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Lowering and abolishing fares: a step towards mobility of the future?

Organizers: Wojciech Kĺbţowski (1,2); Monika Maciejewska (1); Merlin Gillard (1,3)
From: (1) Vrije Universiteit Brussel (COSMOPOLIS), (2) Université Libre de Bruxelles (IGARD), (3) LISER - Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research
Keywords: Public transport, fares, fare-free public transport, transport policy

Public transport (PT) fares are gaining significant attention among academics, activists and policy-makers alike, becoming a key question for the future of passenger mobility. While the transport industry usually approaches fares as a chiefly technical instrument of collecting revenue and controlling passengers, it is increasingly apparent that pricing PT may have important social, political and environmental consequences, in particular when fares are significantly lowered or abolished entirely.

Across diverse geographical contexts, fare-free public transport (FFPT) advocates —representing heterogeneous academic fields, activist groups, and public institutions— claim that offering unconditional access to PT directly contributes to social and spatial justice, addresses climate change, and challenges the capitalist logic of urban development, well beyond the field of transport and mobility. Meanwhile, although FFPT remains a marginal policy, its popularity is on the rise, whether implemented in urban settings or for train travel, and temporarily (e.g. during the COVID-19 pandemic) or permanently.

Lowering and abolishing PT fares can have diverse impacts on the geography of our common future. The price of PT can affect how people move around and access opportunities, and it can also influence land use patterns, economic development, and environmental quality. Therefore, understanding these potential impacts is crucial to help policymakers, planners, and other stakeholders make informed decisions about the future of their PT systems and the communities they serve.

In this session, we intend to explore diverse economic, social, political and environmental aspects of the policies of lowering/abolishing fares in PT networks. We consider fares to be a crucial element in any conceptualisation of the future of mobility, across scales.

Thus, we welcome theoretical or empirical papers that may take up (but are not limited to) the following questions:

The “arrival” of low/abolished fares: motivations, stakeholders and institutions, power relations, regulatory frameworks

The role of political ideologies to support or oppose fare reduction/abolition

Low/abolished fares as a strategy for “commoning” mobility

The social geography of low/abolished fares: in terms of class, ethnicity/race, gender or age – accessibility, opportunities, social inclusion

The impact of low/abolished fares on travel behaviour and modal split

The financial aspects of lowering/abolishing fares

Lowering/abolished fares as a “mobile” policy: geography of policy circulation and transfer 

The geographical diversity of low/abolished fares

Research challenges in analysing the impact of lowering/abolishing fares

The impact of lowering/abolishing fares on fare control and evasion

- session format: presentations- session language: English- a sentence to be added: "Please send a short (up to 250 words ?) abstract along with your name, email address, and affiliation by XXX (deadline)

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