The STM recently announced that more new Azur cars will be added to the Metro's fleet to replace the 50 year old original trains.
Photo Credit: STM

Free public transit a growing global movement


Free public transit was a rallying cry for many citizens in Montreal back in the 1970’s when it was Canada’s largest city.

At the time, its metro (subway) system was one of the best in the world and the bus routes moved people effectively.

Today, the metro system has had only minor expansions, the same subway cars still make up the majority of the fleet, and breakdowns and delays are becoming more and more common.

Jason Prince, a Montreal Urban Planner says it is time to make public transit free to the more than a million people in Montreal who use it.


With his co-editor, Judith Dellheim of Germany, Price is releasing a book this week entitled: ‘Free Public Transit: And Why We Don’t Pay to Ride Elevators‘.

In about 100 cities we have completely free mass transit at a muncipal level; some of them are very small municipalities and the biggest one is Talinn”

Free Public Transport and the provocative title that might open the discussion about its role in cities. © Black Rose Books

Prince says in researching the chapter about Montreal’s free-transit movement in the 1970’s, he discovered there are 100 cities in the world that have experimented with the idea.

He says it all began with the example of Bologna, Italy.

Following the Second World War, the city council was keen to engage the citizens and rethink the role of the automobile.

“It was through these public consultations that they embarked on about a year and a half experiment in free public transportation as part of a battery of other things they did to really return the city-centre, this beautiful old city-centre, to the people and to the pedestrians and bicycles and anything but automobiles.”

Prince says it was this model that worked in Bologna that was then exported to many cities around the world, including Montreal, which began pushing the idea in the 1970’s.

The demand for free public transit is renewed now due to the combined developments of growing inequality and urban poverty as well as the climate crisis and the dependence on fossil fuels.

The global leader and great example Prince says is Tallinn, the capital of Estonia.

In 2013 a political party pushed the idea of free public transit for everyone in a referendum, and the results have surprised many people.

“Ironically” Prince says, “the city came out ahead financially because if you’re a resident of Tallinn, you have free public transit so people started moving back to the city, or register themselves as citizens to pay their taxes in Tallinn, so they made money on the deal actually.”

“In about 100 cities we have completely free mass transit at a municipal level; some of them are very small municipalities and the biggest one is Talinn.” Prince says.

Most cities use the move in a targetted way; it may be free for children, or seniors, or during rush hour.

Montreal is having municipal elections on November 5th, and with massive infrastructure construction projects on expressways that have caused major problems for commuters, the time may be right for more experiments with free access to the public transit system.

Categories: Economy, Environment, International

Do you want to report an error or a typo? Click here!

@*@ Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available

Note: By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that Radio Canada International has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Radio Canada International does not endorse any of the views posted. Your comments will be pre-moderated and published if they meet netiquette guidelines.

Netiquette »

When you express your personal opinion in an online forum, you must be as courteous as if you were speaking with someone face-to-face. Insults and personal attacks will not be tolerated. To disagree with an opinion, an idea or an event is one thing, but to show disrespect for other people is quite another. Great minds don’t always think alike—and that’s precisely what makes online dialogue so interesting and valuable.

Netiquette is the set of rules of conduct governing how you should behave when communicating via the Internet. Before you post a message to a blog or forum, it’s important to read and understand these rules. Otherwise, you may be banned from posting.

  1.’s online forums are not anonymous. Users must register, and give their full name and place of residence, which are displayed alongside each of their comments. reserves the right not to publish comments if there is any doubt as to the identity of their author.
  2. Assuming the identity of another person with intent to mislead or cause harm is a serious infraction that may result in the offender being banned.
  3.’s online forums are open to everyone, without regard to age, ethnic origin, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
  4. Comments that are defamatory, hateful, racist, xenophobic, sexist, or that disparage an ethnic origin, religious affiliation or age group will not be published.
  5. In online speak, writing in ALL CAPS is considered yelling, and may be interpreted as aggressive behaviour, which is unpleasant for the people reading. Any message containing one or more words in all caps (except for initialisms and acronyms) will be rejected, as will any message containing one or more words in bold, italic or underlined characters.
  6. Use of vulgar, obscene or objectionable language is prohibited. Forums are public places and your comments could offend some users. People who use inappropriate language will be banned.
  7. Mutual respect is essential among users. Insulting, threatening or harassing another user is prohibited. You can express your disagreement with an idea without attacking anyone.
  8. Exchanging arguments and opposing views is a key component of healthy debate, but it should not turn into a dialogue or private discussion between two users who address each other without regard for the other participants. Messages of this type will not be posted.
  9. Radio Canada International publishes contents in five languages. The language used in the forums has to be the same as the contents we publish. The usage of other languages, with the exception of some words, is forbidden. Messages that are off-topic will not be published.
  10. Making repetitive posts disrupts the flow of discussions and will not be tolerated.
  11. Adding images or any other type of file to comments is forbidden. Including hyperlinks to other websites is allowed, as long as they comply with netiquette. Radio Canada International  is in no way responsible for the content of such sites, however.
  12. Copying and pasting text written by someone else, even if you credit the author, is unacceptable if that text makes up the majority of your comment.
  13. Posting any type of advertising or call to action, in any form, to Radio Canada International  forums is prohibited.
  14. All comments and other types of content are moderated before publication. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to refuse any comment for publication.
  15. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to close a forum at any time, without notice.
  16. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to amend this code of conduct (netiquette) at any time, without notice.
  17. By participating in its online forums, you allow Radio Canada International to publish your comments on the web for an indefinite time. This also implies that these messages will be indexed by Internet search engines.
  18. Radio Canada International has no obligation to remove your messages from the web if one day you request it. We invite you to carefully consider your comments and the consequences of their posting.


3 comments on “Free public transit a growing global movement
  1. Avatar Lisa says:

    Yes but you’ll want Alberta to pay for it from their fossil fuel fund. You know, the very industry and province you hate on. You act like you care about the climate while importing oil from unregulated countries with no environmental controls or ethics. You line the pockets of dictators but shun the province that supports your social programs. Nothing is free! Someone pays for it, and in Quebec’s case it’s highly regulated fossil fuel producing provinces.
    Good job to the commenter who says there should be more buses because she has to pay to stand. I guess taxpayers should pony up for tons of new transit so you can be comfortable, or did you think it was free? Haha! Your province is the Greece of Canada.

  2. Avatar ion delsol says:

    BC needs a non-binding plebiscite on “Fare Free Transit” more than a plebiscite on How to shift the number of representatives from one party to another. BC needs to vote on policies, not just on just on cosmetics.

  3. Avatar Maurice says:

    I completely agree with the author. If public transport was made more plentiful…more busses at rush hour, efficient and on time, comfortable and affordable..I often have to ride standing up in a crowded overloaded bus that I have to pay for.