Individual incentives for public transportation

Local governments can invest in this strategy using State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

  • This strategy provides household assistance that can help address the negative economic impacts of COVID-19. The U.S. Department of Treasury has indicated that strategies that help achieve this outcome are eligible for the use of Fiscal Recovery Funds.
  • Investments in this strategy are SLFRF-eligible as long as they are made in qualified census tracts or are designed to assist populations or communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

Program basics

  • Consist of reimbursements, discounts, pretax deductions, or other financial methods of motivating individuals to use public transportation
  • Aim to boost use of public transit and physical activity, potentially reducing obesity rates and increasing active transportation
  • Implemented at various levels of government, including cities, states, and the federal government
  • Variables such as flexible work schedules and changes in gas prices have been shown to play a role in influencing the uptake of transit use

Strength of evidence

Evidence level: Strong (second-highest tier)


Strong (second-highest tier)

Ranked as having the second-highest level of evidence by County Health Rankings and Roadmaps

Target population


Program cost

Approximately $250 per month per user

Implementation locations

Dates active

Not available

Outcomes and impact

  • Increased public transit use
  • Increased physical activity
  • Increased transportation revenue
  • Reduced transportation costs for employers and employees

Keys to successful implementation

  • Note: This content is under review
  • Communities without strong transit access will first require baseline investments in service improvements in order for incentives to increase utilization
  • Increasing private vehicle user fees increases public transit use and reduces automobile use
  • Transit pass incentive programs are particularly successful in increasing public transit use among college students
  • Price sensitivity to transit fares depends on transit dependency, type of trip, time of day, and geographic conditions such as population density and character of the built environment
  • Programs may include transportation subsidies, transit passes, and energy tax credit awards to organizations promoting the use of public transit.

Subsidized transit fares: King County, WA

Subsidized transit fares: King County, WA

Subsidized annual transit fares: Ensuring transit affordability to low-income residents of King County, WA