Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Why free public transport isn't the answer

An idea often suggested in light of rising fares and inadequate public transport is to make it free. This is thought to increase public transport usage and make it better, fighting problems such as global warming.
While free public transport will certainly increase public transport, this will only make it more crowded, and with no revenue from it, public transport will become very expensive for the government. It is also claimed that fare collection costs a large percentage of fare revenue, so by doing away with fares we wouldn’t lose much money. However as I said before, free public transport means that more people will use it increasing costs.
Also, since free travel is not valued, some of these trips may be unnecessary and not taking cars off the road. Night services may become rolling homeless shelters, discouraging use by drivers.
In the end, the only reason why public transport needs to be free to compete with cars is because cars are heavily subsidised and our cities are optimised for them. By raising the cost of travel by car to cost-recovery, public transport-friendly suburbs will develop, allowing high-quality public transport that breaks even or even makes a profit.
However, free public transport in selected areas may be useful, as in Perth with our Free Transit Zone and CAT buses. In following with the second paragraph, the CAT buses are very useful but they can also get quite crowded, and are run from City of Perth's parking money.

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