Free public transit?

Stay behind the yellow line!Andrew Sullivan, the thoughtful Anglo-American libertarian, thinks free public transit is a good idea.

Here’s a great idea: no fares for buses in major cities. It speeds things up, gets more people out of cars, opens up parking spaces, helps the enivronment… How to afford it? Tax cars some more, or enact the London-style traffic tolls.

His link goes to The Tyee, the B.C.-based online magazine, which has a full treatment.

I’m careful, when writing about the subject, not to assume that mass transit has to be public transit. In theory, I can’t think why the private sector couldn’t do the same job with intracity transit as it does with transit between cities, particularly using buses. It always strikes me that the problem with transit now is that it’s monolithic and lowest-common-denominator; maybe we’d have better luck getting people out of cars if they had more options and could, if they wanted, choose to pay extra for luxury service.

From a purely urban-planning perspective, though, it’s a no-brainer that free transit would be better, and that would obviously have to be paid for out of the public purse. Yet even running a free transit service would surely be cheaper than all the roads and other infrastructure a city wouldn’t have to build.

(Photo credit: “Stay behind the yellow line!“, Flickr/Marios Tziortzis.)

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2 responses to “Free public transit?

  1. Here is Chicago the el is very cheap and if you ride it after a certain hour at night you are pretty likely to encounter trouble. The cheap price allows people to ride it in an err….non-productive manner which means poo on the seats and thuggish school kids monopolizing the cars. If the problem is that poor people need to get to work, give the workers vouchers, but they don’t need to be homeless shelters and when they are it keeps the middle class workers off.

    Improving the public transit? Yes. But I think fares should cost something, maybe even more than they do now. After all, all other kinds of transportation costs something and it’s still cheaper than a car.

  2. If transit were free, the people collecting and counting fares could be providing security instead.

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