From those wild-eyed lefties at Marketwatch:
This is not as far-fetched as it looks. On average, the fare box covers only one-third of the cost of a typical mass transit ride. The rest is made up with dedicated taxes, subsidies from state and local governments, and tolls.
Clearly, if these sources cover two-thirds of a ride, how much do you think taxes, subsidies and tolls would have to rise to take over the remaining third? The answer: not much.
Some of these funds can come from Washington's stimulus package.
Right now federal money for states and local governments is aimed at big capital projects such as buying new trains or buses. But what is the point of buying new transit equipment if the local systems are mothballing their fleet because of service cuts?
Better to use these funds to help eliminate fares and maintain or increase service. It also avoids the government giving people tax cuts with one hand while taking them away with the other.
Besides help from Washington, local governments can raise tolls, perhaps by charging congestion pricing, as a means of both raising revenue and convincing motorists to switch to mass transit.
(I should acknowledge, by the way, that I would have never found that Marketwatch editorial on my own; I got it from the Seattle Department of Transportation, which sends out an exhaustive daily email of transportation news. Want to sign up? Email Allie Gerlach here.)