Free Public Transit in Canada?

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A Socialist Project e-bulletin ... No. 1985 ... January 26, 2020

Free Public Transit in Canada?

Madelin Burt-D’Agnillo

In the last year or so, a debate about the merits of free transit (or more accurately, fare-free transit) is making its way into public discourse in Canada. While fare-free transit is a model that has served international cities (many based in Europe or South America) for years, its a model that has only recently started to gain substantive consideration in North America.

Increasingly, community groups advocating for fair fares, fare-free transit, and even organized fare-evasion are growing in number and visibility. But those in opposition to fare-free transit are also voicing their concerns about the practicalities and costs of implementing free transit, especially when many transit systems face huge repair backlogs (cough cough Toronto) or embarrassing failures of new infrastructure (cough cough Ottawa).

And cities are not the only jurisdictions that have entered into this conversation. In the last Canadian election, the federal NDP ran on a platform of supporting municipalities in transitioning to fare-free models of public transit. In Ontario, a provincial Liberal leadership... candidate is also campaigning on this platform. Clearly, this is a policy choice that some politicians are willing to explore.

People who support fare-free transit often analogize it to other public services: we don’t pay for police officers and firefighters out of pocket, or pay an entrance fee to visit a community park or at the entrance to a public school. These services are funded collectively by tax-payers and collectively we reap the benefits.

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