Talking about public transport on the Twitters, of course I’m a fan of “free” for public transport.
And yes, Roy is right, there are plenty of great examples in Europe of how it’s meant to work. In fact they just prove that the system we have here, which is almost identical to theirs, can still produce a stinker. But there’s plenty of examples worldwide of free public transport. And anyway, being “the same as” somewhere else is not how I would describe a progressive society.
Think bigger. Think about tourism. Think about low incomes. Think about freedom. Think about emissions and fossil fuels. Think about roads congestion. And then think about how free public transport has been proven to increase the use of public transport by 1300%. Imagine what that could do for the rush hour.
It’s a fallacy that public transport cannot be free. We already subsidise public transport in Northern Ireland nearly 50% for a service that doesn’t make anyone happy. The only people content with it are those who don’t have the choice.
Adding charges doesn’t improve the service. It makes the whole machine focus on costs rather than quality. We should refocus our public transport to put quality first.
And the problem is that public transport rivals the cost of driving for one person but the pricing is destroyed when, for instance, a family want to go out. Buses and trains cannot compete on privacy, on punctuality, on flexibility or on comfort. They have to compete on the one thing that can: pricing.
Making buses cheaper just maintains the idea that public transport is only for those who have the spare cash to travel. We need to be much more progressive. Mobility is the right of every citizen. I would rather a low income parent use what little money they have to take their kids to the beach and buy them ice-cream rather than paying for a bus fare. That’s what I’m talking about.