Friday, February 13, 2009

In support of free public transport

I believe that the following arguments can be given in support of the general concept of free transport.

1. It eliminates delays while drivers collect fares. Even when passengers just have to show a pass or swipe an Oystercard that still takes significant time. It
is noticeable that motorists often complain when their cars are held up behind buses which are boarding passengers. Why then should bus passengers accept these same delays without complaint ?

Rarely are road tolls allowed to lead to the same level of delays as bus fare collection almost always does.

2. It rebalances the transport system when compared with the fact that the roads are free to motorists for the reasons above.

3. It reduces the total cost of operating the transport system. The cost of running the extra buses and trains needed to carry the extra passengers must
surely, in the longer term, be less than the cost of running the cars whose users would be attracted by free transport -- even with systems like carsharing.

4. As a result of this, no net levies are required to support free transport. The money taken out of taxpayers' pockets, whether by congestion charges, land
value taxes, payroll taxes of what have you, returns straight back in the form of saved fares.

Incidentally I read the comments on Irwin Kellner's article and was disgusted by the general attitude of most of them. In particular the statement that homeless people would be able to keep warm by riding in buses and this was a reason to oppose the idea. Surely it's a benefit ? If street people are a public nuisance let's spend some money to keep them off the streets. In the UK I remember becoming aware of the problem of street people only after a few years of Mrs Thatcher in power. I strongly suspect that many of the relevant people never use public transport anyway and their reference to street people owes more to prejudice than to personal experience. Or maybe they have come across that notorious Vancouver advertisement and believe what it says.

Simon Norton
Cambridge UK

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