Does Fare-Free Equal Free-For-All? A study of fare-free public transport (FFPT) in French cities

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For its proponents, fare-free public transport (FFPT) represents a potential solution to address a variety of urban problems including congestion, air pollution, car dependency and inequality. As of 2019, there are approximately 100 cities worldwide with ‘full’ FFPT, with France having the most of any European country (at least 20). The aim of this research is to examine the extent to which three main ‘motivation factors’, key actors, the institutional context and local conditions have all influenced the decision of various French cities to introduce (or discontinue) FFPT. This research utilises a cross-case study of six French cities with FFPT plus two which have recently discontinued it. For each of the cities, interviews were held or written responses provided by a person from the city or its public transport operator. The different elements were discussed to ascertain their level of influence on the decision to introduce (or discontinue) FFPT. Ultimately it was found that, while the institutional context and local conditions always played a part, it was the economic rationality ‘motivation factor’ and conviction of the mayor and/or other elected representatives that ultimately had the greatest influence on a city’s decision to introduce (or discontinue) FFPT.
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