Tuesday, April 6, 2010

New Zealand FPT advocate takes on the clichés

Thanks for reconsidering the merits of free public transport.
But let’s have a look at some of the old myths you raise.
Your scenario of “a free ride on a very crowded and old bus each day” has never been part of the proposal advocated by proponents of free public transport.
Fare-free transit presupposes that the public transport system would be efficient, totally integrated, frequent and of a very high standard – using comfortable, modern low-emission vehicles. Such a new network would require at least three times the number of buses we now have in Auckland, plus a decent electrified rail service & support infra-structure for starters. Good user-friendly amenities for cyclists and pedestrians would also be a vital component.
It took the Belgium city of Hasselt several years to get it’s bus services up to a quality standard before they introduced zero-fares twelve years ago – and now everybody gets about the city easily, with no traffic congestion – which had been a serious problem previously.
Your tired old cliche about ‘vagrants’ would be easily overcome by engaging public transport ‘ambassadors’ to assist passengers and deter anti-social behaviour… again, as they do effectively in Hasselt. And there would be no incentive for assaults on drivers as there would be no cashbox to rob and no disputes over fares! The driver will be free to do his/her job – get everyone to their destinations safely.
[Chris N outlines other benefits very well... have another look at what he says.]
Yes, of course it will cost alot of money. But introducing fare-free, quality public transport would cost a fraction of the billions currently wasted on extremely expensive motorways that we all know will be clogged up again in no time – and, to make matters worse, now this government is allowing up to 5000 extra-super-rigs to churn up the roads and increase the road toll even more – and guess who’s going to get the bill for all of this mayhem? …not to mention the extravagant cost of these proposed new flash ticketing systems for the current inefficient, worn-out bus & rail system.
Supporters of the status quo and car dependency never seem to factor in the appalling costs of the carnage on the roads – another 10 people perished over Easter weekend, and another several dozen mangled bodies ended up in hospital. Then there’s the phenomenal rising health costs and human suffering due to pollution problems – much of which comes from the abundance of cars clogging our roads each day. There is also the issue of increased costs & waste of precious fuel.
No – we should see decent public transport as an important, free & easily accessible public service, with funding shared by all for the common good, like many other public services – not as some sort of burden.
It’s time to make major changes to get people out of cars and to let us get about the city in a civilised & sensible manner. Traffic chaos is literally killing hundreds of people and making city life unsustainable & miserable.
Much of our public transport is already subsidized by taxes and road user charges – why not up-grade it properly and cover the costs collectively? In Hasselt the residents rates decreased after free buses were introduced and the city flourished. Auckland too could lead the way as truly ‘world class, clean, green, pleasant city’ and a fine example for others. I’m sure that the resulting increased numbers of tourists would be happy to contribute to the cost of their ‘carbon-footprint’ by paying a special vistors’ levy to help with the nation’s transport costs too.
If your readers wish to follow up on these issues, there are dozens of free public transport blogsites around the world, and everyone is welcome to check out our New Zealand site at: farefreenz.blogspot.com
Email address: farefreenz@clear.net.nz
For rational mobility,
Roger Fowler
Editor
Fare-FreeNZ
comment posted on http://transportblog.co.nz/2010/04/06/free-public-transport/

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