Friday, May 2, 2008

Transit fares are not for revenue

Why do public transit systems collect fares from the passengers? In most cases, the direct cost of collecting the fare is almost as much as the fare. If you add in the indirect costs, collecting fares costs more than not collecting fares. So why do it? Simple. To discourage use of public transit.



Judd Wiley said...

I agree with your first point. If you analyze where the mass transit fares and tolls end up, the money largely goes to maintaining the fare collection sytem itself - employee salaries and benefits, infrastructure, etc. It is essentialy a government jobs program.

That said, I don't believe that the government administrators are consciously trying to discourage the use of public transit. The cost of collecting the fare is completely unrelated to an individual's ability to pay that fare. Plus these government administrators don't seem that clever.

In any event, fares and tolls should be used for infrastructure maintenance and expansion, not employing government workers, in my opinion.

From my experience in DC and NYC, a good number of commuters realize that a large percentage of their fares and tolls are not used for maintenance and expansion. On our site, we try to capture a lot of the anger and frustration that daily commuters feel day in and day out because of the failures of government agencies to refurbish and expand mass transit.

John said...

Amen, brothers and sisters, Amen. In my burg (Salem, OR), the whole point of the fare is to keep bums and teens with piercings from taking up residence in the buses.

I think the folks running the transit agency would just as soon be fareless, but they've already had two bonds fail so they're afraid to suggest it.

There's also a strong strain of anti-immigrant racism that flares up here, and I'm sure that would be used to argue that we shouldn't be giving "those people" free transit as well.

I myself heard a county commissioner say, out loud, that the only reason to have transit at all was to make it easier for cars to get around. Hard to make progress with attitudes like that in power.

Judd Wiley said...

I agree - that was a boneheaded, counterproductive statement by your county commissioner.

That said, why can't we have high quality inexpensive mass transit AND a vastly expanded highway system - more lanes, double decks, etc?

The goal here should be to enable the largest number of Americans to move around as quickly and efficiently as possible.

I'm a huge fan of mass transit, but not at the expense of the automobile. These are lifestyle choices, in my opinion, that the individual should be allowed to make.

Rather than picking favorites, we should make sure that our entire transportation infrastructure is top notch - roads, bridges, tunnels, subways, light rail, long-distance trains, buses, airports, etc.

The funding does not need to come from increased taxes, but rather from unnecessary spending programs currently in existence.

We pay enough taxes as it is. Plus, maintaining and expanding infrastructure should be among the top priorities.

What do you think?

Dagny McKinley said...

That's amazing that they still try to collect fares. We have free public transportation in Steamboat Springs, CO and it's so easy to get around without a car. That as well as established bike and walking paths. As gas prices go up, any alternative to driving is a good alternative.

Dagny McKinley
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