Fare-Free Transit

RECEIVED Mon., Dec. 9, 2019

Dear Editor,
    Recently, Kansas City announced that it would become the first major city in the United States to offer universal fare-free public transit. At a cost of only $8 million, all bus routes will be free to the city’s half-million residents.
    Why not Austin? We’re a prosperous and booming city with a woefully inadequate transportation network. The average Austinite wastes nearly 66 hours and more than $1,000 per year waiting in traffic. Public transportation helps alleviate those problems and is one of the most cost-effective solutions to reduce congestion.
    Our fares are cheap, and Capital Metro should be praised for making an effort to keep them cheap and offer reduced fare programs. But those are half measures. We can take action today to improve transportation: Eliminate all fares.
    Fare collection makes up only 6% of Cap Metro’s budget and brings with it many connected costs. Reduced-fare programs take people to run and administer. Boarding times are delayed by people fumbling for their tickets. Bus capacities are reduced by the presence of scanners and card readers.
    For less than $24 million per year, we can avoid all of this while supercharging access to public transit. We can give our most vulnerable residents a reliable and cost-free way to get to work, go to the doctor, and visit their families. We can put more than $1,000 (the cost of a year of monthly passes) back into the pockets of regional riders. We talk a lot about Texas hospitality, but the time and money we waste caring about such an insignificant source of income could be much better allocated.
    We’re a city that leads by countless metrics – it’s time that we take our place as a leader in transportation and make a marked impact on the daily lives of our residents.
Antonino Cummings
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