Thursday, September 13, 2007

A Bus Ride is Worth Paying For

The San Francisco Board of Supes has been discussing the idea of free transit (again). The reasoning seems to be (seriously) that the Muni does such a poor job of collecting fares, that it might as well just give up. Extending this line of reasoning, we could suggest that since Muni busses and trains are usually late, and sometimes don't show up at all, it should stop running them altogether.

Since nobody's proposing a source of funds to replace the fares that the Muni does, sometimes, actually collect, this whole fare-free transit idea should pretty much be regarded as so much talk, which is no more likely to lead to a change in policy than the Supes' periodic resolutions censuring the president. Still, if they're going to talk about fare-free transit (and they do, about once a year) it's worth pointing out some of the reasons why this is a terrible idea.

  • It's not going to boost ridership. It's not like people drive cars in the City because the Muni is too expensive, for crissakes!
  • It will turn Muni vehicles into moving homeless shelters.
  • Most seriously, it changes public transit from a service which riders pay to use into a welfare project.
    • Which takes away riders' right to complain about the service.
    • Not to mention dignity.
    • And it dooms transit from ever being taken seriously by the general public.
  • Dependency on farebox revenue, even if there are other sources of funds, forces transit agencies to think in healthy, business-like ways: about improving efficiency and attracting users.

As I've said before: I'm happy to pay the full cost of my CalTrain rides if I can be excused from paying taxes for freeways.

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