07-01-09 - Public Transit

Should be free.

For one thing, it greatly reduces costs because you don't need all the ticket printing/selling/checking equipment and salaries for all those people who collect the money. You also don't need cops checking people's tickets. Because of this the cost for tax-supported free public transit would be much less than the total cost paid by ticket purchasers currently.

It also greatly improves efficiency because buses can just pick people up without the big stall for ticket buying and checking at the entry way. You can change your buses to have more doors and wider doors so that people can just flow on and off more easily and eliminate the huge pinch point that causes big slowdowns.

This will only appeal to liberals, but it's a nice way of giving back to the working poor. Most people who take the bus to work are working poor and can use every break they can get. Riding the bus will always be unpleasant so it's not like people will abuse the priviledge.

Now some people would argue that free public transit would overburden the system, there wouldn't be enough buses, they would get too crowded. That's completely retarded, that's exactly the outcome you *want*. You buy more buses!

I believe it may actually be cheaper in the long run. If you have more people on public transit you don't have to spend as much making new roads everywhere, people buy fewer cars saving them tons of money, we pollute less and have to spend less on reducing CO2, etc. there are tons of long term savings that are hard to quantify.

Now I'm sure the libertarian/republican/dickhead/ayn-randers out there are saying "but I don't ride the bus, why should I pay for it?" First of all, fuck you, you're a dick. Public policy should be optimized to maximize the total good (or perhaps to maximize the median good), the principle of "pay per use" does not enter into rational consideration of public policy at all. Second of all, *you* are the person who would get the most benefit from this. Personally I would probably keep driving because I hate the bus, but I would love to see free public transit, because it gets cars off the road and reduces traffic for me. It's win-win for everyone.


Sam said...

It would help so much with the environment, but sadly I think the world is pretty screwed on that point. It always comes down to the bottom line and profit. Where's the profit in providing free anything? People won't go for it. Also I think we're past the point of saving the planet. People are still buying their crappy big petrol guzzling cars. Here in Australia, there are so many yuppies living in the inner city suburbs who drive four wheel drives (that they never take off-road). We're even seeing more and more hummers! WTF! It makes me so mad! What a waste! Ah well, what's the point in worrying about it..

cbloom said...

Yes, I mostly agree with you, but I think it's important not to make it just about judging someone's lifestyle choice.

I think the role of government is to create a structure where people are free to make choices, but those choices are weighted by the consequences to society.

So for example someone is perfectly free to drive a big SUV if they want, but gas prices should include taxes to support oil security (aka the military), CO2 offsets, road building, bigger roads, bigger parking places, and taxes to support the increased crash protection that everyone else needs and the likely increased cost of medical care for other people.

The problem is that by not including costs like that, the government is de facto subsidizing bad behavior.

Another crucial thing that government can do is to make long term effects appear short term. That is, people are dumb and short sited and make decisions based on what seems best today. Government can front-load consequences so that when people make their own decision, it is biased for the long term greater good. For example, a large tax on the purchase of a car can be used to offset the cost of adding freeways for eventual suburban sprawl, as well as the destruction of the city-scape due to strip-mallification and waste of space in the form of parking lots.


Autodidactic Asphyxiation said...

"The problem is that by not including costs like that, the government is de facto subsidizing bad behavior."

I think that this is a very interesting way to put it.

fpteditors said...

The auto system is subsidized by the taxpayer at a rate that is not usually mentioned. Fortunately there is a free transit movement that is doing this:
AutoSprawl Externalities
This movie documents how the streetcars system in the U.S. was methodically and illegally dismantled.
Taken for a Ride

cbloom said...


old rants