Should Transit Systems Break from the Low Fare Orthodoxy?

A proposal for a radical reinvention of the fare structure for the country's transit systems—one that balances the cost of transit with that of driving, generates more revenue from fares, and enables more capital investments.

"With America's transit systems woefully underinvesting in their own capital infrastructure, it is time to consider whether the interests of the riders themselves are actually served by an approach that prioritizes low fares over high-quality service," writes Rohit Aggarwala.

"Shifting away from subsidized fares offers the promise of several benefits in return: improved and expanding services, more creative management, and the ability of even lower fares for certain riders who need them."

Citing the urbanizing trend of the country and a corresponding shift away from the car, Aggarwala suggests that these social changes might allow the evolution of transit fares. The article's suggestions for how to jumpstart that evolution: 

  • "[The] first task should be to look at what fares transit could charge given potential travel alternatives."
  • "A second task in setting a fair fare would be thinking about which transit riders do, in fact, deserve public fare subsidies. The goal here would be a discounted price for groups who qualify in terms of need."
  • "A final task would be to ensure that government policies are doing everything possible to equalize the cost of riding transit and driving." 
Full Story: Why Higher Fares Would Be Good for Public Transit


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