Monday, July 30, 2012

Transit foes talk accounting. We need to think economics.

Transit foes, such as the oil industry and sprawl profiteers, would like you to think of public transit fares in terms of budget and expenses. They are successful in having the corporate media focus on taxes and the budgets of your transit authority.

But if you take the economic view and look at public transit as part of how we organize our means of survival, you can see that public transit mitigates the many costs of the car-system that are a drag on the economy: congestion, collisions, road repair, drainage, carbon emissions, obesity, oil wars... just to name a few.

Fares for public transit are for rationing, not revenue. Transit is a public investment. Removing fares increases ridership which lowers variable unit-costs per rider, and raises the return on fixed costs of investment in equipment. The costs of collecting fares are often more that 50% of the revenue collected--and if you include the security needed to prevent free riding--can be 100% of revenue.

Don't let the discussion be just about revenue and budgets. Ask how much is being saved when someone takes a trip on public transit -- whether they pay a fare or not.