D.C. Could Join Growing List of Cities Offering Free Public Transit

Street road in Farragut West neighborhood of city, building exterior facade office during day, architecture, metrobus, intersection


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Street road in Farragut West neighborhood of city, building exterior facade office during day, architecture, metrobus, intersection

A Free Ride

In a major step toward establishing free public transit in Washington, D.C., the city council unanimously voted to subsidize all bus fares. If the bill is passed and adopted, the district will be the most populous city in the U.S. to offer free transit. Washington's transit victory is part of a larger push to democratize transport across the country. While climate change and racial justice have galvanized transit activists, free transit experiments during the pandemic also helped the movement build momentum. Here are the 4 largest U.S. cities with free public transit.

Related: 25 Cities With Great Public Transportation

Downtown Kansas City Skyline Streetcar

Kansas City, Missouri

Population: 508,394

Program Duration: 2020-2023

After a unanimous city council vote in 2019, Kansas City became the first major U.S. city to offer universal fare-free transit with its ZeroFare KC program. To fund the three-year project, Kansas City supplemented its budget with federal pandemic money and private funding. ZeroFare KC isn't without its problems, however. Local outlet KCUR reports that access to routes remains scant, buses are understaffed, and delays are common.

Related: The 20 Safest Big Cities in the U.S.

Richmond Skyline Aerial View

Richmond, Virginia

Population: 226,604

Program Duration: 2020-2025

To reduce contact between riders and drivers during the pandemic, the Greater Richmond Transit Company (GRTC) stopped collecting bus fares in 2020. That policy will continue until 2025 thanks to a combination of donations, grant money, and federal COVID-19 funding. Richmond's transit system mainly serves low-income residents, with the majority riders making less than $25,000 a year, according to a GRTC press release.

Related: 22 Cities Where You Can Live Car-Free

Worcester, Massachusetts Skyline

Worcester, Massachusetts

Population: 205,918

Program Duration: 2020-2023

Like Richmond, Worcester Regional Transit Authority (WRTA) has extended its fare-free pandemic policy, making up for lost revenue with federal funding. This year, the transit system is on track to hit 3 million riders, its highest ridership in three years. Despite its popularity, the program's future will be uncertain once the WRTA runs out of public funds.

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DASH metro bus on the road traveling to Alexandria

Alexandria, Virginia

Population: 154,706

Program Duration: 2020-TBD

In Alexandria, just south of Washington, residents have been riding fare free since the early days of the pandemic. With the help of state funding, Alexandria extended that policy in 2021 as part of a city-wide bus overhaul, which also increased the frequency of service and improved access to transit. Ridership remains high at 95% of pre-pandemic levels, though state funding for the program is set to run out in 2025.