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Beyond Chicagoland

SBC Writers Discussed the Feasibility of Free Transit on WBEZ’s Worldview

12:09 PM CDT on April 12, 2018

A tram in Tallin, Estonia, where transit is free for residents. Photo: Wikipedia

Yesterday Streetsblog reporter James Porter and myself dropped by WBEZ, Chicago's NPR affiliate, to talk with Worldview host Jerome McDonnell about an idea that's so darn crazy it just might work: Free CTA service, or at least reduced fares for low-income Chicagoans. As James recently reported, this progressive policy was brought up at a Metropolitan Planning Council discussion of Chicago segregation by Jahmal Cole, who leads the nonprofit My Block, My Hood, My City. I took a deeper dive into the issue in a Chicago Reader column, looking at the success of free transit in Tallinn, Estonia, where the practice is credited with actually generating more revenue for the city.

In our discussion with Jerome, we discussed best practices from other parts of the world and the U.S., possible unintended consequences and how they could be mitigated, and the importance of political will for shifting the focus  of local transportation funding from highways to transit. Listen to the full Worldview segment here.

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