s transportation agency implement a free-fair policy going forward.

Last year, Gattis encouraged Metro Chairman Carrin Patman and the rest of the board to halt approval of $100 million in new fare-collection equipment because they’d only be collecting $70 million in revenue.

“$100 (million) could buy and operate enough buses to handle the surge in demand from going fare-less with only a 6 percent revenue loss,” Gattis said.

According to Gattis, only 4.9% of Metro’s budget comes from fares and foregoing that would produce a bigger return in terms of actual ridership.

He says that people are attracted to what’s free and shifting to a free model would also increase the number of discretionary riders, like tourists, who otherwise wouldn’t go through the process of obtaining a Q card. He points to Columbus, which saw a 2-3x increased in downtown ridership, and Estonia which saw a 10% ridership increase when they implemented free fares.

Other benefits, he says, are reduced congestion, increased air quality, reduced drunk driving, and stimulation of local economy. Outgoing Harris County Commissioners Steve Radack has echoed similar sentiments.

According to reports, financial analysts with the organization are currently looking at whether they should move forward with reducing or eliminating fares and they will produce a report for the board.


  • Kevin Whited
    January 10, 2020

    ** In an effort to reduce traffic congestion, increase air quality, and speed up travel times, **

    There’s not strong (or even weak) evidence it would do any of these things,and we’d effectively be enacting a wealth transfer for riders who can already afford to pay.

    If the goal is to help poorer riders (an admirable goal IMO), a more direct, targeted subsidy approach would be far better. And of course, building out the bus network to get those riders where they need to go more effectively – because Reimagining did many of those riders no favors (nor does the penalty that exists for cash-based riders, which is why a better contactless payment like the one in New South Wales was actually a great idea, albeit opposed by one Tory Gattis, who seemed not to understand the concept).

Post a Comment

Thank you! Your subscription has been confirmed. You'll hear from us soon.