There is a certain happiness sighted when your bus comes along. It is of course a small specialized form of happiness and will never be a great thing.

-Richard Brautigan, The Old Bus

Friday, August 8, 2008

Free transit -- sort of

For the price of two classes at American River College, I now have free transit until the end of the year. And, as it turns out, I could have received the pass for the price of just one class.

This raises a very interesting point about the concept of free transit. At the meeting of the Sacramento Regional Transit District board on July 28, the idea was briefly touched upon in the board's discussion and quickly discarded.

But it's not as far fetched as it sounds. According to the "RT Fact Sheets" at RT's Web site, the district's operating budget is $147.7 million. Last year, RT anticipated just 21 percent of its operating expenses would be covered by the fares riders pay.

In other words, if the community saw the value of transit and agreed that providing transit was a worthy goal -- a goal on a par with trash collection or street maintenance or park programs -- it would cost less than $32 million in new taxes each year to make transit free in Sacramento. That's less than $16 a year per person for the 2.1 million residents served by RT. That is less money than RT currently receives from local sales taxes.

If the county and the cities in the region taxed "free" parking, everyone could have free transit.

4 comments:

zarchasmpgmr said...

I'm taking a class at FLC in the fall. I've thought of springing for the card because of the free RT rides, but that doesn't really help me out here in Roseville. And since RT really isn't regional, there's no way to get from Roseville to FLC, because the resultant Roseville Transit <-> RT <-> Folsom Stage Line just is preposterous...and doesn't work for night classes. And there's no Placer Co. Transit (the ideal operator) to do that run, either.

RT really should get back to its regional routes. Remember when you could get from Yuba/Marysville to Folsom on RT? When RT line 10 terminated at Douglas & Sunrise (the northern one)? Although that's how the light rail got funded...by giving up all those services.

Gabby said...

I was taking a class at SCC for the summer and I asked about discounted bus passes but they told me that they only did it during the Fall and Spring Semesters. Ugh I guess I should have asked more people than just the one girl in the office.

John said...

Gabby, I'm taking a Fall class. It is possible the summer classes are not included in the deal with RT.

Back in May, I remember a woman with a very small infant telling the bus driver that she didn't know what she'd do for transportation when the semester ended.

wburg said...

I loves my free transit pass that comes with being a Sac State student...I may have to keep taking classes at Sac City or somewhere just to keep the pass!

That's what got me over the fence: the bus pass was free, but the semester parking pass was $180 or $5 a day. Cheapskatiness did the rest, and a transit rider was born.

Not sure if the community college pass works the same, but as long as you're still a student there is no gap: the fall semester sticker works July 1-December 31, the spring semester sticker works January 1-June 30.