Thursday, November 5, 2009

Transit fares are a direct, regressive tax on the poor

I have been advocating free public transit for more than a decade, as one of the original organizers of Citizens Taking Action - for transit dependent riders. We have been doing a survey of transit fares in 25 major metropolitan areas for a number of years. I testified before the IL House Transportation Committee in favor of adoption of this policy for senior citizens. Chicago has always ranked as first or second for having the highest transit fares in the country.
Fare free pubic transit already exists in numerous locations in some fashion. Transit fares are a direct, regressive tax on the poor. The collection of fares is an anachronism leftover from the days when transit systems were private concerns, prior to CTA being formed in 1947, and not municipal entities. At one time CTA had, if I recollect correctly, as many as 18 different categories of riders, and it obviously got too cumbersome to administer. Some of the state legislators not only wanted to exclude the millionaires people keep complaining about, but every senior who was not penniless.
When one considers the difference between peak and off-peak transit services, a valid argument is made that seniors have been cheated over the years. A common complaint was that buses and trains sometimes had few riders, so when there is a way to correct this, everyone it seems is opposed to it.
One could also say that the rush hour riders have already paid for the system, and seniors riding in the middle of the day cost nothing.
For years I was a public librarian, and never asked a patron how much money they had in order to borrow a book.
The topic of how transit is funded is a detailed topic, and a bit more than I need to get into here. It's a little discouraging when 10x more is spent for highways, and transit goes begging.... Charles Paidock at blogs-SunTimes

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