..since the beginning annual passenger trips have grown from 450,000 in 1992 to 2,000,000 in 2011.
If you’re in the middle of a capital city, chances are you’re not too far from a free public transport service. Find one near you with Lifehacker’s comprehensive guide to free public transport in Australia.
Picture by Graham Lees
This is an updated version of our guide from last year, reflecting the changes that have happened since then and incorporating additional reader suggestions. Most of the free options are heavily geared towards tourists, which often means limited hours in the evening and, in some cases, weekends. Even if you’re a local, free services can be useful when the weather turns nasty.
If you combine this list with our guide to cheap airport transfers, you can enjoy a visit to any of Australia’s major cities without spending a fortune. The links to each service provide detailed timetable information. (Double-check if you’re planning to use one on a public holiday, as many don’t operate then.)
The 555 bus runs in a loop in both directions between Circular Quay and Central Station. The frequency is pretty good — once every 10 minutes. On weekdays, it runs from 9:30am to 3:30pm (extended to 9:00pm on Thursdays). On weekends, it operates from 9:30am to 6:00pm.
The City Circle Tram is Melbourne’s most prominent free option, running every 12 minutes around the outer edge of the Melbourne CBD (both clockwise and anti-clockwise). It runs between 10:00am and 6:00pm Sunday to Wednesday, and 10:00am to 9:00pm Thursday to Saturday. The City Tourist Shuttle bus offers more access to tourist destinations, but is less frequent and slower. It runs every 30 minutes, takes 90 minutes to do a full loop, and operates between 9:30am and 4:30pm daily.
If you’re an early riser, trains in Melbourne are free prior to 7am. However, you’ll need an Early Bird metcard, which is only available from premium stations, and your journey must finish before 7am.
Brisbane offers a pair of loop buses, one for the CBD covering the main area of the city and one for Spring Hill. The CBD loop runs 07:00am to 6:00pm , with departures every 15 minutes. Spring Hill runs from 06:52am to 6:00pm, with departures every 10 minutes. Annoyingly, neither service runs on weekends or public holidays.
Perth has by far the broadest range of free options for any city. With the Free Transit Zone (which essentially covers the CBD, as you can see on the map, you can catch any bus or train for free. Note that the entire journey has to be within the free zone, and that if you want to use a train you’ll need a SmartRider card (since Perth has stations with electronic gates).
There are also three free CAT bus services which operate entirely within the free CBD area: the east-west Red and Yellow services, and the North-South Blue service. Services generally operate from around 06:00am to 07:00pm on weekdays, with frequencies of roughly once every seven minutes. Weekends have later starting times and lower frequencies. Outside the city, there are free CAT buses which operate in Fremantle and Joondalup (though the latter don’t run on weekends). Full details for all the services are handily collected on the CAT information page.
Adelaide’s iconic Glenelg tram is free between South Terrace within the city and the Entertainment Centre, and along Jetty Road within Glenelg. It runs every 7 or so minutes between 8:00am and 6:00pm Monday to Friday, every 15 minutes between 09:00am and 6:00pm Saturdays and Sundays, and every 20 minutes at other times.
On the bus, the 99C runs a loop across the northern half of the CBD from 08:00am to 09:00pm, with services every 15 minutes until 06:00pm and additional services on Friday nights. Weekend services run every 30 minutes. The Adelaide Metro site captures both these options on a single page. Additionally, Adelaide City Council runs the Adelaide Connector service, which covers a wider area (incorporating North Adelaide as well) but with only one bus an hour.
The Fare Free Bus scheme allows free travel on any government bus in the city centre between 07:30am and 6:00pm every day.
The Gong Shuttle runs from Wollongong Station to Wollongong University and back. It operates every 10-20 minutes between 7:00am and 10:00pm Monday to Friday, and every 20 minutes between 8:00am and 6:00pm on weekends.
Know of a free transport option we’ve missed? Tell us about it in the comments. (We’re aware of the various tricks to get extra time on tickets, such as buying after 3pm for a weekly in Sydney to get an extra day, but we want to focus on purely free options here.)
Lifehacker Australia editor Angus Kidman hasn’t used all of these options, but he’s working on it. His Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears each week on Lifehacker.
Would you ever surrender your car? We don't mean to trade in your gas-guzzler for a high mileage vehicle, or swap your Toyota Prius for a Nissan Leaf, or even agree to trundling around in a G-Wiz. In this case, we're talking going automotive cold turkey. What would it take for you to make that jump? Would a lifetime of free public transportation do it for you?
Well, this is what the city of Murcia, Spain is offering. The city is trying to lure residents into a unique trade-in offer: turn over your car, and you get an unlimited pass to the city's new public transportation system.
Like many cities in Europe, Murcia has become a constant traffic jam. Car owners are also finding it harder and harder to find a place to park. City planners in the U.S. might prescribe construction of additional parking lots and new highway lanes as the solution, but Murcia is taking this other route. Sound like a deal?
[See story below for more information: Ed]
People love their cars. They're willing to maintain a car even when it's expensive and difficult. In the Spanish city of Murcia, which had become crowded with vehicles, the government decided to try to pry people's hands off the wheels by offering a little economic incentive. Not only would you not have the inconvenience of trying to park, you could ride the city's public transit for free for the rest of your life.
To promote the campaign, the city made a series of adorable advertisements showing how unpleasant it is to be stuck in traffic and looking for parking all the time.
And just in case some Murcia residents hadn't noticed how annoying it was to have a car in the city, they also started leaving cars in impossible parking spots, like this one, where the car is forced to sit on two other cars to find a space.
Seeing that, a lifetime trolley pass looks quite enticing. While many cities have campaigns to encourage public transit use, and a few use congestion pricing to help limit the number of cars in the city centers, this is an impressive use of city funds to directly influence how people get around the city. A lifetime trolley pass is probably a minimal cost for the city (though most transit systems are already bleeding money without giving away free fares), but with enough given away, could make a drastic difference in the livability of the city.
[Images: Mejor en Tranvia]
[Hat tip: Springwise]
This is the sixth year that MUSC has had a partnership with CARTA and the eighth year for CofC of offering students, faculty and staff of both institutions unlimited rides with their organization identification card.
The result is free bus service to these riders, with costs covered by MUSC and College of Charleston.
“Our constant focus is to encourage use of public transit throughout the Charleston area,” said Christine Wilkinson, interim executive director for CARTA. “These two partnerships further our continual pursuit of that goal. We encourage other Charleston area businesses to consider how CARTA can help their employees and staff.”
CARTA also has ongoing partnerships with the City of Charleston, Charleston County School District and Roper St. Francis Hospital.
On average, as many as 65,000 trips per month are taken by MUSC and CofC ID holders. In addition, more than 30,000 riders take the Express routes each month, which are heavily utilized by MUSC and CofC.
“Continuing this important partnership is not only a benefit for our students, faculty and staff, but an investment in the community,” said John Runyon, director of business services at Medical University of South Carolina.
The partnerships offer a number of other benefits, which include:
The Cache Valley Transit District has purchased five new buses in an effort to increase the number of spares in the fleet.
Until recently, the organization had been operating with just one spare bus. Now, the CVTD will have four spares on hand and 32 total vehicles.
"What this does is it helps us get up to an acceptable spare ratio," said Todd Beutler, the CVTD's general manager. "We were operating with one spare vehicle, which is really tough when you're trying to keep service out on the street."
Beutler said the CVTD will be able to operate service more efficiently and with greater flexibility if a bus is in an accident or needs maintenance.
"We've been researching this for quite some time, and we determined it was probably time to jump into the market," said Beutler.
Two of the vehicles are 35-foot hybrid buses, and three are 40-foot commuters.
The hybrids are powered by clean diesel electrical propulsion systems. According to the CVTD, these buses help reduce emissions, save on fuel, and are quieter than conventional buses.
Beutler said the hybrids perform best in hilly and low-speed areas, noting they will be used on routes near Utah State University and Logan's Cliffside neighborhood, for instance.
The other buses, which have higher seating capacity, will be used mainly for the Cache Valley north and south routes and service to Idaho.