Free fare public transport policy: study case Frýdek-Místek

Guest post by Daniel Štraub

Frýdek-Místek is third-tier middle-sized city (56 000 residents) located on the northeast side of the Czechia close to the border with Poland. This region together with other cities at this location like Ostrava and Havirov on the Czech side, or Bialsko-Biala and Katowice in Poland, could be characterized as multinational industrial area. Due to it the whole region is well integrated in to local, national and European transport network system. Increasing intensity of transit and local transportation is causing many problems in Frýdek-Místek while the current state of transportation network can’t meet the ongoing demands.

The crucial problem for the city is the absence of the highway bypass which would reduce the traffic volume at the city centre. Growing traffic intensity has negative imprint on the quality not only of the transportation system of the city but also on the quality of life of its inhabitants. Such a state together with the decreasing patronage of the public transport service was the main force which drove city planning authorities to experiment with the free fare public transport policy back in 2011.

The main objectives of the implementation of the ffpt scheme was to reduce the intensity of growing car use (and its externalities), increase the decreasing usage of public transportation service and to provide its citizens with free transport as a substitution of the transportation related problems at the given area.

Fares are abolished not only for residents of the Frýdek-Místek but also for residents which live in surrounding municipalities which wanted to take a part in the free-fare public transport system. What at the beginning was just a project for one city is now at 2019 popular service which is free to use for the citizens of all 19 municipalities. Major improvements of the quality of the public transport service (new modern fleet) with enlarging its scheme is one of the major reason why the city successfully reach one of the objective – increase the usage of the service – as we could see at the fig. 1 below. The total amount of the passengers increases during the first year by 17 % comparing it to 2010 and such a trend is possible to observe till 2016 where the public transport service use more than 7 million passengers.

Figure 1: Ridership. Source: authors own draft based on the research

Unfortunately, it is not easy to say if the implementation of the free fare public transport scheme significantly reduces the traffic intensity. As we already know from the academic debate over the topic of fftp, the concept itself is able at some extent to encourage drivers to switch from their vehicles and use public transport instead. At the moment we do not have any further data which would either confirm or deny such an effect in Frýdek-Místek.

If you want to read more about this case, you could check the bachelor thesis which is focusing on the issues of ffpt and Frýdek-Místek. (Czech language + abstract EN)