Archive for May 3rd, 2009

SF transit fares rise to $2: roadways remain free

Paying More For This?Following the lead of transit agencies around the country the San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency (SFMTA), the agency that operates Muni, will raise fares by fifty cents and cut some services beginning July 1st. The new fare will be $2 and there will also be an increase in the price of a Fast Pass, the transit agency’s monthly pass. Like other transit agencies around the country the SFMTA is faced with falling government subsidies in the wake of the economic crisis and needs to increase fares to cover operating costs.

The problem is not that $2 is too high for transit. The problem is that driving a personal vehicle is too cheap. Despite what many people think, using public roads and freeways is not a right – it’s a luxury. The government doesn’t provide limitless free TV, it doesn’t guarantee that anyone can have a good job, a college degree, or for that matter free health care. Why should limitless roads and freeways be viewed as a right when these other services are not?

It’s true that the private sector would not build a system of roads and freeways the way the government has and there are some fees for using roadways (such as the gas tax and vehicle registration fees). However, it’s a mistake to assume that simply because a service is public, that it should remain essentially free- It’s OK for the government to make money, or at least receive some revenue for a service, especially if it can send a price signal for people to use a good or service in an efficient quantity.

The problem with the SFMTA announcement is that it sends the wrong price signal. Raising fares to cover transit operating costs is something that needs to be done, and that’s OK. However, fare hikes need to be complemented by increased transit assistance for the needy, markedly improved transit services, and above all by roadway toll fees – toll fees that are something close to the true cost of using the private automobile on a roadway. If such a toll were charged people would make efficient decisions about which mode of transportation to use and transit would be relatively more attractive. But, raising fares on transit without simultaneously raising fees for the automobile only makes the car ever more attractive. This is the wrong direction for San Francisco and America.

There is hope on the horizon: keep your eye out for the vehicle-miles tax (VMT). It’s what transit needs to be competitive.

IMAGE CREDIT: Source Flickr, by Steve Rhode.

© Brian A. Tyler and SwitchingModes.com, 2009.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this website’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Brian Tyler and SwitchingModes.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.



© Brian A. Tyler and SwitchingModes.com, 2009.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material and/or concepts without express and written permission from this websites’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Brian Tyler and SwitchingModes.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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