Kansas City, Missouri, will make bus rides free next year, becoming the first major metropolis in the U.S. to provide no-fare public transit.
The move is an attempt to spur more economic activity by subsidizing mobility for residents. City officials hope that the expense—roughly $9 million annually—will recoup at least that much through a more vibrant economy.
Several smaller U.S. cities including Vail, Colorado and Chapel Hill, North Carolina offer free bus service. Typically, the result has been strong ridership growth.
Skeptics in Kansas City question whether bus service is convenient enough to spur the kind of growth produced by the city’s 2.2-mile downtown streetcar line. That service has spurred more than a $2 billion property value increase since opening in 2015. Ridership has grown steadily, and city residents recently voted to double the line’s length.