Cities Where Riding the Bus Is Free

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Permanent free public transportation is on its way to our nation’s capital. Washington D.C.’s city council recently approved a plan to drop the $2 Metrobus fare for riders who board buses within the city limits. Several other major cities, including Boston and Denver, are considering implementing similar zero-fare policies to recover commuter numbers that were lost during the pandemic.

Despite ridership going down as millions of people began working from home, public transportation proved indispensable to many essential workers in 2020. To ensure that residents and workers could reach jobs and crucial services without a financial burden, some cities, including Los Angeles, temporarily suspended fares during the peak of the pandemic. Many of them have extended their zero-fare policies with continued city funding. (These are the most affordable metros for commuters.)

To determine cities that offer free bus rides, 24/7 Tempo consulted a list compiled by MoneyWise, a financial news and information site, as well as local transit sites. Population and commuter numbers are 2021 5-year estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Communities Survey. 

Some areas are ahead of the game. Riders in Cache Valley, Utah, and Island County, Washington, have enjoyed free public transportation for over a decade. Others, like Albuquerque, have just recently implemented pilot programs that will offer free transit to bus riders while conducting studies on the impact of fare-free transportation in the community.

It’s not just commuters who can take advantage of free buses. Some larger cities offer limited free routes in downtown business and shopping districts. Baltimore’s Charm City Circulator, for example, is a fleet of 24 free shuttles that run along four routes in the city’s central business district. Cleveland, Denver, and Scottsdale, Arizona, offer similar free service through popular shopping areas.

Some smaller cities, including Crested Butte, Colorado, and Park City, Utah, are tourist destinations that offer free shuttles to ski areas and outdoor trails. Other small cities like Corvallis, Oregon, feature transit systems that are completely fare-free throughout all corners of the city, while New Mexico’s North Central Regional Transit District connects cities in four northern counties with free bus lines. (Here are small cities with the best public transportation.)

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