Saturday, November 25th, 2023 Alive 19,205 days
Today a guy walked up to me at the train station and asked if I knew how much the fine was for not paying to ride the train. I told him I thought it was $75.00.
“Two hundred dollars!” he proudly corrected me. He then explained how thrilled he was to hear that if you donʼt pay to ride the train, there are fare inspectors on patrol to hand out $200 tickets.
I tried to explain to him that if someone canʼt afford $1.50 to ride the train, they probably canʼt afford to pay a $200 fine, but he couldnʼt hear me over the sound of his own vindictive superiority.
When I lived in Washington, I once asked an Orca bus driver on a smoke break why he let vagrants board the bus without paying. He very briefly explained to me that the purpose of a transit system is to move people around, not to make money.
Thinking about it later, I started to understand that while a transit systemʼs recovery rate is an interesting measure of something, itʼs perhaps not a useful measurement of anything. Moving people around is good for a cityʼs economy. The economic impact of free movement to a society is of the reasons why various levels of government subsidize car and truck travel to the tune of trillions of dollars each year in the United States.
It would be interesting to see the same fervor that is used to prop up the auto and road construction industries applied to railroads and public transit.