Saturday, April 09, 2005


A group in France, RATP claims that free city transit would cost no more than one where you pay for a ticket. How can this be possible, you ask?

First off, the true cost of so-called private transportation must be considered. These include pollution, road and street repair, injuries and deaths, and the cost of gasoline and diesel for a petroleum importing country like France. Anything that lessens the amount of "private" traffic also reduces these hidden costs. If free transit shifted, say 15% of traveling away from autos, add this to the "plus side" of the public transit ledger.

Ticket sales make up only about 30% of the amount that goes to provide for public transit. The rest is provided by the government. Before anyone gets worked up over subsidies to public transport, remember that so-called private transportation is even more highly subsidized by the state, some $135 billion per annum in the USA.

Then there are the costs of printing and selling tickets, keeping the turnstiles functioning and policing for free riders. This sizable amount would have to be deducted from the cost of public transit.

A further saving could be made from de-bureaucratizing management. High-salary government bureaucrats could be eliminated and replaced by a board of directors elected from the transit workers and users. The transit company would become a stake-holder cooperative rather than a government agency. Lower level management posts could be eliminated as the transit workers could practice self-management on a day-to-day basis. With democratic management, the need for strikes, which are so costly to a transit system, would be eliminated.

Of course no "free" system is actually free. Transit must be paid for in some manner. At present, it is covered by a mix of taxes and tickets. By eliminating tickets, it would seem that taxes would bear the entire burden. Not necessarily as taxes could be replaced by user fees. The group which benefits most from transportation systems are businesses. The movement of workers and customers, as well as goods, is a business cost that is socialized - imagine if each company had to supply its own transportation system to bring its workers to the job and consumers to the shop, as well as paying tolls to pay for the roads and bridges. An alternative method of finance would be to charge each business a user fee, and like water rates, the bigger the business, the larger the charge.


Anonymous Jeff said...

Indeed its pollution, road and street repair, injuries and deaths, and the cost of gasoline and diesel for a petroleum importing country like France.It could be great help for the commuters which lesser their transportation expenses.Thanks a lot for sharing this article.

5:10 AM  

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