Options For Free Or Reduced-Price Public Transportation And Cost-Efficient Rides

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Most major cities in the U.S. have multiple modes of public transportation that are meant to be affordable and accessible to all. In many cases, there are programs in place to make transportation free or reduced-price for low-income individuals and many other members of the community. If you don’t have access to a personal vehicle, don’t fret. Here’s what you need to know: 

This article will answer the following questions about public transit: 

Is it possible to reduce the cost of public transportation?

What reduced fare programs exist in my city?

What general recommendations should I follow to save on public transportation?

Are there any programs for seniors or people with disabilities?                                                                     

What options do I have for public transportation?

Is it possible to reduce the cost of public transportation?

First and foremost, is a great website to get information on free or reduced bus fares and even help paying for your vehicle or gas for your vehicle if you don’t use public transportation. Plus, this website is good to keep in mind for help with paying bills, food assistance, and more. All you have to do is enter your zip code and you will see resources in your area in seconds, and you can view the website in Spanish. 

Other options for saving money or getting transportation assistance include seeking out gas vouchers or downloading money-saving apps. These will help you save a few cents per gallon, earn rewards, and often find the cheapest gas in your area. 

If you are a high school or college student, public transportation is almost always free or included in the cost of your tuition. All you need to do is present your student ID when you get on the bus or train. 

Kids under 12 usually ride buses and subways free as well, without any proof of ID or extra steps taken. 

Some individuals may be eligible for reduced fare programs. 

What reduced fare programs exist in my city?

Most, if not all, major cities offer free or reduced fare programs for buses, trains, and subways, so try searching for them online! For example, if you search, “Los Angeles reduced bus fare,” you will be able to find the city’s reduced fare programs

This specific program extends to Seniors 65 and older, Medicare card holders, active-duty military personnel, and riders with disabilities (criteria is similar in most cities) and it only costs $3 and lasts 2 years. 

Here are a few examples of programs in some major cities:

Phoenix, Arizona

Chicaco, Illinois

Dallas, Texas

Houston, Texas

Las Vegas, Nevada

New York, New York

What general recommendations should I follow to save on public transport?

Generally, most major cities also offer monthly (sometimes even longer) bus or train passes. This is an easy way to save money if you aren’t eligible for reduced fare programs. 

Most rideshare companies like Lyft and Uber offer promotions and free rides when you sign up for the app for the first time. This is an easy way to get in a few free rides. 

And of course, walking, riding your bike, and carpooling are easy ways to save money getting where you need to go!

Are there any programs for seniors or people with disabilities? 

Reduced fare programs usually extend to seniors and people with disabilities.

If you need a ride to and from non-emergency medical visits, search for your local Nonemergency Medical Transportation (NEMT) program online. You should be able to find a free ride to medical and dental appointments and even to the pharmacy. 

Check with your city or insurance provider to see what other options are available. 

Uber has its own program in place called Uber Health that allows medical offices to schedule rides on behalf of their patients. Check with your medical provider to see if they are part of the program. 

What options do I have for public transportation?

Public transportation options vary by city, and are more widely available in larger cities than they are in small towns. The best way to find out what is available is to search online, use the website or call 2-1-1 to speak with someone who can help you locate local options where you live. 

Options usually include buses, trains, subways, and rideshares or carpool programs. Now, there are bicycle and scooter rental options available in major cities that are great when you have a short commute and often cost less than a rideshare. However, use caution!

Some special occasions call for free rides for all. Oftentimes during holidays, major city events, or voting periods, public transportation will be completely free. 

Thalia Carrillo is a writer based in Austin, TX. She moved from her hometown of El Paso, TX to pursue a journalism degree at The University of Texas at Austin. She enjoys covering politics and pop culture and has a passion for social justice, digital storytelling, plants, and specialty coffee!