Common Good

Is public transportation a common good?

  • Arnaud  Passalacqua

    Arnaud Passalacqua

    Professor at the Paris School of Urban Planning

20 February 2024

Public transportation is a common good: this is a commonly accepted fact, even if its meaning isn’t explored in depth.

The question of commonality raises a number of tensions between the public transport’s organization and its financing methods, which are little known to users.


For whom is public transport common? What kind of public are we talking about? Who is responsible for governance?


In France, in the context of public service delegation, financing methods are often hidden from users. This can create a discrepancy between the way in which users can imagine a form of free travel, and the way in which transport is structurally financed and governed.

We can already see a form of quasi-freedom, since public transport operations are largely financed by the mobility benefits paid by employers to their employees and by public subsidies. As part of the commons, on-board practices become an extension of the sidewalk and public space. Indeed, transport infrastructure is financed by a variety of public funds, from the local authority to the European level. And this is a real common: an infrastructure that becomes an extension of the sidewalk and is never paid for by the user.