City buses will be fare free in 2023

August 18, 2022

Many goods and services are experiencing rising costs these days, but one thing in Lawrence is going to cost much less next year—bus fare! Lawrence Transit will initiate a pilot program to go fare free for the 2023 calendar year for all services (fixed route, T Lift, Night Line, and planned Sunday microtransit).

The Lawrence City Commission approved the proposal at its meeting on Tuesday. The Fare Free Pilot Program is expected to positively impact several areas of the City’s Strategic Plan and streamline transit operations.

“Fare free transit has been a community-driven desire for several years, and the time is right to give it a try,” said Adam Weigel, Transit & Parking Manager. “Two years into a pandemic, rising household costs, and increased federal transit funds have added urgency and opportunity to making the bus free for everyone. We know it will benefit our riders with lower income, and we hope it breaks down a barrier for both existing and new riders to hop on the bus.”

Fare Free Considerations:

  • Ridership has not fully recovered from pandemic impacts that began in March 2020. Fare free programs in other communities have resulted in ridership increases of 20% to 60%. If Lawrence experiences a similar increase, this would have a significant positive impact on several of the City’s Strategic Plan Progress Indicators, which aim to increase transit ridership and shift travelers toward more sustainable modes of transportation.
  • Fare free has a greater impact on people in our community who have less income. To advance community goals around equity, eliminating bus fare can make a tangible difference for many riders.
  • Eliminating bus fares injects money back into the local economy. Riders spending $400 to $1,000 per year on bus fare today can instead invest those dollars back into their family, their homes, food, health care, and retail in Lawrence.
  • Without fares, bus drivers can speed up service without pausing to verify reduced fare eligibility, fill out transfer slips, or manage conflicts that can result from issues at the fare box.
  • The cost and time investment from staff to process fares limits the ability to adequately resource other priorities.

Passengers with existing bus passes should plan to use their fare by December 31, 2022.

The 2023 Fare Free Pilot Program is financially supported by increased federal transit funding. The program will be re-evaluated in Fall 2023 to determine the feasibility of extending the pilot.

Learn more on the Fare Free Pilot Program project page.