According to the U.S. census Bureau, the average American spends 25.9 minutes per day traveling to work one way — it is just over four hours every week spent in the way to work. This writes CNBC.
According to the Bureau of labor statistics, Americans spend about 15.9% of its budget on transportation costs, while couples with children spend closer to 17.1 percent. And as more Americans migrate to larger cities, use of public transport is increasing. Since 1997, the passenger traffic by public transport increased by 21%.
These are some of the reasons why attorneys across the country are beginning to call for free public transport.
According to estimates by the New York Times, 100 cities around the world offer free public transport, and many of them are in Europe. But in recent years cities across the United States also began to consider this option.
The pilot program has attracted more than 60 thousand new passengers
In Olympia (WA) introduced a free bus service that had previously cost $1.25 for a typical trip for adults and $3 for an Express bus from Lakewood to Tacoma.
“The project with zero fare,” which included two and a half years of strategic planning, came into force on 1 January 2020 and will last for the next five years, after which the city will conduct a re-evaluation of the impact of the project.
Clark Gilman, a member of the city Council of Olympia and member of the Board of the local transit administration, said that the campaign slogan had to be “bold and fearless”. Once adopted the measure for a vote on approval of the additional sales tax to public transportation, free fares were actually the most cost-effective option for Olympia for several reasons.
First, the cashier who collected the fare on city buses Olympia is no longer needed.
In addition, the tariff cost of the plastic cards that are already in use grew due to trade tariffs imposed by the administration of U.S. President Donald trump.
And although support for high-tech cashless systems using a mobile app were available, their implementation was considered too expensive, said Gilman.
“We looked at the options for collecting tolls, the cost of collection and processing which would be higher than the amount of the tariff, he adds. — Rates in many transit systems are less than 10% of income. And we were no exception.”
Income from public transport usually come from a combination of fares and Federal, state and local financial assistance. In many cities, such as Olympia, there are local sales taxes or real estate taxes, earmarked for transportation projects.
Therefore, Gilman and his looked at an example of the Corvallis (or), where is Oregon state University which has recently implemented a system of free travel on public transport, which has led to an increase in the number of passengers by two-thirds, according to Gilman.
“So it gave us confidence,” he says.
After just one month program in Olympia, the number of passengers grew by 20% compared to the previous year, equivalent to more than 60,000 people.
“We are very pleased with the increase in the number of passengers. It is almost as if we had a completely new transit system, which has just started, says Gilman. — Despite the fact that most people in the pocket was money and they could go earlier by bus, there are a lot of new people that have not traveled for a long time.”
The first major city in the United States begins to act
In December, 2019 Kansas city (Missouri), became the first major city in the US, where after a unanimous vote in city Council was introduced universal, system-wide, free tariff scheme. The bus had previously cost travelers $1.50 per trip or $50 for a monthly pass.
This was a top priority for the newly elected mayor of Kansas city of Quinton Lucas, who relied on a combination of regular and private funds to make their programs “Transit tariff” a reality. In a recent speech he told that the Department of transportation Kansas city has allocated almost $5 million, and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas city — nearly $1 million.
“Free public transport would allow the citizens of Kansas to access employment opportunities and education that will improve the quality of life of our community,” he said.
“The way to solve all our deepest problems”
In recent years, many other major cities have introduced public transport with a zero rate, including Los Angeles, salt lake city, Denver and Boston.
People to encourage to make the Boston public transport free of charge — a city Councilor Michelle Wu.
“In Boston public transportation can be a way to solve all our deepest problems: climate change, bridge gaps in income inequality and address issues of racial inequality, the heavy traffic and congestion, Wu said. But we see that without a functioning system that is reliable and affordable, transportation is actually a barrier to all these opportunities.”
At the beginning of the 2019 Wu wrote an article in “the Boston globe”, which spoke out against the proposed rate increase for public transportation in Boston is 6.3%.
Her work has strengthened her position as one of the most vocal and prominent leaders in the struggle for free public transport.
The first goal of Wu is to make the bus system is free, “because the bus lines typically serve communities that are least associated with the transit and has been historically marginalized population”.
She says that the first question that she usually faces when talking about free public transport relates to the cost. “In fact, it costs more than most people think to get the tariff, and therefore, you save a large part of operating costs, passing on the free bus system. And you also speed up the planting time in such a way that it leads to even greater savings in average for the system,” explains Wu.
Approximately 60% of operating income Transportation authority, Massachusetts (MBTA) comes from state and local funding. During the fiscal 2019 MBTA received approximately $1,032 billion from the sales tax, and the 175 cities and towns in the service area of the MBTA has made about $170 million in local taxes. Additional revenue of $78.5 million is generated by means not associated with paying tolls, such as advertising.
The second problem, which usually hears Wu, is that the elimination of tariffs will lead to overcrowded trains and buses.
“It would be a great problem, because our streets are now very clogged, she says. Congestion during peak hours in Boston, the heaviest in the country, and the more people will leave their cars at home and use public transport, the better for everyone.”
Is it possible to make a free passage at the scale of large cities?
Perhaps the biggest question facing the movement for free public transport is that if it can be done in major cities such as new York.
“This is a great program. This is a great system, says Suraj Patel, a lawyer and former employee of the White house Barack Obama, who is currently running for the 12th congressional district of new York. — Unfortunately, you pay for it, it needs to expand and upgrade, and therefore it seems unrealistic to go for a free ride in a place like new York”.
Patel said that instead, new York needs to work on expanding an existing Program fair rates that offers new Yorkers with low incomes fare, cheaper than usual. In order to qualify for this rate, persons must earn less than $12 760 a year, a family of two must earn less than $17 240, a family of three people — less than $21 720, a family of four — less than $26 200.
But at the same time, the conflict about the use of tariffs continues to grow.
In recent months, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of new York because of the plan proposed by the Governor of new York Andrew Cuomo, for $249 million, which is to over the next four years to increase the police presence in the new York subway by 20%.
The Governor’s plan adds 500 additional police officers into the subway system, in part to prevent evasion of fare, which, according to the state officials, leads to a loss of $243 million a year.
And Patel, and Wu denounced the decision and described it as “the criminalization of poverty.”
After increasing the police presence, there were several cases when the police was aggressive of blacks and Hispanics for low-level offenses, including, among other things, evading fare payment in the subway.
In one case, captured on video, about a dozen police were holding 19-year-old Adrian Napier at gunpoint in a crowded subway train.
Representatives of the new York city police say officers responded “to the warning about the man with the gun” when they saw Napier jumps over the turnstile.
After the attack on Napier, the officers determined that the young man had no weapon, but was arrested because he didn’t pay for the subway fare $2,75.
Some groups protesting against the increasing police presence in the new York subway, calling, inter alia, to exclude the police from public transport.
Although the current actions of new York lawmakers point to the fact that the authorities of large cities far from taking the free transit system, they think about it, and this is an important step.
“We used to say that this is impossible, Wu said. But now is the time when our problems are so urgent and so great that we must seek their solution in accordance with the scale and urgency”.