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Why (not) abolish fares? Exploring the global geography of fare-free public transport

  • Wojciech KębłowskiEmail author
Article

Abstract

Although the policy of abolishing fares in public transport—here referred to as “fare-free public transport” (FFPT)—exists in nearly 100 localities worldwide, it has not been thoroughly researched. To start filling this gap, I enhance the conceptual clarity about fare abolition. I start by providing a definition of FFPT, discussing its different forms, and introducing a distinction between “partial” FFPT and—the main focus of the paper—“full” FFPT. Next, I distinguish three perspectives on full FFPT—first, approaches that assess fare abolition primarily against its economic impact; second, analyses that look at its contribution to “sustainable” development; third, more critical arguments highlighting its politically transformative and socially just potential. Against the background of this debate I offer the most comprehensive inventory of full FFPT programmes to date, and begin to chart and examine their global geography. As a result, FFPT emerges as a policy that takes diverse forms and exists in diverse locations. Supported and contested by diverse rationales, it cannot be analysed as transport instrument alone.

Keywords

Fare-free public transport Public transport Urban transport Transport policy Transport geography Fares 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This paper has benefitted from critical conversations with a great deal of fellow researchers and friends—none of whom, needless to say, bears any responsibility for the arguments presented above. I want to thank Mathieu Van Criekingen and David Bassens, my doctoral supervisors, for their relentless trust in my ability, and interest in my work. I am indebted to Kobe Boussauw, Frédéric Dobruszkes, Anna Plyushteva, Stijn Oosterlynck and Tim Schwanen, for the attention they gave to my work, and their generous comments and critiques. I am further grateful to my interviewees in diverse sites of fare abolition, for opening their doors to a young and over-inquisitive scholar. Last, but most certainly not least, I want to thank Laura Martinez Alonso—for her kindness, wisdom, patience, and for her help with transforming my text into maps.

Funding

The funding was provided by Innoviris (BE) (Grant No. 2014 PRFB 16).

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.COSMOPOLIS Centre for Urban ResearchVrije Universiteit BrusselBrusselsBelgium
  2. 2.Institut de Gestion de l’Environnement et d’Aménagement du Territoire (IGEAT)Université Libre de BruxellesBrusselsBelgium

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