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, January 2, 2009

Paying for free transit

I spent a half-hour at American River College this afternoon getting my Spring sticker on my student ID. For the sum of $10, I get $500 worth of unlimited rides on Sacramento Regional Transit over the next five months. Even if you add in the $140 for two classes and the $1 for "student representation," the $151 I paid is an obvious bargain.

The Los Rios Community College District says it has nearly 80,000 students. Each of them is required to pay $10 for the "Universal Transit Pass." That $800,000 is a nice chunk of change, a guaranteed pool of money that can't be stolen by spendthrift governors or profligate state legislators.

This brings me back to my post in August, when I purchased my Fall sticker. I marveled then, as I do today, about what having "free" transit means for me. Yes, I'd probably still ride if I had to pay the full fare, but not nearly as often.

Everyone pays for parks. Everyone pays for libraries. Everyone pays for public schools. Why isn't transit viewed as a public service in the same way?

Today, RT takes in something on the order of $2.6 million a month in fares. (At least that was what they brought in before the fare hikes went into effect this month.) That's less than $2 per person in the RT service area.

Would it really be so difficult to pay $2 a month to provide a free public transit system that everyone would benefit from? RT could use the savings from not having to sell tickets or collect fares to expand its services.


Anonymous said...

I wonder,should we be amused or frightened by this interesting bit of news?

John said...

I like the concept of IOUs for legislators. But it isn't going to help. It certainly isn't going to be good for transit or RT in particular.

The two-thirds requirement for raising taxes in California gives control of government to a minority of legislators. It is undemocratic. It is poisonous. But too many people benefit. Too many see only what's in it for themselves.

It would take a miracle of enlightenment to cure this self-interested myopia. Are there any miracle workers alive today?