public transit systems never will - and aren't supposed to - make money or break even

fares are a holdover of a culture of "properness" and disproportionately affect disadvantaged people

fareless systems see significant increases in use, which directly translates to less use of cars and healthier cities

the primary consideration for public transit funding should be private transit

if one wants their own private transit, they must subsidize public transit

tax cars, tax gas

@lachesis the fun thing is that private transit is also subsidized (roads, parking lots, lack of carbon tax, etc), and its subsidies are much higher than of public transit

@IngaLovinde @lachesis

Interesting idea. Open question:

I can believe that making public transport free increases use. But I don't see the link between that and a reduction in driving, for two reasons. First, people who take the bus tend not to be those who own cars. Second, experts say you can't build your way out of congestion — building more roads just increases car mileage. So, if you make more transport available, why wouldn't it be in addition to car use, rather than instead of it?

@markusl @IngaLovinde @lachesis

In places with good and affordable public transit systems, people are just much less likely to own cars.

Less than half of Dutch people have a driving license.

I let my license expire when I moved to London.

But even people who have cars here don't often drive them because the transport is more accessible. You don't need to find a parking place. You can go to the pub and have a couple of pints and not worry about moving your car.

The US is super classist about buses, but that's an american thing, especially in the 'burbs.

If your biggest barrier to using public transport is fear, I'd say you should give it a shot. If it's money, then the original toot was for you! If it's frequency, inconvenient routes or weird timing, that's a different issue which should also be solved. And, indeed, is also placing an unfair burden on poor people.

@celesteh @IngaLovinde @lachesis I'm sold on the benefits of public transport, both for the individual and for society, and I use it routinely when I'm in big cities. Unfortunately, there's no way to walk safely to a bus stop from my home.

You raise an important point about frequency: in many parts of the UK outside London, you can easily wait an hour for a bus, sometimes longer.

And yet:


Fewer people have licences in the UK than in NL.

@celesteh @IngaLovinde @lachesis Of course, it's still possible that Dutch people don't drive as far or as frequently as people in the UK. I haven't proved that good public transport doesn't cut car mileage.

@markusl @IngaLovinde @lachesis

Getting a license in the UK is super expensive, time consuming and difficult. It's also hard in NL, but I'm under the impression it's less hard.

I don't have figures comparing how much driving happens in both countries. I think it's fair to say that Dutch people do a lot more cycling, enabled by much better cycling provision.

UK transit provision is patchy and uneven, but it's worth recalling that before the rail line closures in the 60s, most people used it to get it around and car ownership was rare.

Also worth noting that the tube is outrageously expensive and this is a big problem. It's also carrying like ten times more people than it was designed for and the high barrier to entry is masking how inadequate it is compared to the number of people who would like to ride it. Some transport prices are to punish poor people, some are to make the service seem more respectable and I think some are actually meant to reduce ridership.

@celesteh @IngaLovinde @lachesis To be fair, we're a lot more prosperous than in the 60s, and cars are (comparatively) cheaper. The Beeching cuts aren't the only cause of increased car-ownership.

Agreed, cycling provision in the UK is rotten. You take your life in your hands every time.

Also agreed, the Tube is expensive and crowded. But "to punish poor people"? That's a provocative statement.

@markusl @IngaLovinde @lachesis

Provocative on purpose. Poor people literally cannot cross London on marathon days.

Some of the worst places I've cycled are in the UK, but it's still considered a net health benefit, so it's not quite taking my life in my hands.

@celesteh @IngaLovinde @lachesis Many decades ago, I grew up close to one of the big London football grounds. On a Saturday afternoon when there was a match on, I was effectively trapped indoors: there were too many aggressive and drunken football hooligans for a child to go out safely. That doesn't mean that football matches were put on to punish me: merely that sport imposed a cost on nearby residents. And so it is with the London marathon.

@celesteh @markusl @IngaLovinde @lachesis also a side note: huge swaths of the US actually consider all mass transit to be “not in my backyard”

(I’ve literally seen active campaigning against expansion of rail lines - not even on the basis of cost, but on the basis of “crime”. This is, of course, a dogwhistle that means black and poor people.)

@bhtooefr @lachesis @IngaLovinde @markusl

I remember arguing with an Oregonian who thought poor people from the centre of Portland were going to ride the light rail for an hour to steal their TV. 🙄

@celesteh @bhtooefr @lachesis @IngaLovinde Wow — I wish I had a TV as impressive as that! 😆

Joking aside, some people really do think that life is all about them, don't they? And it sounds as if one of those people lives in Oregon.

@lachesis it's not like roads are profitable on their own

what makes roads profitable is that they bring people

and therein lies the problem: right now, public transit mostly brings *poor people*, and, like, who wants that???

@lachesis Preach it! Companies don't expect their IT departments, HR, in-house council, cleaning staff, etc. to be "self-funding" because they can't ignore how cost centers are still much, much cheaper than their absence. Municipal services deserve the same understanding.

@lachesis also increased ridership means an increase in importance which can translate to an increase in funding

The inverse is true. The public transit system where I'm from raised fairs, which cut ridership, which gave an excuse to cut funding, which pushed them to raise fairs, and so on.

@NumberOneBug @lachesis the same cycle exists with schedules. I grew up in a neighbourhood that had 4 buses a *day* with the last one near-ish my home at 6:30pm. Hardly anyone used the bus because the schedule was so useless. With such low ridership, they wouldn't consider increasing the frequency...

@lachesis i always think about how much money it costs to actually keep the fare system in place. all those cards, machines, terminals, tickets, people, etc. it's like does it even pay for itself?

This is also my opinion. While I don't mind paying for it, the fare has to be reasonable enough that it's available for everyone. Depending on where you live that may of course mean "no fare".

In any case do you have any documentation showing that use increases with fareless systems? I intuitively think you are right, but I've never coma accross any solid documentation myself. Thanks in advance.

@lachesis Meanwhile in my city, they started charging *more* for fares this year, and despite that, are still planning on basically completely ripping up a number of routes, including the only one that can actually get me anywhere, and on top of that, the shell of a route that remains is being changed from an already painful 30 minute frequency to *60 minute* frequency

They say that the changes are fine because you can "just transfer", but why would I wait for up to an hour??

@lachesis Reliability aside, this is also a large part of why I drive when I have the option. If I already have the choice and fares cost significantly more then their equivalent in gas, why even bother with buses? It's just extra hassle and extra wait.

It would objectively make a lot more sense were they fully subsidized.

@lachesis While I’m all for fareless public transportation and making driving private cars more expensive in cities, data in cities where fareless schemes were tried showed that increased public transportation usage didn't fully correlate with a decrease in car usage. Instead, part of the public transportation usage was was attributed to people who would have otherwise biked or walked.

This increase from already green transportation users increases the pressure on capacity, which requires a higher initial investment to enable a fareless policy than if only car users are considered.

It isn’t a show-stopper, but it definitely makes it more challenging.

@lachesis True. The city makes much more money back through an increase of wealth in neighborhoods and therefore taxes. 👌 👌

Cities with nice public transport systems are wealthier, both in money and happiness! 😄

@lachesis Do you know the youtube channel called "Not Just Bikes"? I'm watching all their videos and I'm learning so much about city planning and stuff! 😄

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