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How Free Transit Works in the United States

Chapel Hill has been a fare-free system since 2002 and is still going strong.
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Earlier this year the Estonian capital of Tallinn became the largest city in the world — with a population exceeded 400,000 — to make its transit system free. Tallinn marks the latest in a growing trend toward fare-free transit on the Continent. The city is joining others to form the Free Public Transport European Network in an effort to spread the idea even farther.

It seems unlikely that American cities will take a cue from Tallinn, but those considering a fare-free system have a ready example in the United States: Chapel Hill. Since going fare-free back in 2002, Chapel Hill Transit has seen ridership increase from around 3 million passengers a year to just about 7 million. The system is now the second-largest in North Carolina and helped Chapel Hill win a City Livability Award back in 2009.