Why Buses Should Be Free


I have proposed that Washington State create a Transit License.

The Transit License would be an alternative to the Drivers License.

A Transit License would:

-Prevent a person to operate a motor vehicle
-Give free or reduced fares on transit
-Allow a person to drink alcohol at age 18

Basically, you trade driving for the ability to have a beer at a bar while college age. And get to ride the bus cheaply.
More regressive taxation from the Stranger. The 1% thank you for your service.
Charles, so how does this tax impact those out of the range of free public transportation? Are you suggesting a statewide free bus system? People outside the metropolitan area should not be specifically forced to subsidize a bus system they would never see or use. The state is bigger than Seattle, much bigger. Been out to eastern Washington much? Think a bus only system would work in the Wenatchee Valley or in Yakima? The stranger is quick to point out the so called lack of ethics of driving yet failing to realize that this is the only way the majority of America can work and support its family and in turn the state. The construction worker/contractor/farmer/mechanics of the world need trucks to survive.
The reality is that the car/truck is here to stay, the focus should be on cleaner burning fuels with better gas mileage and power so those who need something bigger than a prius to work have the option. In addition the socialist option of subsidizing public transportation in the city to help the workers making minimum wage while at the same time penalizing the same worker making minimum wage who needs a truck to work is completely flawed and biased.
This last bit is a little off topic but the Stranger has become increasingly one sided and flawed in its criticism of the rest of the state. What makes sense for Seattle does not necessarily work for the rest of Washington. Sometimes it feels like I am reading the Left version of FOX NEWS when I feel that you have the capacity to be more "fair and balanced"
monthly pass with roving inspectors solves most of these problems. also, properly tax gasoline, duh. making things free ensures they are overused and wasted. great transit systems of the world do NOT provide free busses, why reinvent the wheel? just copy paris or Amsterdam. in seattle, we continually try to have out own little unique way of doing things, the result is division and we don't have the basics even done, in this case, a god damned actual fast transit train system.


Well yeah, the gas tax I would do without.

Transit should always be paid for with a state property tax.

That, however, would require changing the state Constitution and removing the covenant preventing tax rises.

It would also mean that "native" Washingtonians would have to start to pay their fair share according to their asset holdings in the state.

Good luck with that until the "Home Team" is replaced by more diversity from the suburbs...

3) I would never propose tax people in the rural areas and small towns. my only concern is the city.
@3: I'm subsidizing small towns in rural Washington that I'll never see. Maybe you're proposing that taxes collected in one county should only be spent in that county? FABULOUS IDEA!

"Rural Washington" is something that will soon be a thing of the past. Look at the migration and voting patterns.

Tri-Cities is the next "Seattle".
gas is already heavily taxed in WA state, and more heavily taxed in seattle, amongst the highest gas taxes in the US. the current cost, @ >$4/gallon, is a large part of what holds our economy in this stagnant state.
I like the idea of free buses (and for NYC, also free subways). But a point of fact, Cahrles: The market does compensate the state for the costs of car ownership. Sales tax is levied on car sales and the dealership pays its own taxes. Then there are car registration fees, fees for your license plate, gasoline taxes, annual fees for your car tabs, fees to have your car's emissions checked (which you need to do so you can pay your tab fees). Want to park your car on the street? 3 dollars an hour. Get a ticket for parking too long? 48 dollars. (show me a bike or bus that pays those rates into the public funds) Buy your own parking space from a capitol hill lot? Pay taxes. The business that sells you the spot pays B&O taxes. Car insurance per year costs between 300 and 1500 dollars. That insurance company is paying B&O taxes, plus the income and wages of its employees feed into the larger economy and taxation system. Etc etc etc.

You can argue that cars cost more than they put in--a plausible but still imperfect argument. But your flat assertion that the market does not compensate the state for car ownership is total b.s.
Heard in conversation the other day: "The bus is a lot nicer to take these days now that the ride free is gone." "Huh?" "A lot fewer mentally ill homeless on the bus."
Free buses will quickly become rolling urinals, flophouses, cathouses, black markets, and drug dens.

Yeah, sad but true. Please review the rationale for ending the free ride zone in Seattle.

Socialist utopians like Mr. Muede don't have a full picture of human nature.
@9, I've suspected not just the gas tax, but the lack of an income tax and the fact that our state primarily gives breaks to IT and Aerospace instead of working to cultivate more economic diversity.
@6 Charles, Thanks for clarification.

@7 taxes should be used for the whole state on various programs that effect us all in different ways. The idea of a free transit system that is only used by the city @ the tune of over $600 million as stated in this article, in addition to a gas hike would be greatly regressive to the poor in the rest of the state. I doubt (may be wrong) that you could think of a subsidy outside of king county that comes close to this price tag. However Charles has clarified his view in his statement.

@8 Their will always be a great deal of this states economy that is driven by agriculture and its importance should not be overlooked. I have family in the Wenatchee Vally and have seen the direct impact the wine industry has had on improving the economy and quality of life in that region.
They are free in Seattle now. Guess what happens if you dont pay? NOTHING.
I hope Mudede doesn't own a car.
As a bus driver, fuck you. The night owls are already a shelter. They still exist because people need transportation in the non normal times of the night.
More than 80% of our driver assaults occur by people whom don't pay. I am not talking about fare disputes- I am talking about people that don't pay, and walk on by.
Try driving more then a desk and a phone.
My job is awesome. I meet so many people. I learn about so many things. Of course, there are the habitual Shitties ( people whom have a beef with authority. I don't have a baton- just a uniform), violent offenders, our shit on seats when you get to your terminal. Sometimes the person you meet is great. Other times you find a meth head trying to claw your brains out. Not quite like your job, huh?
Next time you advocate for this utopia, maybe you should think about the people that actually do the job.
@14: Yes, you're wrong. Flatly wrong. Not debatable.

King County receives roughly $0.86 back in state services for every dollar it puts into the state coffers. Every rural county receives well over $1 back for each dollar it puts in.

The subsidy presently flows from urban to rural, in direct rebuttal to your "unfair" hypothetical. Just as subsidies flow from blue states to red states nationally. It really is that simple.

Something like direct state support for public transit -- which every other state in the union with major urbanized areas (even Texas) recognizes as a wise investment -- would actually help to correct the imbalance.
@18 the sheer size of the rest of the state compared to King County makes it logical that more tax dollars would be distributed to these areas. My unfair statement was only regarding a proposed gas tax to fund free buses that would be regressive to the poor in rural areas. Also this is not a RED V BLUE argument, or rural v urban just an idea on how to properly fund free transit which I am in support of just not at the cost of penalizing drivers.
Gas is so cheap in America! Go to other countries and look at prices. They pay per liter because it's expensive and people don't use as much. In Vietnam (where I've traveled recently) everyone drives motorbikes which can get in the range of 100 mpg! In cities like Bellingham (where I am currently) a motorbike would be perfectly sufficient. But ideally everyone would use the relatively excellent bus system here (btw it only cost $1 to ride, woohoo!). People who rent a 1 bdrm apt in a city should not be paying for a car. It's irrational. Go public transport!
What @11 and @12 said.

If they're free, the homeless and vagabonds will ride them all day and night long.

That's why they started charging a nickel to ride the Staten Island Ferry, not to make any money, just to keep the bums from packing it to capacity.
@20 they pay per liter in those countries because they use the metric system, not due to the price of gasoline.
I don't think (urban) buses or any public transit for that matter should be free. It should be affordable but not free. @12 has a point. I recall a piece in the NYT of people actually living in/on New York's subway system. I don't want that encouraged. Free transit would definitely invite that. I'm glad the ride-free zone is no longer.
@20: "They pay per liter because it's expensive and people don't use as much."

Of course! And they measure your weight in kilograms because people are smaller there!
Make buses free and you'll transform them from a mass transit system into a Ride the Ducks tour for homeless people.
Easier to provide free bikes.

Bus trips used to be free for seniors and kids, and then we made them a nominal fee of 25 cents.
@19: The sheer population of King County and the sheer impact of the Seattle economy make it logical that investments of regional importance would be concentrated in those places.

I didn't mean to be so harsh the first time, but yes, this is most definitely a matter of "rural versus urban" polutical discourse. That you would default to treating any state investment in urban transit mobility as an undue burden on the rural taxpayer, while presuming that state investments in Eastern Washington infrastructure and quality of life are somehow inherently more beneficial to the whole, demonstrates how successful anti-urban forces have been at controlling the terms of the dialogue.
I don't think it should be free, but I think it should be less expensive than it is.

That said, I'm at loathe to give any level of government the mandate to "create a new ethic." My argument against conservative laws governing moral comportment are based on the principle that ethics and morals are governed at levels of society other than the one where we make formal law. This principle only carries weight when I'm equally cautious about applying my own moral and ethical principles in the same way.
@10 - How are taxes and fees examples of the market compensating the public for externalized costs? Taxes and fees are NOT MARKET IMPOSED. The examples you gave show the STATE compensating for a market failure with taxes and fees, which is Charles' point, in part.
Heavily taxing cheap gas will do nothing but hurt everyone outside of the central Seattle metro area where you can't bus everywhere but still may have to work a crappy hourly job.
It would also be cheaper and more efficient to address many of the vectors that create the homeless nuisance, than to warp our public transportation in an effort to keep them from using or misusing it.

We don't even have to care for those fuckers emotionally to make caring for them a win.
Ditto to @31. The West Coast approach to underfunding homeless and mental health services -- then handing over the parks, sidewalks, and late-night public transit systems wholesale and paying for hundreds of daily intersection-blocking EMS calls -- is an epic "own goal" for the citizenry as a whole.

Public amenities and standards of public decorum can coexist in cities that prioritize them. Really.
I'd agree with some of the sentiment that the buses shouldn't be totally free. People do sometimes respect services more when they cost something. However $2.50 a ride is expensive enough to dissuade most casual users from even trying out the bus system.

My sister was visiting a friend in West Seattle the other day. Walking on the ferry and taking the bus up the hill would cost her and her husband $5 parking, $12 ferry, $9 bus ($26 total). A round trip taking their car on the ferry is only $26.50 plus maybe a gallon gas (say $31 total).

The convenience of taking the car is worth a few bucks and with three or four people the transit option is more expensive than the auto option. If there were a transfer from ferry to bus, free parking at the ferry terminal, or simply lower fares then the transit option would be a better option.

That's just a West coast approach?
@43: At the critical mass at which we experience it, yes. Most East Coast cities still have much better infrastructures in place for non-emergency check-ins for the unsheltered, and established options in case of eviction that are vastly superior to "go live in a tent somewhere until we bulldoze it". New York still has an absolute right to a roof over your head for those who request it.

The flipside is that the East Coast has a lot less general tolerance for below-minimum-standard decorum in public spaces -- you all mistake your resignation for "protecting civil liberties", but really you are just driven from public space and develop an affinity for private space as you age. Most Seattleites would be shocked at the overwhelming proportion of normal, socially positive activities happening on sidewalks and in parks in other parts of the country. I know it's the first thing I notice every time I go back.