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Tom Tangney says he understands that there's a lot of resentment from drivers who say, 'If those guys are getting a ride to work, on my dime, screw it! They ought to pay a higher price for their fares.'

Should mass transit be free? It's time to stop thinking about dollars and cents

Tom Tangney's thoughts on free buses taken from Tuesday's edition of the Tom & Curley Show

It's near and dear to my heart and my bus riding beliefs: It's a radical argument that says, listen up America, it's time to start making mass transit free.

In a column on Salon, Henry Grabar says various cities around the world are experimenting with free transit, and it's time for American cities to do it, too.

Now, we just rejected buses through Proposition 1 in April. It included a $60 car tab fee to fund these different routes that we were told at the time are unsustainable.

It's been a fairly contentious issue about how much support we can give the buses in King County and Seattle. I feel like I can argue my position but, because I feel like it benefits me, I'm at a disadvantage ethically.

I don't drive, I ride the bus all the time. So for me, personally, it would be much better if buses were free and I didn't have to pay my $90 a month for a bus pass.

Yet, I understand that there's a lot of resentment from drivers who say, 'If those guys are getting a ride to work on my dime, screw it! They ought to pay a higher price for their fares.'

Thirty percent of the bus system is subsidized (which is the common amount most bus systems are subsidized.) That means the rest of society, drivers and riders alike, have to pick up the slack.

Grabar suggests that we should think about it differently: Not as dollars and cents, but as a social good. And I too, to some degree, believe it.

He writes ...

A free ride policy represents the culmination of a long shift from thinking of transit as a business sector — one that was quite profitable in its heyday — to considering it an indispensable public service.

It's a social good.

If all buses and light rail were free, and you saw a huge increase in ridership, that would be better for the riders. In this model, it's not costing them anything. It would be better for people who would have otherwise driven, who then don't have to pay for their parking or gas. But it would also be better for the drivers that remain because there would be less congestion on the road and more parking spaces.

If you see it as a social good and not a dollars and cents issue, then this would be a great thing.

Listen to Jason Rantz's response to Tom:

Tom Tangney's thoughts on free buses taken from Tuesday's edition of the Tom & Curley Show

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