Westchester County Executive George Latimer deserves to be praised for offering residents free bus transportation during the upcoming holiday season and for providing Westchester commuters with free bus service during the summer months. This is an exciting and bold initiative that I hope will eventually lead to Westchester County joining more than 100 cities around the world that currently offer free public transit all year around. Perhaps, Albany and Washington might be willing to provide financial help to local and county governments that offer free public transportation.
Free bus service is catching on nationally. Olympia Washington embraced free bus service this year. The city passed a ballot measure to approve an additional sales tax for public transportation purposes going to fare free options. In other communities private businesses such as the merchants in a shopping mall contribute to the free transportation in the hope that doing so will increase sales. After just one month of the program Olympia saw a 20% increase in ridership compared to the previous year. A majority of the City Council in Washington DC plans to introduce free bus service to the Washington DC area shortly.
In December 2019 Kansas City MO became the first large US city to implement free buses. They did so to allow Kansas City residents improved access opportunities for employment and education. Luxembourg became the first country in the world to make all public transportation (includiing buses, trams and trains) free to use. Malta, Estonia have free service.
Free public transportation has benefits. Road traffic will see decreased congestion. It will be easier to get parking in business districts. There will be fewer accidents. Roads will see reduced wear and tear. And it’s great for the environment.
Let’s have a county dialogue on the benefits of free public transportation year round. And – a big thank you to our County Executive for starting the pilot program. What do you think?
GReenburgh Town Supervisor