Lawrence Transit will begin 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 on August 16, 2022. The Fare Free Pilot Program is expected to positively impact several areas of the City’s Strategic Plan and streamline transit operations.
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.
Status + Timeline + Next Steps
Project Start: January 2023
Project End: December 2023
Milestone 1: Public Transit Advisory Committee (PTAC) recommended approval of pilot program – March 2020 – Completed
Milestone 2: City Commission approval of pilot program – May 2020-June 2022 – Completed
Milestone 3: Quarter 1 impact evaluation – April 2023 – Not Started
Milestone 4: Quarter 2 impact evaluation – July 2023 – Not Started
Milestone 5: Quarter 3 impact evaluation – October 2023 – Not Started
Milestone 6: Program extension feasibility report – October 2023 – Not Started
Milestone 7: Quarter 4 impact evaluation – January 2024 – Not Started
Lawrence Transit staff will begin an information and education campaign in Fall 2022 to inform and educate existing and future riders about the upcoming Fare Free Pilot Program. Of particular importance is ensuring that current riders use all digital and paper fares by December 31, 2022.