Skip to Content
Streetsblog New York City home
Streetsblog New York City home
Log In
Congestion Pricing

17 Reasons to Make Transit Free

1:59 PM EDT on July 6, 2007

The Tyee, an independent online pub in British Columbia, weighs in with the first in a series of editorials making the case for free transit in the province.

NoFares1.pngCiting the wishes of big city mayors (Michael Bloomberg and San Francisco's Gavin Newsom) to eliminate the fare box, and listing a slew of cities that to some extent already have (including several in the U.S.), The Tyee says it's time to put an end to the age of the "Pampered Car":

Todd Litman of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute has estimatedthat in 2000 the government subsidy to each private vehicle owner wasabout $5,378 in Canadian dollars.

In that year, the average cost of providing each trip taken bytransit in Vancouver was approximately $5. The equivalent subsidy fortransit users would have been 1,075 free trips. Few of us could evenuse that many.

In fact, if the subsidy given private car owners were simply handedover to each car-free transit user, bus riders would make money fortaking transit!

The story goes on to list 17 benefits of free transit, arguing that tying transit funding to the fare box is a great way to guarantee a forever-struggling system:

Let's imagine that you are in chargeof a transit system. You feel pressure to increase service or tomaintain service despite increasing costs. You need to raise moremoney. Politically and practically, for most systems, the easiest wayis to raise fares. But soon after, ridership goes down. It drops 3.8per cent for every 10 per cent increase in fares, researchers havefound (Cervero, R., 1994). Which means you either haven't gained muchnew revenue, or worse, you've started spiraling downward.

Sound familiar? Of course, in an attempt to put forward something, anything, as an answer to congestion pricing, New York state legislators floated their own version(s) of transit fare relief some weeks ago. Unfortunately, for all the bluster, they seem to have disregarded another rule, also cited by The Tyee:

Making transit free of charge won't in itself allow huge numbers of people to abandon their cars.

For that, you need a PlaN

Image: thetyee.ca 

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog New York City

Legislation Introduced in Georgia to Fight Temporary License Plate Fraud

The bill is the most significant effort yet to stop the flow of fraudulent paper tags from Georgia car dealerships to New York City streets.

February 23, 2024

Community Board Backs DOT Road Diet for Brooklyn’s Deadly Third Av.

“This is just a beginning of what we could do to fix our community,” said one board member. “This is not done, this is not where we finish off.”

February 23, 2024

Friday’s Headlines: More Lunch Consumption Edition

Streetfilms goes to Paris. Plus more news.

February 23, 2024

Advocates Slam Albany Pols for Using Transit Fund to Encourage Driving

Gov. Hochul and state legislators in Albany are spending a congestion pricing-adjacent fund on toll rebates for drivers and showing zero interest in bus or rail, transit advocates charged.

February 23, 2024

Serious Crash in Greenpoint Again Reveals Flaws in City Design, Enforcement Against Reckless Drivers

A woman was seriously injured — and is clinging to life — because a driver with a long record of recklessness slammed into her on a Greenpoint Street as she came home with milk.

February 22, 2024
See all posts