Lawrence bus service to be free to ride in 2023 as part of yearlong pilot program
photo by: Rochelle Valverde
The City of Lawrence is set to begin a yearlong pilot program that will make city buses free to ride in 2023.
All Lawrence Transit services will be free beginning Monday, Jan. 2, including the city’s regular fixed-route bus service, paratransit service, the Night Line and the new “microtransit” service, which will operate on Sundays, according to a city news release.
The Fare Free Pilot Program is financially supported by increased federal transit funding. The program will be re-evaluated in Fall 2023 to determine the feasibility of extending the pilot. Microtransit, which will operate on Sundays when regular routes do not run, will operate similar to on-demand ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft, but utilize transit vehicles.
Lawrence Transit ridership has not fully recovered from declines amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and the release states it is the city’s hope that the fare free pilot can help increase ridership. Fare free programs in other communities have resulted in ridership increases of 20% to 60%. Other benefits the city cited include a positive impact on lower-income residents, allowing them to spend fare dollars on other needs.
The Lawrence Transit website, lawrencetransit.org, includes information and resources for using public transit, including trip planning tools and links to apps that use real-time data to show when a bus will arrive at a particular stop. Those who have not used Lawrence Transit before can also receive guided hands-on experience though the city’s Travel Training program, and may contact the program at email@example.com.
The pilot program was recommended by the Public Transit Advisory Committee and approved by city leaders earlier this year, as the Journal-World previously reported. Lawrence Transit is funded using local transit sales tax revenue, state and federal transit funds, and fare revenue, with fares making up a small percentage of overall revenue. Before the pandemic, revenue from fares accounted for about 6% of the transit service’s operating costs. In 2020 and 2021, that dropped to 3%, as fare revenue declined and federal funding increased.