Thursday, March 20, 2014

Editorial: No FPT without SCR (Systematic Car Reductions)

This is a simple fact! Free Public Transport (FPT) has no possible justification whatsoever unless your governing officials are willing to do something about adjusting the other half of the modal mix to bring down car ownership and use in the city strategically and as quickly as possible . . . SCR - Systematic Car Reductions.

canada-vancouver-road closed - smaller

The tools for achieving these necessary adjustments in the modal split are well known, experience-proven and widely used in cities of all sizes in many parts of the world. There is no possible justification that competent public authorities not be aware of these proven tools and policies. They include most notably:

  1. Strategic parking policy/control/reductions

  2. Speed reductions throughout the city and on incoming roads (15/30/50 kph)

  3. Systematic reallocation of street space presently available to cars, by a policy of converting streets space to more efficient users

  4. Public transit priority

  5. Road user charges for cars entering built-up areas

  6. Increased taxes and other charges for car ownership/use in city

  7. Properly funded, consistent, strategic programs for strong increases in car sharing and ridesharing programs.

  8. Incentives for car free housing and local commerce

  9. Changes of the law through local ordinances or other along the lines of the Belgian Code de la Route which put much greater responsibility in the event of accidents on car drivers

  10. Greater vigilance and systematic enforcement by the police

  11. Stricter enforcement of the law for driving infractions in the courts

  12. Tougher and more frequent exams of drivers to ensure they are really capable of handing their car safely and efficiently in a tough multi-modal, multi-speed 21st century urban driving environment

  13. And never never never build new or expand existing infrastructure to permit greater throughput or higher speeds for private cars.

And of course that is not the end of it. Any FPT project also needs to be reinforced by a carefully thought out program of incentives and improvements for non-motorized transport in all its many forms. Positive incentives such as Park+Ride, carsharing of course, ridesharing, and the full range of affordable new mobility services.

# # #

Look friends, this is not complicated. If a given city wishes to implement FPT, no problem -- but they have to do their homework first.  To be responsible to their city they must first study carefully all of the above, and adapt and adopt at least five of these measures in parallel with bringing their eventual, carefully thought-out  FPT project on line.

But even before that, what is needed from them and from the beginning is a clear public statement of the specific goals they wish to achieve by this measure, followed by an open society discussion of the efficiency of the proposed FPT solution in each case -- as well as looking at yet other goals and measures that may do a better job than the proposed FPT solution.

And if they don't?

What can we say? If they do not take on this challenge n all its related parts in your city we would say it is safe to assume that they are not serious people. And we can only hope that the voters are keeping a close eye on them so that in the next election they can be tossed out on their ears in the hope that wiser counsel and decisions will follow.

David Hembrow writes on this date from the Netherlands: There can't be many ideas so utterly wrong-headed as proposing that a form of transport which consumes energy and creates pollution ought to be "free".

Sicnarf Nottirb pens  from Paris Tennessee: Free Public Transport, Free Parking (of course), Free Roads, Free Speed Limits and as close to Free Gas as you can make it.  That's what makes America great!

# # #

But don't stop there

Most consulted W/S articles on FPT since 2009 (And not over yet!):

* No FTP without SCR  (Systematic Car Reductions)

* To support Tallinn FTP project, W/S readers comment on FPT

* Free Public Transport! (But hey, are we talking about the same thing?)

* What is the right price for Free Public Transport?

* Free-for-all: Organizations supporting free public transport

* All W/S coverage of "Free" "Public Transport"

About the editor:

eb-about the editor - 9mar14

Print this article


  1. From Dave Holladay, Scotland.


    There is no such thing as a free lunch - you pay to use a car so you pay to use public transport.

    How you pay and what you pay might be the issue but I'm totally against Free as the concept

    Public Transport might be underwritten by organisations who make massive savings on providing car parking - some London companies reckon on saving £9K per year for every employee who does not need a car park space on their HQ site in West London, typically many will be giving each car driving employee parking to the value of £2K-£3K per year, so why not switch the offer to include ALL employees rather that the select few who opt to bring in their own cars, and expect free parking.

    Expand this to all parking - after all in the UK and for many other legislations the only commitment made by government is to provide roads for moving traffic, so ditch all provision for parking - provide roads ONLY for people moving around - on foot on bikes, on buses, in cars.

    A move to equate all travel costs through a common tariff will also help so that the cost of parking - at all times - can be totalled up against the cost of using a public service system. Parking on or off the street at home or at the destination will have a price which can then be measured against the price for taking a publicly available service.

    Imagine if owning a car delivered the cost of paying for where it sits still at all the times it isn't moving.


  2. Hi Eric

    Can we try this line of thinking?

    The most valuable behavior in transportation, these days, is passengership. Every time a person travels as a passenger instead of as a driver, the number of vehicles on the roads is reduced (note: except when the person becomes a passenger in a taxi that has only the one passenger). Also of benefit: demand for parking at the destination end reduces, and that goes for the taxi rider as well. The passengership can be in any vehicle: car, van, bus, or train, to have the expected impact.

    The value of passengership is a real currency. In some countries (perhaps most?) the 'BCA' (benefit cost analysis) process has a factor that has been calculated as the economic value to the transport system of an increased public transport trip, during peak and off-peak.For Auckland, the additional peak passenger is worth about $12 per trip. Yes, that is $24 per day if you do both trips during peak.

    We can debate the accuracy of the numbers (and why those intimately involved might rather they are bigger than smaller), but the fact is there is a number. The number is used to decide on the investment of millions of dollars of public money - so the numbers represent real dollars.

    There is no such thing as 'free' public transport, in that it costs money (and other externalities) to produce the service. The question is, who should pay this money? Few (if any?) public transport systems recover all their costs from the farebox.

    So if it is 'worth' $24 per day for each additonal person who is a passenger (in that by having additional passengers we avoid spending $24 dollars on something else), what is the most cost effective way to get more people to be passengers?

    The discussions around this question often seem to assume that in the personal decision-making model there is an equality between traveling as a passenger or as a driver, and the only difference is the price- while in the same breath there is acknowledgement that being a passenger takes longer and is less reliable. If we want to encourage passengership, we need to put values on the extra time and inconvenience involved (to the extent these exist - and they will be different for everyone) and be prepared to create a value proposition that works for the number of people we would like to see become passengers.

    In some situations the net effect might be to make public transport 'free' to the user.

    I'm interested in feedback on this line of thinking.



  3. From Eric Bruun: Univ. Of Pennsylvania, USA

    Yes, this is an interesting subject. A few additional points:

    1) The "free market" for parking doesn't always work, so there is a case for regulating pricing. For example, many cities have "early bird" pricing where the person staying all day in private parking gets a steep discount and the person who stays for an hour or two in public parking on the street gets gouged. This is exactly the opposite of how it should be. It incentivizes driving the car to work and going to the suburbs to conduct shopping, business, visits to clinics, etc.

    2) The only place where public transport should be "free", meaning no fares, is where the cost recovery factor is low anyway. In such cases, the money processing uses up a significant part of the revenue collected and there probably are no congestion issues.

    If you don't have fares, especially during the peak hours, then the system gets overloaded with people going a short distance, which means either further very high expense to add peak capacity and the incentivizing of a shift to private transport for those who can afford to avoid overcrowding. Furthermore, the revenue is needed to make improvements to service.

    Ultimately, a system with no fares simply won't be as good....

    Eric Bruun


Thank you for your comment. You may wish to check back to the original entry from time to time to see if there are reactions to this. If you have questions, send an email to: