Iowa City City Council approves resolution for fare-free transit pilot program

The program doesn’t have a set start date but is expected to begin later this year, and will operate as a two-year pilot program.


Darren Chen

The Iowa City City Council listens to community members during a meeting at City Hall on Tuesday, April 18, 2023.

Archie Wagner, Summer News Editor

The Iowa City City Council unanimously approved a resolution at its June 6 formal meeting that will initiate a two-year zero-fare pilot program on Iowa City transit routes. 

The program is expected to start a review process regarding the program’s success a year in and will report its findings back to the councilors. These findings are expected to include the impact of the program on the community along with options for sustainable revenue. 

At the meeting, City Manager Geoff Fruin said zero-fare transit systems are gaining more interest across the country and can be expected to increase transit use based on data from other communities. 

“We expect that it could boost our ridership by 20 to 60 percent, which not only helps us reach equity goals but also climate action goals that are both contained in the city’s strategic plan,” Fruin said. 

He said a sustainable funding source to continue the program past the two-year pilot is yet to be identified. 

“Our hope is that we can launch this in the late summer or early fall of this year,” Fruin said. 

In preparation for the switch, Fruin said, logistics need to be worked out to transition from a pass system to a fare-free system. 

RELATED: Iowa City working on a zero-fare transit system 

Mark Rummel, associate director of transportation services for Iowa City, said the main hardware focus is on covering the fare boxes rather than removing the objects. 

Iowa City City Councilor Andrew Dunn spoke in support of the authorization for the transit pilot program. 

“I don’t think this should be the place where we stop with expanding public transportation in your community, but this is a fantastic, great first step that I don’t think should be overlooked,”  Dunn said.