Michelle Wu writes an op-ed in the Globe suggesting (as I’ve long advocated) that the T be made fare-less, that is to say, free.
I’d like to re-iterate my wholehearted endorsement to this idea.
What would the T cost to simply be a simple transit system? Remove all the carbuncles and barnacles and bolted on junk… simply make it trains you get on and get off. Make it only and solely about safety and speed of movement. Remove the fare collection system. Get rid of the need for yet another special ‘charlie’ card. Remove the turnstiles. Open the system up to any and all riders.
Wu cites a figure of one-fifth of total revenues from the fares. I think that’s a pittance, really, and a potential problem if you ask; how much does the fare collection system itself cost? If it’s anywhere near one-fifth of the total T cost then the fare collection system is just paying for itself. And, as Wu points out, fare hikes drive down ridership, making the margins therein ever so much slimmer. At some point, with rising fares and declining ridership, the fare collection system will cost more than the revenue it generates.
Suppose the fare collection system costs one tenth of the total cost. Getting rid of the fare collection system already makes it that much cheaper and you only have to make up one-tenth revenue instead of one-fifth. (I really have no idea of the numbers, other than what Wu cites, but I’m just trying to get at the dynamics here…)
What would be the car ridership if public transportation was zero hassles? Implement congestion pricing and I bet you get the equivalent of that one-fifth of revenue back before you can say ‘pahkin lawt.’ Then you can have bike lanes and better bus times and a nice goose to climate change mitigation.
How much more revenue would restaurants, clubs, concerts and games see if families could afford to come into the city more often?
Where is the downside to making the T free?