Need a ride to cast your ballot? Transit has you covered.

Nov. 3, 2020
Transit systems are helping with trip planning and some are offering free rides on Nov. 3.

Transportation challenges should not prevent a U.S. citizen from casting his or her ballot and yet, transportation problems were cited as being a major or minor factor in not voting in the 2016 election for more than 30 percent of registered voters in a survey conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The report found registered voters in the District of Columbia (48.8 percent), New Hampshire (45.8 percent) and Washington State (39.3 percent) had the highest percentages of transportation problems being a major factor to them not voting in 2016.

For those waiting to vote in person on Election Day, transit agencies and private companies are putting in the effort to make transport to and from the polls the least stressful part of the day.

Trip planning services and platforms available at agencies throughout the U.S. offer help to people as they navigate their way to the polls and several agencies are offering free rides.

Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority is working to take the guesswork out of riding transit to the polls with a new map that of Santa Clara County’s 99 vote centers, as well as the closest bus and light-rail service to reach the centers.

Approximately 20 percent of the 50 largest transit agencies, based on unlinked passenger trips, are offering free rides on Nov. 3, with one making the list because it had suspended fares due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (L.A. Metro) is the largest system offering free rides on Election Day. In 2019, L.A. Metro’s Board of Directors voted to permanently offer free rides on federal and statewide election days to help encourage voter turnout and to make it easier for people to travel to polling places. The agency is partnering with the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, Culver City Bus, Glendale, Palos Verdes Peninsula Transit Authority and Pasadena Transit to provide free or reduced-fare services, as well.

In addition, L.A. Metro is hosting Vote Centers at Union Station and El Monte Station that will be open through Election Day and allow Vote by Mail drop-off boxes to be placed at 19 rail and bus stations throughout Los Angeles County.

“We want to make it easy for people to reach the polls or vote by mail and cast their ballot this election,” said L.A. Metro CEO Phillip A. Washington. “Democracy works best when everyone participates in it and has a voice — and we want to ensure that voting is easy and accessible to all those who rely on the Metro system.”

Additional top 50 agencies offering free rides on Nov. 3 include Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, San Diego Metropolitan Transit System, Dallas Area Rapid Transit, Utah Transit Authority, VIA Metropolitan Transit, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, Capital Metro, Charlotte Area Transit System and Montgomery County Transit in Maryland, which remains fare free due to COVID-19 precautions.

In Georgia, Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA), is working with rideshare partner Uber to offer subsidized rides on MARTAConnect to 99 polling locations impacted by the authority’s service reduction due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“MARTA understands the Essential Service Plan presents a burden to customers who may not have a ride to the polls because their bus route is still suspended. We are proud to kick off this collaboration with Uber on Election Day to ensure that all of our customers are able to vote,” said MARTA General Manager and CEO Jeffrey A. Parker.

Rural, small and medium size agencies are putting out the “fare free” signs for election day, as well. Riders on Akron Metro, ABQ Ride in Albuquerque, N.M., Capital Area Rural Transportation System, Cincinnati Metro, Denton County Transportation Authority, Duluth Transit Authority, GoDurham, Greater Roanoke Transit Company, Greensboro Transit Agency, Hampton Roads Transit, Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority, Kansas City Area Transportation Authority, Laketran, Macon Transit Authority, Marin Transit, Monterrey-Salinas Transit, Mountain Line in Flagstaff, Ariz., New Orleans Regional Transit Authority, North County Transit District, Omaha Metro, Palm Tran, Racine Transit, Sacramento Regional Transit, Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District, Sun Metro in El Paso, Texas, Trinity Metro, Topeka Metro, Victor Valley Transit and Wichita Transit will all have access to free rides on Nov. 3.

“We know that transportation is often a barrier to those who want to vote in person at their poll location,” said Bob Nugent, Topeka Metro general manager. “Topeka Metro is an option to help others fulfill their civic duty, and the rides are free.”

Uber and Lyft (including Divvy bikes) are offering discounted rides to polling locations and microstransit providers such as Bird and Lime (including JUMP bikes) are offering free rides, while Spin is offering credit for rides on Nov. 3.

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Editor in Chief

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the magazine’s editorial direction and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.