Gavin Newsom should just make Calif. public transit free
Gov. Gavin Newsom last week unveiled a relief package aimed at easing residents’ financial pain, including $750 million for 3 months of free public transit.
Or invest that money to improve public transit.
As someone who grew up in Hong Kong, 90%+ of people take transit not because it is cheap/free, but because public transit is usually as good as/better than driving (on top of owning a car is very expensive).
It does not matter if public transit is free if public transit does not go to where you live/where you need to go, and within reasonable time.
Free transit is a very catchy and easily understood idea, which is why it gets a lot more attention than it deserves.
If we could get around the Bay Area on public transit as easily as Tokyoites and Hong Kongers can in their cities, then I'd be more open to the idea of free transit. Until then, effort (and funds) should be spent on making transit actually useful for more people. Increasing frequencies, decreasing travel times, extending lines, and improving safety and cleanliness are all far worthier goals than free transit.
Edit: Part of a recent Muni study (page 27 of this PDF) asked riders to select two reasons why they recently chose not to take Muni. 32% said Muni would be too slow, and another 32% said service was too infrequent. 23% blamed a service delay. Just 2% cited cost.
He wanted to do that in SF. At least in SF, it's very doable: the fare box collection on Muni is just around $120M*, whereas their budget is around $1.2B; in other words, City subsidizes it for around 80%, so what's an additional 20%.
I'm not sure if this will work in the rest of the state. For one, if you make it free, random people will abuse the system and trash the buses and trains. This will force people back into their cars.
And then you have agencies like BART, whose farebox ratio is around 65%*, which means it'll really need lots of subsidy.
* all numbers from memory and are approximate.
I doubt anyone avoids public transit due to its costs. It's the absolute cheapest option besides walking. I'm not sure what this policy would accomplish, at least in SF, except removing one barrier to homeless people sleeping the trains and stations.
Good and timely thread on this pointed to by Yglesias.
Basically, free transit:
- Induces mode shift from walking/biking not driving
- Costs money that could be used for other things
- Regular transit users say their priority is better frequency
And then the homeless will just all just camp out in public transit all day long.
Cost has nothing to do with ridership - the types of people on the system and hanging outside of the stops are the reason why everyone continues to drive.
Won’t move the needle for any metric except self gratification for forcing SF into the transit first narrative when it’s poorly maintained, has shoddy service and doesn’t realistically get you most places faster than a car/ride share/bike.
With a super majority of democrats we should have state run healthcare. But we don’t.