Reuters

Around the world, cities let revelers ride for free on New Year’s Eve

This Saturday is International Free Transit Day – though you might know it better by its traditional name: New Year’s Eve.

In a trend spreading to cities all over the world, public transit agencies are turning off their fare boxes and opening their turnstiles for free on New Year’s Eve. A notorious night for alcohol consumption and late-night revelry, New Year’s Eve typically puts police departments on high alert for drunk driving. One study suggests that people are more likely to drive under the influence of alcohol on New Year’s Eve than any other holiday, at least among teens.

Free transit rides are part of an effort to reduce accidents and deaths.

From Las Vegas to Austin to London to Vancouver, transit agencies are hoping to redirect drunk people from their driver’s seats into bus seats. It’s a public safety push, but also – and potentially significantly – a way to get people to use public transit for what may be the first time. The costs, or rather lost revenues, of offering free rides are probably relatively big, but with few if any public transit agencies in the world operating at a profit or without subsidies, opening the gates for one night’s worth of riders isn’t likely to dig a major hole. New York City’s MTA, notably, is not offering free rides.

Some agencies are partnering with sponsors to offset the costs. Free rides are being offered on transit systems in Madison, Milwaukee, Waukesha and the Twin Cities by Miller Lite beer. MillerCoors is also partnering with Denver’s RTD to offer free bus rides and $10 vouchers for cab fares in bars and restaurants in neighboring cities. [Brian Steele at the Chicago Transit Authority writes in to note that Miller's free rides in Chicago are actually on a shuttle service, not through CTA service as previously mentioned. The CTA, for its part, slashes fares to a penny on New Year's Eve. Not quite free, but pretty close...]

To accommodate increased demand, some systems – like the Bay Area Rapid Transit system (BART) – extend their late night service beyond normal operating hours. (It should also be noted, however, that BART will still be charging riders regular fares on New Year’s Eve.)

And while offering free bus trips and subway rides certainly won’t mean an end to drunk driving on New Year’s Eve, it’ll at least take a few would-be deadly drivers off the roads. Maybe next year’s International Free Transit Day will spread even farther.

Photo credit: Lucas Jackson/Reuters

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. a photo of a full parking lot with a double rainbow over it
    Transportation

    Parking Reform Will Save the City

    Cities that require builders to provide off-street parking trigger more traffic, sprawl, and housing unaffordability. But we can break the vicious cycle.   

  2. a photo of a man at a bus stop in Miami
    Transportation

    Very Bad Bus Signs and How to Make Them Better

    Clear wayfinding displays can help bus riders feel more confident, and give a whole city’s public transportation system an air of greater authority.

  3. A photo of President Donald Trump boarding Air Force One
    Equity

    Housing Organizations Slam White House Report on Homelessness

    As Trump targets California’s homeless crisis, a report from his Council of Economic Advisors lays out a policing-heavy blueprint for fixing the issue.

  4. a map comparing the sizes of several cities
    Maps

    The Commuting Principle That Shaped Urban History

    From ancient Rome to modern Atlanta, the shape of cities has been defined by the technologies that allow commuters to get to work in about 30 minutes.

  5. Life

    Mapping the Changing Colors of Fall Across the U.S.

    Much of the country won’t see those vibrant oranges and reds until mid-October, which leaves plenty of time for leaf peepers to plan their autumn road trips.

×