Does free public transit result in increased ridership? Not always, says Madeline Brozen (Assoc. Dir. for External Relations at the Lewis Center)

December 7, 2016
The Eiffel Tower and The Invalides dome, right, are seen from the Montparnasse Tower, as Paris suffered a pollution spike this week.
Francois Mori/AP

Madeline Brozen of the UCLA Lewis Center and the Institute of Transportation Studies recently commented on Paris’ free public transit day, an effort to counter excessive air pollution by making public transportation free and instituting a driving ban for cars with even-numbered license plates. According to Brozen, the efficacy of this strategy was limited by Paris’ size and its transit systems’ unpreparedness to accommodate drastic increases in ridership. Ultimately, Brozen says, free public transit in large cities may compromise quality of service, thereby discouraging ridership. She cited UCLA’s free transportation program—which increased ridership by 50 percent and reduced traffic—as an instance in which free public transportation worked well on a smaller scale.

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