• Should Transit (and Amtrak) be Free to Use?

  • General discussion of passenger rail proposals and systems not otherwise covered in the specific forums in this category, including high speed rail.
General discussion of passenger rail proposals and systems not otherwise covered in the specific forums in this category, including high speed rail.

Moderators: mtuandrew, gprimr1

  by bostontrainguy
 
There have been recent cries from some northern liberal politicians to make public transit free. Should Amtrak be free also?
  by Gilbert B Norman
 
As Mr. Trainguy notes, there does appear to be an initiative, as Adriana reports to her "flock":

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/free-pub ... 2aa651191e

Now so far as I'm concerned, free mass transportation should only be afforded to those who meet needs - litmus - tests. Those programs can be administered through existing Human Service agencies.

From one who admittedly benefitted from a "Seniors Ride Free" program some ten years ago in the Chicago area, I really had my guilt trips about signing up. I can well afford to have psid my own way, but the flip side said "Look a gift horse in the mouth"?

I have eligible friends who simply declined to participate - they certainly "didn't need it."

So far as an inter-city carrier, public agency notwithstanding, offering such a benefit, uh, NO!

If a Human Services agency can be funded for such, great. Towards that end, always happy to have donated my airline miles to one military relief agency or the other. If any such agency partnered with Amtrak, well there would then be a home for my 20 some Guest Rewards points that will likely just expire.
  by mtuandrew
 
As a (northern-born) progressive liberal... no. Amtrak and transit are different beasts, so while transit should be fare-free (especially within cities) Amtrak is fine as a conventional ticketed service.

Long story short:
-Transit is a community development and social justice vehicle, not just a mobility tool. It takes cars off roads, provides essential trips, directs economic growth and helps equalize transportation costs (as a percentage of income) for everyone from the ultra-rich to the working poor. It helps equalize a little of the racial wealth gap the government has long enforced and only recently eased on (read the book The Color of Law for examples.) Means-testing as Mr. Norman mentions has its pluses and minuses, but here its only purpose is to unnecessarily separate the have-nots from the haves. On a related note, eliminating fares also reduces the need for transit cops - they spend 90% of their time on fare enforcement - so that money can be plowed back into transit improvements. (Ping me directly about police budgets if you want to respectfully talk, but that isn’t a topic for here.) And as much as some folks hate it, until there’s a meaningful attempt to address homelessness on a national scale, transit is kind of a last resort shelter that needs to be acknowledged and tolerated for the short term.

-Amtrak is a mobility tool first and foremost, but also has elements or environmental justice and congestion management. While it can be essential transportation for some, it’s more for discretionary travel and (currently) aimed at higher fare travelers. I’d like to see more low-fare seats available (especially on corridors) and better food options, but I don’t feel the need to subsidize sleepers. Inasmuch as they might make Amtrak money (or have an equivalent or lower loss than coach), I’d say keep them in-house. Discount tickets would be nice for certain subgroups - this is where means testing would actually be helpful, rather than seniors not necessarily needing it as Mr. Norman states - but otherwise I’d just like to keep fares similar or below the closest equivalent mode. Otherwise, Amtrak is a way to keep private carriers honest.
  by STrRedWolf
 
Let me toss my 2 cents in with an example: Baltimore.

Baltimore City has essentially two transit systems: the state-run MTA and the local BCDOT Charm City Circulator (or CCC). The CCC is free, while MTA runs $1.80/trip (with monthly/special needs/seinor discounts).

Before the CCC, the only way to get downtown from Penn Station was to take MTA's 3, 61, 64, or 103 off of St. Paul Street. Return trip would be roughly the same. With a MARC Monthly or Weekly, this would be free. Ether way, it would be crowded.

The CCC's Purple Line bus came, and helped relieve the crowds... but after a few years, the Purple Line CCC would be extended from Penn Station up to Johns Hopkins University... and get crowded *BEFORE* hitting Penn Station. What was taken by commuters was now taken by college kids because their JHU bus wasn't doing to job.

Today, after the great Hogan reshuffle of TransitLink, we get... basically the same thing, just new names. Instead of the 3 or 64 we get the Green or Silver, the 61 is gone, and the 103 is still around. The same problems still exist.

The CCC though costs around $7 million to run a year... out of the city's coffers. Which in this day and age is screaming "WE NEED MORE MONEY!!!!" This *used* to be funded by the merchants of the city themselves.

When I see proposals like this, I ask for the funding source over the long term.
  by scratchyX
 
STrRedWolf wrote: Thu Jul 09, 2020 7:48 am Let me toss my 2 cents in with an example: Baltimore.

Baltimore City has essentially two transit systems: the state-run MTA and the local BCDOT Charm City Circulator (or CCC). The CCC is free, while MTA runs $1.80/trip (with monthly/special needs/seinor discounts).

Before the CCC, the only way to get downtown from Penn Station was to take MTA's 3, 61, 64, or 103 off of St. Paul Street. Return trip would be roughly the same. With a MARC Monthly or Weekly, this would be free. Ether way, it would be crowded.
The CCC's Purple Line bus came, and helped relieve the crowds... but after a few years, the Purple Line CCC would be extended from Penn Station up to Johns Hopkins University... and get crowded *BEFORE* hitting Penn Station. What was taken by commuters was now taken by college kids because their JHU bus wasn't doing to job.
Today, after the great Hogan reshuffle of TransitLink, we get... basically the same thing, just new names. Instead of the 3 or 64 we get the Green or Silver, the 61 is gone, and the 103 is still around. The same problems still exist.

The CCC though costs around $7 million to run a year... out of the city's coffers. Which in this day and age is screaming "WE NEED MORE MONEY!!!!" This *used* to be funded by the merchants of the city themselves.
When I see proposals like this, I ask for the funding source over the long term.
I did the commute for 8 years baltimore to DC without a car, I know the local transit well, too.

The CCC was a victim of lack of long term planing, mission creep,and a corrupt manager (who tried to sell the bus shelters, instead of the adspace on them).
The fort Mchenry Blue line was only funded for the bicenntential year, and runs every 45 minutes, making it not an effective replacement for the 94 and 71 lines it duplicates. It should not have been expanded.
What should be done is an audit of all of the buslines (for the Hopkins System (Broadway is their operator), the other hospitals, and the Collegetown network) and making an integrated system based on that, with all stakeholders splitting funding and oversight.
And also increase funding for homeless outreach, as that seems to be the big concern of some riders.
  by R36 Combine Coach
 
Gilbert B Norman wrote: Wed Jul 08, 2020 12:45 pm From one who admittedly benefitted from a "Seniors Ride Free" program some ten years ago in the Chicago area, I really had my guilt trips about signing up. I can well afford to have psid my own way, but the flip side said "Look a gift horse in the mouth"?
PA has a "free senior transit" program, funded by state lottery.

To add one North American city has a free subway: Pittsburgh (within downtown limits, fares charged to/from outlying areas only).
  by eolesen
 
"Seniors Ride Free" on Metra was a disaster. You had millionaires from Lake Forest, Kenilworth, Winnetka, Barrington and Inverness riding for free "just because" meanwhile students going to/from schools and other low income riders were still having to pay the going rate for their monthly passes...

Farebox recovery matters.
  by Red Wing
 
MBTA's Green Line used to be free for outbound aboveground service.
  by mtuandrew
 
R36 Combine Coach wrote: Thu Jul 09, 2020 10:15 pmTo add one North American city has a free subway: Pittsburgh (within downtown limits, fares charged to/from outlying areas only).
This is absolutely what I mean. Low fares for incoming/outgoing service, no fares within the core. And yes, funding is an issue as STrRedWolf mentions - I’ll address that later.
  by Gilbert B Norman
 
eolesen wrote: Fri Jul 10, 2020 12:47 am "Seniors Ride Free" on Metra was a disaster. You had millionaires from Lake Forest, Kenilworth, Winnetka, Barrington and Inverness riding for free "just because" meanwhile students going to/from schools and other low income riders were still having to pay the going rate for their monthly passes...

Farebox recovery matters.
So true, Mr. Olesen, you can throw this "comfortable plus" retiree from Clarendon Hills into the pot as well.

Here is earlier discussion on the whold "vote getting" debacle:

viewtopic.php?f=61&t=58872
  by bostontrainguy
 
Red Wing wrote: Fri Jul 10, 2020 2:02 pm MBTA's Green Line used to be free for outbound aboveground service.
Yes, but you paid double going inbound. That was the solution to collecting the outbound fare when the LRVs came on the scene to speed things up since it was very difficult for passengers to get through the longer car to pay going outbound which was the procedure on the PCCs.
  by R36 Combine Coach
 
bostontrainguy wrote: Sun Jul 12, 2020 4:52 pm
Red Wing wrote: Fri Jul 10, 2020 2:02 pm MBTA's Green Line used to be free for outbound aboveground service.
Yes, but you paid double going inbound.
Reminds of Staten Island. All local travel intra-island at no charge, except to and from the ferry terminal. SI
motorists pay bridge tolls entering the island, but no toll to exit.

Until 1997 cash fares were collected on board.

"Double fares" on the Green Line were charged only on the Newton portion of the D branch. B, C and E branches
were standard subway fare ($1 2000-2003, and $1.25 2004-2006 before CharlieCard and Ticket).
  by bostontrainguy
 
All Green Line routes were double fare inbound / free outbound when outside of the subway portals not just Newton.
Last edited by bostontrainguy on Mon Jul 13, 2020 11:06 am, edited 4 times in total.
  by gprimr1
 
It's a misnomer to say it's "Free."

You are paying for it one way or another. Either you are paying for it at the farebox, or you are paying for it on April 15th when you file your taxes.

I disagree with the idea of it being free. It certainly should be affordable, and there are ways to give "free" fares to those who need it, but transit systems, like everything else, need money to maintain their systems and expand their systems. A person making $100,000 plus a year not paying for a ticket is hurting the system.