Due to the collapse of local tax revenues caused by the national economic downturn, many transit systems may face shortages of money over the next year or two. Assuming this is the case, transit providers will have to either raise fares or reduce services by eliminating bus routes or otherwise reducing transit service.
It seems to me that raising fares is generally the lesser evil, both from the standpoint of an individual rider and from the standpoint of the transit agency itself.
As gas prices keep rising, the public demand for buses and trains keeps growing. Yet in some cities, government is actually cutting back transit service, because rising gas prices make transit vehicles more expensive to operate.(1) But as a matter of substantive policy, service reductions are not only less desirable than service increases, but also less desirable than fare increases. As a bus rider, I’d rather pay $1.50 and know that my service is safe from fiscal crises than pay $1 and worry that my service might be reduced or canceled next month. Moreover, if fairness means spreading pain equally throughout the population, it is fairer to have everyone pay a little more than to have some neighborhoods be left without service.