The free pass in the elections determined by the STF (Supreme Federal Court) should cost approximately R$7 million for the São Paulo City Hall and just over R$6 million for the state government each round, to fund the operation municipal transport and metro lines, CPTM metropolitan trains and EMTU intercity buses.
A STF decision from October provides that public authorities must offer free public urban transport throughout the country on election dates — as long as Congress does not enact a law that regulates a free policy on those days.
For the City of São Paulo, this expense, after being multiplied by the two shifts, would represent 0.14% of the annual cost of the bus service (R$ 10.34 billion) and 0.24% of the amount currently spent by the municipality on subsidies to the system (R$5.8 billion), including all types of gratuity.
Specifically in the subway, estimated expenses are R$2.86 million in each round, which, adding two days of voting (if the dispute does not end in the first stage), would generate an impact of up to 0.2% on annual expenses company with system maintenance. At CPTM, R$ 1.4 million, considering the two rounds of elections — 0.13% of annual spending.
These approximate values refer to passenger movement patterns in the second round of the 2022 elections, when São Paulo has already adopted zero fares on voting days. A survey by Idec (Brazilian Institute for Consumer Protection) showed that 193 Brazilian cities, including 22 capitals, adopted a free pass on this occasion.
Free transport system fees are covered in São Paulo by the public authorities, including on lines under the control of the private sector — both buses and the metro-rail network.
In practice, companies receive a fee from the city hall or state for each passenger at the turnstile, even if they do not pay the fare (such as seniors) or if their fare is discounted (such as students).
The STF’s decision was unanimously approved by the court’s ministers.
The president of the Supreme Court and rapporteur of the case, Luís Roberto Barroso, said in the trial that there was an unconstitutional omission resulting from the absence of this public policy, which, according to him, “takes away from the poorest the possibility of participating in the electoral process”.
“The intended measure promotes two relevant values: equal participation, providing access to voting for a significant portion of voters; and the fight against illegalities, preventing transport from serving as an instrument of interference in the electoral result.”
Regarding public spending on the measure, Barroso stated that, “in the absence of regulation, it seems intuitive to me that whatever is municipal transport is at the expense of the municipality”, whatever is at the state level is at the expense of the states and whatever is Federal transport is paid for by the Union.
Minister Alexandre de Moraes, who was Secretary of Transport in the city of São Paulo, sought to minimize possible financial impacts with the decision, under the justification that the measure would be valid for a maximum of twice in one year.
In the capital of São Paulo, the Ricardo Nunes (MDB) management even requested a study on the possibility of zero tariffs 365 days of the year.
Considering just one round of the election, last year the city council estimated an expense of R$6 million due to the free transport pass on voting day — updated to R$7 million after the STF’s decision in October.
In 2022, just with institutional advertising of the municipality’s various types of actions, the Nunes administration disbursed R$223.7 million.
The state government, under the command of Tarcísio de Freitas (Republicans), reported a cost estimate similar to that of last year with the zero electoral tariff, a total of R$6.2 million, considering subway, CPTM and EMTU.
The total number of passengers on the subway at that time was 539 thousand, an expense of R$2.4 million. At CPTM, there were 324 thousand passengers, corresponding to R$ 1.4 million; EMTU, in turn, spent R$2.4 million.
According to the State Secretariat for Metropolitan Transport, train and subway concession companies do not take any losses, since the expenses count as free, which are paid for by the public authorities.
There are 85 cities in the country that already have a free pass all year round. On November 1st, the zero tariff debuted in São Caetano do Sul, a municipality with 165 thousand inhabitants in the metropolitan region of São Paulo.
The president of ANTP (National Public Transport Association), Ailton Brasiliense, considers that the STF’s decision facilitates conditions for the poorest population to exercise their right to vote — which, in Brazil, is also an obligation.
Abstention in the country is historically higher among people with lower income and education, which is attributed to the difficulties they face in getting to the polling stations.
Brasiliense assesses, however, that the measure requires some adjustments to cover the extra expenses of the concessionaires. For him, there are no major obstacles to this being done because contracts, in general, provide for surpluses.
It may also be necessary to review the fleet and operating system available in some cities. In the capital of São Paulo, in 2022, for example, the free pass election was marked by queues at terminals and waits of up to an hour in some lines.