Public Transportation Should Be Free
by Jonathan A. Weiss
Food, shelter, and clothing are clear human necessities.
Many, notably Communists and Socialists, propose that the State should provide them in adequate measure as a crucial role.
Transportation to should be so considered as essential for the provision of goods to others, formation and cohesive flourishing of communities, global connections in the modern world, trade, and production both industrial and nutritional (fishing, hunting, raising edible animals, fishing, and, obviously the mixed blessing of agribusiness with subsidiary often dangerous chemicals.)
Walking, riding beasts of burden, and biking (recent in human history) are both healthy exercise, enjoyable, informative of the environment, and of utility. They are not enough, however, for the modern urban, food production and provision (domestically and even internality), industrial, crafts, and other possibilities (entertainment, group enjoyment, recreation, etc.) as well markets requirement and conditions.
Most cities are badly polluted with toxic air (compare London in the 1800s with smog from coal burning heaters) and toxins. Noise pollution from construction, deliveries, road repairs also damages the quality of life (with demonstrable effects on health – particularly for those living with exposure to the street.) Photographs are common of pollution produced hanging darkness over cities (e.g. Beijing, Mexico City.) Much of this pollution could be diminished if public transportation were free, extensive, and efficient (as well as accessible to as many as possible, e.g. those in wheelchairs, or using strollers). Before banning fossil fuel vehicles (or those using batteries or electricity derived from polluting sources or ecologically damaging dams or river diversions – even if quieter, with danger noted of not being able to hear electric power vehicles approach, particularly prevalent with reckless bikers) the extent of diminution of pollution might very well be effective. (In an experiment, Atlanta low bus fare reduced other vehicular traffic markedly.) In New York City, to the contrary, the creation of bike lanes (not obeyed or enforced by police in direction or confinement or speed – even illegal electric) has created great peril for pedestrians. Combined with parking in traffic lanes (for revenue purposes apparently) the restricted traffic space available had produced not less traffic but instead increased traffic jams with motors running in vehicles with frustrated drivers and passengers. Here particularly many pollutants would be reduced as a result of free available public transit. In general, there are social benefits as people from different backgrounds, races, cultures, religions, and attitudes are found in groups together. (Although there are bad verbal interchanges in buses and subways, sometimes leading to violence therefore requiring some police presence, there are many enjoyable and even enriching ones, and acts of generosity with seats offered to pregnant woman, the elderly, the handicapped, and assistance to those with infants. Some,some places, argue that mixed mass transportation harmonizes integration.)
When the Soviet Union built its system, with beautiful Stations in Moscow they were well placed so that people often define their neighborhood by the nearest stop, the charge for use was 5 kopeks, virtually nothing with no enforcement at the turnstile exits. (Cf. Philadelphia with advertisements even on the front of trains to be seen before ticket purchase). Clocks displayed the time since the last train left and passengers would often pass on the way into and from the station. Kiev and Leningrad’s (deep) featured similar systems. Rome, which also preserved a large part of its street cars, Madrid and other cities have also expanded substantially. Travel on them decreases surface traffic. Subways, in many locales, reflecting wise government allocation of resources, can be constructed quickly. Shanghai built a system with more mileage than New York in six years. Many cities, most recently in Qatar, have made their provision a growth industry.
The poor and working people (particularly low income) have to use public transportation. The rich need not. Some fly first class and use helicopters. (On the Upper East Side, highly paid workers in Wall Street area queue up to share cabs.) Others use limousines. (Query, why are these not banned?)
Charging for public transportation is therefore a regressive tax, an important cost for those who have little money, a cost not worth reckoning for those who have a lot or not even relevant. (In New York currently the subway system has badly degenerated with funds badly, perhaps corruptly, spent, with big expenditures of new fancy stations for rich developers new architectural monstrosities to be rented by the wealthy who may not live there, even using the property obtained for money laundering – while also building stations which would be better off just cleaned with employment for many possible.
Meanwhile trains come less often than previously (more crowded as a result), sometimes not at night or weekends or with great delays then. (Yet, for those who work at night or go to entertainment, New York does set an example of 24 hour service, perhaps unique in the world.) In London, Margaret Thatched wrecked a comfortable subway system, with carpets on the car floors, so that it is dirty and unattractive. How many other systems are so mismanaged with money improperly allocated or diverted?)
Brazil and China have worked on increasing bus transportation speed of loading and moving with efficiency. Even with carbon emissions, this provision still offers desirable mobility for most locales. Without fossil fuels, electric buses. moreover, will cut pollution substantially. No matter what, they also provide the best means of transportation for some rural and remote areas (including sections of some sprawling cities). These areas lack more and more essential services as well as local railroad stations (e.g. with the general closure of hospitals – increased administration and technological gadgets – absence of rural conveniently accessible adequate health facilities creates a major public health problem.)
What is the source of required payment? In the short run, it is a matter of taxation. Most of the rich are obscenely wealthy. Raising taxes considerably for the rich, their property, their companies, abolishing tax shelters and loopholes, would create a large source for public transportation and other public projects. Not only are education, health, arts, parks, preserving nature and even enhancing its beauty. worthy of sufficient government support so is free public transportation. In the long run, the savings in health from illness and accidents will more than likely make up for the cost. The United States spends $1.25 trillion a year on “national security”- a large portion “privatized” (raising costs for profits with no visibility or transparency or accountability. The Veteran’s administration spends half of what medicare does for drugs because they negotiate prices. Why drugs, often developed with public money, should be sold at such high prices sharply raises another allocation of money issue. ). Money could also be allocated from this great military expenditure (much larger than any other nation) for public transportation.
Even Eisenhower warned against the “military industrial” complex; reforms would free up money for the public good, including free public transportation.
After World War II both European Continental nations and the United States selected transportation paths. In Europe, they built trains. Eisenhower, with Engine Charlie Wilson from General Motors, selected highways and cars (in Europe they are now increasing super highways). The justification was that it would make moving military heavy equipment to the Coasts for shipping abroad in wartime. Now, that “infrastructure” with so many miles and structures has degenerated greatly. Extensive repair in not only necessary and costly but will bring jobs.
Traffic jams create nightmares for many involved or near with increase wear. (In New York City, as noted, the situation is exacerbated by removing lanes). Reagan hastened the destruction of highways, etc. by raising the limit on truck loads considerably. But, as the weight ascends arithmetically, the damage multiplies geometrically. Clinton approved the selling of SUVs without fuel restrictions of cars because of their truck chassis. (Noteworthy, these behemoth are often difficult to impossible to enter for those who are short and/or with weak legs. Some New York cabs suffer the same bad condition.) Both of these Presidential permissions should be immediately repealed. For the SUVs, there would have to be a “grandfather” clause and then a buy back for used ones to be replaced. A policy of banning those with only the driver would offer a start Again, these changes offer long term advantages which would bear fruit.
On the other hand, tolls were originally assessed on bridges, tunnels, and superhighways (query: a burden on interstate commerce raising Constitutional considerations?) were organelle justified as paying off the cost of construction (also funded by bonds). Now, with the costs usually long gone paid for, they are used as a source of revenue increasing the costs for commuters considerably (while often contributing to congestion.) It is often very hard on the budgets of commuters, and is, again, a regressive tax. They should all be free.
American particularly value the independence of automobile use. It has become part of the “American dream” of owning a house, preferably in the suburbs (“white flight” contributed.) The hope is that the highway system (roads, bridges, tunnels, surrounding area, and medians) is repaired while the cars and buses run with energy produced and used in a non polluting fashion in the future with a base in solar, wind, or tide power and materials for conversion, supply and preservation used whose activity and materials used do not cause environmental harm.
Trucks, equipped the same way, not too overloaded, could continue to serve a use (like cars in the future, they may be self driving leaving displayed drivers with a need to be helped with money and job training.) A proper rail system would divert some of that traffic.
Long distance travel by rail is now quite feasible. In China they have many high speed rails including from Beijing to Hong Kong and Tibet. Japan has had “bullet trains”. Europe used to feature beautiful overnight trips (eg. Paris-Madre; Paris-Florence or Rome). (Before World War II, there were many in the United States. The Broadway Limited, for example, even featured two cars for eating – one kitchen and grill for cooking excellent meals, the other for elegant dining and fine utensils and dishes.) In Western Europe, the high speed trains now abound (Rome-Florence in an hour and a half; a four hour trip at least by car and predecessor trains.) It is high time for the United States to follow suit.
Railroads mean not only powerful efficient engines but rails and roads. Their construction is labor intensive as is the infrastructure. Programs for building both would increase jobs with a Keynesian multiplier working to help the economy from hopefully adequate wages. The establishing a high speed rail system would greatly ease the roads and airport congestion. The US government could eliminate its current subsidies, indirect and direct, for private planes and helicopters, moving towards their elimination as an unnecessary class “privilege.” (How accurate was Thorsten Veblen in his Theory of the Leisure Class; Theory of Business Enterprise.)
This exposition leaves us with the question of long distance travel, particularly to and from the undeveloped countries. At the moment, airplanes seem the answer. But, we may gently suggest a subsidy program for poor people with distant relative. Certainly the space and amenities should be greatly improved below business and first class. Subsidies and support for competition between airplane builders deserves careful examination with real planning for the future (while high speed rail diminishes their need, reducing overcrowded expensive airports with their congestion producing cars and buses backed up in long lines). With all the lines of people waiting and the accommodations, most airplane travel is a real burden – particularly for the handicapped and those with children. (The inclusion of pets and “comfort” animals merits critical consideration.)