LAWRENCE (KSNT)- With the rise in costs for many goods and services around the country, the City of Lawrence hopes that it can help its residents out by making bus rides free next year.

Lawrence Transit will initiate a pilot program to go fare free for the entirety of 2023 for all services which includes fixed route, T Lift, Night Line and planned Sunday microtransit. This decision was made during the Lawrence City Commission meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 16. The Fare Free Pilot Program is expected to help several areas of the city’s Strategic Plan and streamline transit operations.

“Fare free transit has been a community-driven desire for several years, and the time is right to give it a try,” said Adam Weigel, Transit & Parking Manager. “Two years into a pandemic, rising household costs, and increased federal transit funds have added urgency and opportunity to making the bus free for everyone. We know it will benefit our riders with lower income, and we hope it breaks down a barrier for both existing and new riders to hop on the bus.”

Fare free programs in other communities resulted in ridership increases between 20 and 60%. A similar increase in Lawrence would have a positive impact on the city’s Strategic Plan Progress Indicators that aim to increase ridership and shift travelers toward sustainable modes of transportation.

It is also expected to impact positively low income families and inject cash back into the local economy. As most riders spend anywhere between $400 to $1,000 per year on bus fare, implementing the fare free program will give them additional cash in pocket for other needs. Bus rides will speed up as well as drivers will no longer need to stop to verify reduced fare eligibility, fill out transfer slips or manage conflicts that can result from issues at the fare box.

Those who have existing bus passes should plan to use their fare by Dec. 31, 2022. The 2023 Fare Free Pilot Program is financially supported by increased federal transit funding. It will be re-evaluated in Fall 2023 to determine the feasibility of extending the pilot.