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Esrati Proposes Free Public Transit

Free RTA proposal by David Esrati [1]Candidate for Dayton City Commission David Esrati is proposing fare free public transit in Montgomery County via the Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority. Esrati believes that free public transit will do more to lift people out of poverty than tax breaks for developers or other “job creation” efforts by government. It will also help to solve the problem with “food deserts” making a trip to a grocery store that’s further away accessible.

The reality is, the taxpayers are already paying for RTA through the sales tax, and from Federal dollars, and the amount of money RTA collects through fares is negligible. Once you eliminate the costs of collecting fares- from the administration of tickets and passes and transfers, to the accounting and control functions of the funds, and then figure in fuel costs and time wasted while waiting to collect the fares- the amount of real revenue is almost none. By returning ad sales to the outsides and insides of buses, RTA could more than make up for the lost revenue and the increases in ridership would be even more desirable to advertisers.

Free public transit also cuts down the needs for parking spaces in areas served by RTA including downtown and at major employers. RTA has already proven that a free bus works by having its “White Flyer” service along Brown Street into Downtown [2] to service the people who can actually afford a bus fare. Expanding this program city wide would put Dayton on the forefront of cutting edge cities across the planet [3]. The entire country of Luxembourg is switching to free public transit. [4]

After the cost of housing, cost of reliable transportation is the second biggest household expense. Any reduction in car traffic also cuts down on carbon emissions, wear and tear on streets and provides for less requirements for huge parking lots.

RTA is currently funded in part by a half a cent sales tax on everything we buy in Montgomery County. By eliminating the fare, we can also eliminate marketing expenses and other overhead that comes along with trying to prove the value of the system.

Considering Dayton Public Schools was just held up for $5M a year to transport high school students by the system, which is even more of your tax dollars being funneled into RTA, wouldn’t just eliminating much of what the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission [5] does from the equation- fill a huge funding gap. In the time that MVRPC has been in charge of “transportation planning,” the region has had to build more roads to accommodate sprawl, while the regions population has stagnated. With free transit, development will begin to return to the city core, once the home of a quarter of a million people inside the Dayton City limits, and stop spreading to places like Monroe and Brookville where farms are being replaced with warehouses only accessible by car.

Esrati realizes that the benefits of free public transit exceed the boundaries of just Dayton proper, but because he’s a strong proponent of reducing the waste of 30+ jurisdictions in Montgomery County alone [6], he plans to make this a cornerstone initiative once elected on Nov. 5, 2019.

If you would like to see free public transit become a reality in Dayton Ohio, please consider donating to his campaign, www.electesrati.com/donate [7]

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed [8]! If you wish to support this blog and independent journalism in Dayton, consider donating [9]. All of the effort that goes into writing posts and creating videos comes directly out of my pocket, so any amount helps!
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Martha Guthrie

Wright Flyer, not White.

Big white bus

It is the White Flyer until it starts coming up and down Salem and N. Main. Just another cool thing from the city that the West Side can’t enjoy.

Big white bus

And come on bro, it’s “food deserts” not “desserts.” Not that I have an issue with dessert, but West Dayton needs access to healthy foods and fresh produce. Not cookies and flaming hots

Dave C

Free desserts, too? On the bus? Yeah!

Gary Leitzell

I remember back in 2010 suggesting they sell coffee on the buses in lieu of fairs. They might actually make more money!

Dave C

Yes, coffee and dessert. Maybe some brandy, too.

A cheese service is always nice.

Dave C

Let’s change the name to Excellent Area Transport, or EAT!

Paula Fritts

Lower price .
Still have to keep busses running
Go back to 0.75 for adults 0.50 for children over 5 and 0.25 for seniors . That way public transit are helping to keep and still help RTA

[…] Esrati Proposes Free Public Transit posted on September 22, 2019 […]


This is crap!!!!! A good idea for free transportation but rta is already a non profit organization where the minuscule fairs are still used by rta for various ventures within the company. I beleive that caresource and other businesses pay rta for the wright flier. So in fact it is not a free ride donated by rta.

Laronda Clayborne

It would be nice a bus ride is getting pretty pricey. Would help when all my bills need to be paid at once and i dont have the money left to pay for a pass. IJS

[…] Esrati Proposes Free Public Transit posted on September 22, 2019 […]


Do you ride the Flyer much? I do, a few times a week at least, and at least in my experience, the ridership appears to be pretty racially diverse, even if the institutions funding it are fairly white. I’m not sure it’s available, but I’d be very curious to see data on the composition of ridership. I’m not confident it would support this analysis.


David, I’m excited about this proposal and am considering voting for you, despite some misgivings, on the strength of it. However, before I can endorse it, I’d need to see some answers to the following questions:

1) In the most recent year for which I could find data (2017), it appears that fares provided just over 10% of RTA’s operating budget, around 7.7 million dollars. What is the empirical basis for your confidence that advertising + reduced cost associated with fare collection could replace that much revenue? You seem confident in this assertion, so I assume you’ve done some research here. Can you share it with us, or at least summarize it? What’s advertising like from similarly sized transit agencies, for example? Does the RTA’s budget provide sufficient detail to estimate fare collection costs? Do other similarly sized agencies?

2) If you above wager turns out to be incorrect–that without fares, collection cost savings+new advertising revenue come up short, what’s your plan for dealing with that shortfall? Do you have another backup revenue plan, of would you look at service cuts?

3) Sometimes, fare-free transit leads to a surge in ridership. Should we be so fortunate as to have this occur, it’s entirely possible much of it could be distributed in such a way that new service would not be necessary. But if new ridership is concentrated on particular routes or at peak times, we find we need to add more service to keep up with demand. What’s the plan for generating revenue for new service, if ridership spikes in such a way as to necessitate it?


How would this work for Project Mobility that helps the disabled in Dayton remain independent.


David, thanks for the response. (I got the farebox recovery/operating costs figures from the NTD report downloadable here at the link below. Confirms what you’re hearing, as of 2017 fares provided just over 10% of revenue, which is typical for small city agencies in Ohio.) I’d love to see some effort at calculating the cost of idling while fares are collected, which can easily cost a few light cycles. I know other agencies have ways to try to estimate this.


One part of your reply worries me:

The part of the equation I’m not happy about is runs to Greene County- WSU, the base, Fairfield Commons Mall, the Greene- which would benefit- but don’t contribute. We may have to re-examine that.

I hope you’re not suggesting reducing or eliminating service to these destinations. I absolutely agree Greene county should pay a fair share of the costs of this service, but at the end of the day access to these locations is of real benefit for Montgomery county residents! If there’s some way to make Greene pay up, by all means lets pursue it, but it seems spiteful and counterproductive to threaten to cut off service without a subsidy. While I’m sure some Greene county residents benefit from the 1 and 12 (and the 12 doesn’t even enter Greene county, it just runs next to it), the primary beneficiaries of this service are in the GDRTA service area, and benefit from access to the jobs, schools, and shopping/amenities these routes serve.


Can’t hurt to try, I suppose, but from what I understand there’s no legal basis behind any kind of takeover or cost-sharing without their consent.


Im a mother of a toddler and twins on the way, I bearly have support from family and ect. I feel that free busing is great but its not helping people now. You want votes I understand that but why vote for you when you already told us how you plan to work that new bus you keep talking about is not on my side of town. You can’t make caresourse give black people or any other color people rides to get food healthy food at that. If thats your plan its full of B’s and it’s never going to work. When buses are free my 3children will be in college that’s 16years form now. You don’t want to help poor people you jus want more money. Thanks but no thanks for the lies have a great day

Nick Brusky

I just stumbled upon this insightful article about how these policies have been a huge success in the midwestern cities that have implemented them. Kansas City, Columbus, and Indianapolis are all reaping the rewards of investment into their public transportation systems by expanding access. https://www.city-journal.org/mass-transit-midwest-cities

Janice Bowers

I believe its called THE FLYER.?IM YOUNG?