Thursday, September 6, 2018

French city of Dunkirk gets Tallinn-style free public transport

Mayor of Tallinn Taavi Aas (right) with his Dunkirk counterpart Patrice Vergriete.
Mayor of Tallinn Taavi Aas (right) with his Dunkirk counterpart Patrice Vergriete. Source: Raepress
Mayor of Tallinn Taavi Aas was in the northeastern French city of Dunkirk (Dunkerque) on Tuesday at a conference marking the rolling-out of a free public transport system there.
The free transport network, available to approximately 200,000 residents in the city and its environs, actually began working on 1 September and is the largest city in France to offer the service to its inhabitants, according to a Tallinn City Council press release.
Mayor of Dunkirk Patrice Vergriete reportedly held up Tallinn as an example of how free transport systems can work in practice, with the need for further expansion on an international scale outlined by both mayors.
''Following the example of our cities, the free public transport debate has opened up in Paris, Bucharest and various German cities,'' claimed Mr. Aas (Centre).
''We are open to sharing our experience with everyone,'' he went on, noting that free public transport was not just confined to Tallinn, having been implemented in the county line buses of most of Tallinn's 16 counties this summer.
''The capital city and the Estonian state working together not only enhance our message in the field of public transport, but also in areas such as natural conservation and digital development,'' he went on.
Other city dignitaries present at the meeting came from all over France, including southern French Aubagne district council chief Sylvia Barthelemy and Mayor of the Châteauroux, in central France, Gil Averous.
Tallinn representative to the EU, journalist Allan Alaküla, gave a talk on the prospects of international cooperation in the field of free public transport, it is reported, and speakers from Poland, Germany, Spain and Brazil were also present.
Free public transport to all Tallinn residents, who have to validate a swipe card on boarding a bus, tram or trolleybus, began in 2013.
Editor: Andrew Whyte
Source: Tallinn City Council

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Should All Public Transit Be Free?

 By John Cookson, BigThink.

More than half of the world’s population lives near an urban centre. But as our cities grow increasing traffic has clogged roads and highways.  In much of the U.S., a car—there are 246 million registered, as of 2009—is a near-necessity. Meanwhile, longer commutes have been linked with severe health problems, according to a recent report by Gallup.
Public transportation systems hold the promise of more efficient movement—and a healthier population—but in many U.S. cities there are few incentives to promote widespread use of buses, subways, trolleys and trains.
A way to realign these incentives and increase public transit use is to make all public transportation free to passengers, Erik Olin Wright, a professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, told Big Think. According to Wright, the benefits of free public transit are broader than are apparent with strict financial bookkeeping. The full value comes in a range of ancillary economic, health and ecological benefits, including:
  • "Reduced air pollution, including especially reduced greenhouse gases, which would help mitigate global warming."
  • "More efficient labor markets since it is easier for poor people to get to jobs. This is a benefit to employers for it makes it easier to hire people and it is a benefit to the people without cars who now find it easier to get jobs. But it is also a benefit to the society at large because it contributes to a long-term reduction in poverty."
  • "Health benefits: reduced asthma and other illnesses linked to automobile generated pollution." 
  • "Less congestion on the highways for those who do need to drive."
These "positive externalities" need to be highlighted to gain public support for free transit, says Wright.
College towns have been a testing ground for free-ride transit—for students and non-students alike. Programs currently operate in cities such as Clemson, South Carolina, and Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  As well, popular tourist towns from Park City, Utah, to Hawaii’s Big Island have created free systems. Baltimore, too, recently started the Charm City Circulator, a fleet of twenty-one buses traveling three free routes in the city. Other transit systems have free-fare programs for children, students and the elderly.
The key is to scale an already-subsidized industry with select free-fare groups into a system-wide program free to all.  This would create a tipping point toward more people using public transportation. "Of course public transportation has to be paid for,” writes Wright, “but it should not be paid for through the purchase of tickets by individual riders—it should be paid for by society as a whole through the one mechanism we have available for this, taxation."
"This should not be thought of as a 'subsidy' in the sense of a transfer of resources to an inefficient service in order for it to survive," he says, "but rather as the optimal allocation of our resources to create the transportation environment in which people can make sensible individual choices between public and private means of transformation that reflect the true costs of these alternatives."

Link to original:

Estonia To Become The World’s First Free Public Transport Nation


by Regina Schröter celebrating  EU Green Week Pop Up City, 16 May 2018

Tallinn, known for its digital government and successful tech startups, is often referred to as Europe’s innovation capital. Now celebrating five years of free public transport for all citizens, the government is planning to make Estonia the first free public transport nation.

Allan Alaküla, Head of Tallinn European Union Office, shares some valuable insights for other cities.
Five years ago, citizens of Tallinn were asked in a referendum if free public transport should be realized. Why should citizens be involved in such political decisions?
“A decision for a long-term project should not only be taken by the current elected council, but it should be locked politically by asking for support from the public. Although a local referendum is not legally binding, the mandate from the popular vote is stronger than just from the council.”

To ride Tallinn’s network of trams, buses and trains for free, you must be registered as a resident, which makes the municipality profit €1,000 from your income tax every year. All you need to do then is getting a €2 green card and carrying your ID on public transport
How does this work out for the municipality?
“There’s no doubt that we not only cover the costs, but also come out with a surplus. We earned double as much as we have lost since introducing free public transport. We’re happy to see that so many people are motivated to register as residents in Tallinn to make use of free public transport.”
Who is profiting the most from free buses, trams and trains in Tallinn?
“A good thing is, of course, that it mostly appeals to people with lower to medium incomes. But free public transport also stimulates the mobility of higher-income groups. They are simply going out more often for entertainment, to restaurants, bars and cinemas. Therefore they consume local goods and services and are likely to spend more money, more often. In the end this makes local businesses thrive. It breathes new life into the city.”
What further actions is Tallinn taking to make the use of individual transport less attractive?
“Before introducing free public transport, the city center was crammed with cars. This situation has improved — also because we raised parking fees. When non-Tallinners leave their cars in a park-and-ride and check in to public transport on the same day, they can’t only use public transport for free, but also won’t be charged the parking fee. We noticed that people didn’t complain about high parking fees once we offered them a good alternative.”
What inspired the Estonian government to introduce free public transport all over the country?
“People in other parts of Estonia started to demand free public transport, too. In Wales, an experiment with free public transport is about to end in May, but has already been extended for another year. Taking this as an example, we would also like to remove the public transport ticketing for all rural connections in Estonia.”

What advice would you give to other European cities that are hesitant to implement free transport?
“Tallinn’s approach is not a universal solution for all and for some it might be too extreme. We know examples of cities in Poland, Germany and France that already realized free public transport or are considering it. But we’re also seeing plenty of partially free public transport ideas are being executed, ranging from free weekend rides and lower fares in off-peak hours to free public transport for the retired and students. Municipalities should be brave to use their city as a testing ground to find out what system is realistic for them to implement.”
Which city will be the next to copy Tallinn’s successful system?
“Right now, Paris is considering the introduction of free public transport — mostly to reduce pollution in the city center. Once a city of this size and scale takes the step, other cities will inevitably follow. No doubt about that.”

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Vaughan Gunson: A tourist tax could help fund free public transport in Whangārei What I'd like to see, is any tax levied on tourists enjoying our harbour and publicly supported assets like the Hundertwasser, going towards helping us to fund free public transport.
Fare-free public transport now exists in around 100 cities and towns worldwide (with the list growing). The benefits are many: reduced private transport costs, greater freedom for younger people, less road congestion and a meaningful way of reducing net carbon emissions.
This bold idea could be sold to tourists by saying that their travel - one of the most carbon-polluting things you can do - will be offset by a levy that goes directly towards lessening the carbon emissions of the region they are visiting.
Tourists would, of course, be able to take advantage of the free public transport themselves - an attraction in itself.
This new tax could be called the "International Visitors Carbon Emissions Offset and Free Public Transport Levy". A bit of a mouthful, but they'll get the idea.
You can just see hotel staff being asked the question: "What's that charge for?"
"Oh, that's for offsetting your carbon emissions as a result of traveling to our country by helping us pay for our lovely free bus service."
Tourist: "Fair enough."

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

European cities consider making public transport free to tackle air pollution

By Rory Mulholland, Paris, The Telegraph, 25 March 2018

European cities are increasingly looking toward free transport in a bid to combat air pollution. 
Anne Hidalgo, the Paris mayor, is the latest local leader hoping to make public transport free across the city, emulating the success of a handful of small towns across France which let residents board buses and trams without paying a cent.
The German government is also considering rolling out free transport across the entire country - with the same aim as in France of reducing air pollution - if a pilot scheme in five big cities this year works out.
Niort in western France has been running free buses since last September for its 125,000 inhabitants.
The scheme has been an enormous success, boosting passenger numbers by 130 per cent on some routes, slightly reducing the number of cars on the roads, and costing the town little more than when people had to buy tickets, said mayor Jérôme Baloge.
 Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, is keen to make the city less polluted by the 2024 Olympic Games  Credit: PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images
But he agreed that making metros, buses, trams and suburban trains free in a big city is a far more radical, if not revolutionary, idea.
“In Niort the revenue from ticket sales represented only 10 per cent of cost of running public transport. In Paris it’s around half… And our buses were often half empty, while in Paris the metro and buses are packed,” he said.
Ms Hidalgo said last week that she was commissioning a study into free transport and wants officials and experts to report back by the end of 2018 on whether the scheme would be financially feasible.
The mayor has made a priority of tackling smog and is to ban diesel cars in the capital by 2024, when Paris will host the Summer Olympics.
The study will also look at the possibility of introducing a toll, like London's congestion charge, to discourage motorists from driving into Paris.
Supporters of the toll say it could be used to offset the cost of providing free transport.
Ms Hidalgo only has power over the city of Paris, which with 2.2 million residents makes up only a small part of the greater Paris region with a population of more than 12 million - 4.2 million of whom use public transport.
Valérie Pecresse, the conservative head of the wider Paris region and a rival of Ms Hidalgo, said she was "open to all new ideas" but warned the mayor against "going it alone" on free transport.
Ticket sales bring in €3 billion (£2.6 billion) a year that offset the total transport budget of €10 billion for the region, she noted, saying that this would have to be compensated for somehow and that she would not settle for "a euro less".
There was similar consternation about who was going to pay when it was revealed last month that the German government was looking at plans to make public transport free to try to reduce road traffic and lower pollution levels.

Free transport will be tested in five cities, including the former capital Bonn and the industrial cities Essen and Mannheim, by the end of the year, and if successful will be rolled out to more cities across the country, ministers said.
But Helmut Dedy, the head of the Council of German Cities, warned that the federal government would have to finance public transport if it wanted to make it free.
Most local transport in Germany is owned by municipalities.
Greenpeace came up with an original idea - it proposed that the government “should make sure that the car manufacturers finance the emergency measure” of free transport.

The Case for Free Public Transport

The Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) is a proud advocate of a world-class, fare-free public transport system for Scotland.
Transport has undergone enormous changes in recent decades, both in Scotland and across the world. Some have been cyclical: in Scotland’s capital, trams were built, dismantled, and then reintroduced. In other areas, we have seen consistent trends like the steady deregulation and privatization of services, which has left Edinburgh as the sole city in Scotland with a municipal bus operator.

Rail fares across the UK have soared in comparison to those of our European neighbours, and Scottish transport contracts go out to tender in a farcical franchise system whereby public sector companies in other countries can bid for control while those in Scotland are effectively barred.
Scotland, the country which gave the world the pedal bicycle and the pneumatic tyre, now has a public transport network which is broadly unfit for purpose.
Massive changes have to be made to ensure that our public transport network is not only of a standard befitting the people of Scotland, but one that is adapted to our environmental and economic needs – challenging climate change while connecting communities and creating jobs through enhanced mobility.

“We call unashamedly for the integration of services – whether bus, rail, ferry, underground or tram – under publicly-owned and democratically-run operators.”
The Scottish Socialist Party is brave enough to identify these changes. We call unashamedly for the integration of services – whether bus, rail, ferry, underground or tram – under publicly-owned and democratically-run operators.
But the bravest step we can take as a nation to totally transform the way we travel is to support the international movement for free public transport and become pioneers of true freedom of movement for working class people.
There is a strong economic, social, and environmental case for adopting this policy throughout the country. There is also precedent from successful fare-free public transport schemes in parts of France, Germany, Belgium, and Estonia as well as far-flung cities in China and the United States. [Ed.: see, and] We have evidence of the policy’s affordability and benefit.
I would put to sceptics that the prospect of free healthcare was once unthinkable. With the creation of NHS Scotland in 1948, hundreds of thousands of people gained access to essential medical care for the first time; the positive impact on Scottish society has been immense. The threat of privatization and marketization is a terrifying prospect for many.
In the same spirit that the NHS was created over half a century ago, we can come together to build a public transport system that works for everyone. We can tackle poverty and social exclusion by extending access across urban and rural Scotland; this will be a financial relief for workers, parents and carers on low incomes, and make it even easier for families to switch from road trips to more eco-friendly bus rides and train journeys.
Building free transport links between rural communities even brings forward the possibility of economic regeneration in the Highlands, the Scottish Borders, and rural Fife, where greater interconnectivity and public investment could instigate growth and begin to reverse the exodus of young people from small towns and villages.
Free transport is neither easy nor cheap, nor can it alone transform Scotland. However, as part of a comprehensive socialist strategy, it can radically change the conditions of Scottish workers and help realise the full potential of totally under-utilized modes of transport.
The SSP has a good track record of winning others to our ideas. We championed free prescriptions in Holyrood and led the broad-based campaign to tackle poverty through the provision free school meals. We are committed supporters of universalism and pioneered many policies which were later taken up by the mainstream parties.

Ambition and Vision

Free transport is yet another distinctive SSP policy with ambition, vision and a firm footing in the needs and aspirations of Scotland. It is a policy whose implementation is not only possible, but increasingly necessary – addressing the pressing ecological crisis facing the world as well as the acute issues of poverty and exclusion at home.
These are among the reasons why free transport proposals are becoming more and more popular across Europe. Many in Scotland point to more affordable and efficient public transport systems in countries like Germany to highlight the shortcomings of our own – but to seek merely to emulate them is to limit our ambition, as proven by the spirited HVV umsonst! campaigners now pushing to scrap fares in Germany’s second-largest city.
In Sweden, anarchist initiative takes a particularly brazen approach to free transport campaigning by encouraging members of the public to leap ticket barriers, while operating a shared pool of funds to pay off any subsequent fines for its members.
Even in Scotland, understanding and appetite for the policy is slowly building. Scottish Green activists came close to persuading the rest of their party to back the progressive policy when it was revisited at their 2014 party conference.
It is often easier in politics to identify problems than solutions. For the SSP, free transport is a valuable idea that carries great potential as an innovative solution to an intersection of problems. For this reason, it is a policy that socialists will develop and promote further in the run-up to next year’s Scottish Parliament election. •
Connor Beaton is the branch organizer of Dundee Scottish Socialist Party (SSP). He serves on the SSP’s Executive Committee.

German cities to trial free public transport to cut pollution

German cities to trial free public transport to cut pollution
Plan to be tested in five cities in effort to meet EU air pollution targets and avoid big fines.
The Guardian, Wed 14 Feb 2018

Public transport is hugely popular in Germany, with 10.3 billion journeys being made in 2017. A plan to trial free public transport is part of an effort to reduce road traffic. [Photo: Alamy] 

“Car nation” Germany has surprised neighbours with a radical proposal to reduce road traffic by making public transport free, as Berlin scrambles to meet EU air pollution targets and avoid big fines.
The move comes just over two years after Volkswagen’s devastating “dieselgate” emissions cheating scandal unleashed a wave of anger at the auto industry, a keystone of German prosperity.
“We are considering public transport free of charge in order to reduce the number of private cars,” three ministers including the environment minister, Barbara Hendricks, wrote to EU environment commissioner Karmenu Vella in the letter seen by AFP Tuesday.

 “Effectively fighting air pollution without any further unnecessary delays is of the highest priority for Germany,” the ministers added.
The proposal will be tested by “the end of this year at the latest” in five cities across western Germany, including former capital Bonn and industrial cities Essen and Mannheim.
The move is a radical one for the normally staid world of German politics – especially as Chancellor Angela Merkel is presently only governing in a caretaker capacity, as Berlin waits for the centre-left Social Democratic party (SPD) to confirm a hard-fought coalition deal.
On top of ticketless travel, other steps proposed Tuesday include further restrictions on emissions from vehicle fleets like buses and taxis, low-emissions zones or support for car-sharing schemes.
Action is needed soon, as Germany and eight fellow EU members including Spain, France and Italy sailed past a 30 January deadline to meet EU limits on nitrogen dioxide and fine particles.
Vella gave countries extra time to present further pollution-busting measures or face legal action.
“Life-threatening” pollution affects more than 130 cities in Europe, according to the commission, causing some 400,000 deaths and costing €20bn euros (US$24.7bn) in health spending per year in the bloc.
Countries that fail to keep to EU limits could face legal action at the European court of justice, the EU’s highest tribunal, which can levy fines on member states.
Even without the pressure from Brussels, air quality has surged to the top of Berlin’s priorities over the past year.
Suspicions over manipulated emissions data have spread to other car manufacturers since Volkswagen’s 2015 admission to cheating regulatory tests on 11 million vehicles worldwide.
Environmentalists brought court cases aimed at banning diesels from parts of some city centres, and fears millions of drivers could be affected spurred Merkel into action.
Titans like BMW, Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler or the world’s biggest carmaker Volkswagen agreed to pay some €250m euros into a billion-euro fund to upgrade local transport.
The government “should make sure that the car manufacturers finance the emergency measure” of free transport, Greenpeace urged, adding that more parking and road tolls in cities could help reduce urban traffic.
On their own account, the auto firms have stepped up plans to electrify their ranges, with a barrage of battery-powered or hybrid models planned for the coming decade.

Public transport is highly popular in Germany, with the number of journeys increasing regularly over the past 20 years to reach 10.3 billion in 2017.
In comparison with other major European nations, tickets can be cheap: a single ticket in Berlin costs €2.90, while the equivalent on the London Underground costs £4.90 (€5.50 or $6.80).
But cities were quick to warn that more planning was needed if free travel was to succeed.
“I don’t know any manufacturer who would be able to deliver the number of electric buses we would need” to meet increased demand if transport was free, Bonn mayor Ashok Sridharan told news agency DPA.
Meanwhile, the Association of German Cities chief, Helmut Dedy, warned that “we expect a clear statement about how [free transport] will be financed” from the federal government.
Other attempts around the world to offer citizens free travel have failed, including in the US city of Seattle.
Ministers “should think again during a ride on the U6 [underground line] in Berlin at 7.30 am,” Die Welt newspaper commented.
“The conclusion would be clear: more carriages, more personnel, and maybe even more tracks and lines would be needed. Where would the billions for that come from?”

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Greens pledge free public transport for under-19s

Radio New Zealand News: "A 'Green Card' would be created, which would also provide free off-peak travel for tertiary students and those doing apprenticeships.

Under the policy all people with a disability on a supported living benefit would also be eligible for free public transport.

The Greens' transport spokesperson, Julie-Anne Genter, said the policy would cost $70-80 million a year.

"That would buy about 1km of the Puhoi-Warkworth motorway, if we look at the announcement made by the National government for $10.5bn on a few highways - that's 100 years of free public transport."

Ms Genter said the cost of transport should not be a barrier to getting to class or going on a family outing."

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Transit cops or free transit?

Auckland Transport (AT) is dumping its staff on trains and increasing 'security measures' to stop 'fare cheats.' The current 160 on-board 'train managers' (guards) will be replaced by 18 transport officers, who are already being recruited.
AT expects a law to be passed this year, giving the officers greater powers, including the ability to issue penalty notices to fare evaders.
Why bother? Why not eliminate fares altogether if we REALLY want to encourage people to get out of our cars and onto public transport big-time, & find other ways to share the cost?

Below is an article reflecting on Canadian experiences, entitled 'Transit cops or Free Transit?'

by Doug Nesbitt

After the February murder of Winnipeg transit operator Irvine Jubal Fraser, and other violent attacks, there is a push for transit cops to be introduced in Winnipeg.

Conducted a month after Fraser’s murder, a survey has now been widely publicized finding 64 percent of respondents favour the introduction of transit police, despite 75 percent believing Winnipeg Transit is safe. Those who “strongly” or “moderately” feel safe drops to 49 percent for night buses with 38 percent feeling unsafe.
Winnipeg’s transit workers and riders deserve safety, but are transit cops the answer? It certainly seems to be the only question being asked. The news reports about this survey do not appear to ask any other question about safety measures. Were survey respondents asked about protective shields for operators, improved lighting and safety design of transit stops, emergency phones at transit stops, or a concerted public safety initiative?
If we are serious about reducing violence on public transit, we need to examine the leading source of violence against transit workers: fare disputes.

Fare disputes are the biggest problem

A 2016 survey of transit operators by the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) found 74 percent of assaults on operators arose from fare disputes. Survey respondents were allowed multiple answers. “Inadequate service” and “high crime area” were the second most cited reasons, but they were a distant 35 and 32 percent, respectively.

After a series of attacks on transit operators in 2013, Detroit's transit operators conducted a "sickout" - an illegal strike which effectively shut down transit for a day.
After a series of vicious attacks on transit operators in 2013, Detroit’s transit workers conducted a “sickout” – an illegal strike which effectively shut down transit for a day.
Another more extensive 2005 survey of seven Canadian ATU locals found fare disputes the source of 60 percent of physical assaults and 71 percent of verbal assaults (cited on p.17-18 of this study).
If fare disputes is the leading reason for verbal and physical violence against operators and fare collectors, then we need to look seriously at eliminating fares from transit services. Not looking at this option is simply irresponsible. Can we provide the service free at the point of use and fund it like other free public services through progressive taxation? This question is not even being asked but now is the time to raise it.
But let’s look at what’s being pushed right now: transit cops.

Transit cops: solving or causing problems?

The fact is transit cops simply cannot be on every single bus and at every single transit stop. They are not going to stop those determined to make an attack on operators. Nor will transit cops be able to stop every attack that erupts with a fare dispute. The Toronto Transit Commission employs dozens of “Transit Enforcement” officers but this hasn’t stopped an average of one transit worker being assaulted each day.
Where transit police don’t exist, local police are involved anyway in violent attacks. This means transit cops actually spend most of their time focusing on fare evasion which is an enormous expense.
Yet, just like a regular police force, transit cops are placed in an adversarial position with the public and it is “the usual suspects” who are going to be on the receiving end of their main job of fare enforcement. Poor people, Indigenous people, people of colour are going to be these usual suspects.
Racial profiling and overreach by transit cops is already a problem where they exist. Transit cops in Vancouver, for example, go far beyond their mandate in reporting hundreds of suspected illegal immigrants to the Canada Border Security Agency. This is the sort of police conduct that Trump is trying to enforce by repealing “Sanctuary City” policies in major urban centres like Boston, New York City, Seattle, Los Angeles, Miami and numerous other cities, as well as Toronto, Hamilton, Montreal and London, Ontario (There is also some movement in Winnipeg to become a Sanctuary City). The Sanctuary City policy is simple: municipal workers do not ask people’s immigration status. Nobody is doing the CBSA’s job for them. This raises all sorts of questions about what Vancouver’s transit cops think they’re doing.
(It is worth noting that in the labour movement it is a widely common practice among union organizers that we do not ask about people’s immigration status when talking shop and signing cards. Our goal is solidarity, not strengthening the hand of bigots.)

Video of a UBC student beaten and batoned by Vancouver transit cops in 2011. One officer was force to quit, the other pleaded guilty to assault and was suspended for 8 days without pay.
Video of a UBC student beaten and batoned by Vancouver transit cops in 2011. One officer was forced to quit. The other pleaded guilty to assault and was suspended for 8 days without pay.
Transit cops in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and numerous other cities have all been involved in incidents of excessive force, misuse of tasers, and even deadly shootings. A tragic example of this is the murder of Oscar Grant by transit police on the Bay Area Rapid Transit in Oakland.
Transit cops also cost a lot of money that could otherwise put people to work providing direct transit services, from maintenance to station attendants to operators. It is money that could go to better use.
For example, in 2014, Metro Vancouver Transit Police cost $34 million. The operation employed 167 sworn officers and 67 civilian staff. That same year, two transit expansion proposals were left unfulfilled. A $28 million per year plan to add 11 new B-Line express bus routes was abandoned. A $59 million a year plan to lift overall bus service by 25 percent was scrapped. Transit police costs could have covered one and contributed to the other.

Other safety strategies

As with any public space, safety is of incredible importance. But transit cops will not solve the problems of violence. They never do. In a handful of incidents they will make a difference, but they’ll also drag in a whole number of other problems, problems that plague every police force: targeting of stereotyped people, excessive force, and big costs. We already have police forces anyway.
There are other safety measures that we can also take, safety measures that routinely neglected by transit management and politicians.
First, improved transit infrastructure means improved safety. Far too many transit stops have terrible lighting and only major transit stop have emergency phones.
Second, night services need to be more frequent and more extensive. Night buses often serve areas only hourly, leaving us waiting alone at stop for long periods of time. Similarly, they serve too few areas, leaving us to make longer walks than usual to our final destination. For low-wage service workers, janitors and other workers dependent on public transit, bus service often dries up between 10pm and 6am, leaving us to spend money on cabs.
Third, we need sustained public safety campaigns for public transit. Posting public safety procedures on buses, trains, bus stops and transit facilities is nothing new. It is a good idea to encourage riders and transit worker to look out for one another instead of feeling helpless and being useless when something bad happens.

Fourth, transit operators need better training and support from transit management. The same 2016 ATU survey cited earlier finds 48 percent of transit operators “rarely” get training or instruction on emergency procedures. A shocking 56 percent say female transit operators won’t report incidents of sexual harassment because they “will not be taken seriously.” This is damning evidence that management is failing workers.
In terms of protecting transit operators from attacks, protective shields may prove useful. The ATU survey finds 60 percent support. Some transit operators who have been assaulted believe it is the answer, but many transit operators, including Winnipeg’s, have explored the option and understandably don’t want to work behind them, cut off from riders and boxed in. Perhaps transit operators should have the choice to work with them.

Eliminating transit fares

One serious solution to safety problems on public transit is eliminating transit fares. Again and again transit workers and their unions have pointed to fare disputes as the single largest source of antagonism and violence between rider and operator. Survey after survey bears this out.
However, the concept of transit fares are so ingrained there is virtually no discussion about eliminating fares. Most operators will tend towards enforcement mechanisms for fare payment. This simply shifts the problem to someone else, in this case transit cops who enforce fares backstopped by the threat or use of force. This policy is an utter failure.

A 2012 armed robbery at a TTC fare collector booth. The worker was shot in the neck and shoulder and is still on disability five years later. The suspect is at large.
A 2012 armed robbery at a TTC fare collector booth. The worker was shot in the neck and shoulder and is still on disability five years later. The suspect is at large.
Even with transit cops, operators will remain susceptible to the same sort of violence over fare disputes, with fare collectors targets for armed robbery, which can sometimes result in the shooting of transit workers.
Eliminating fares is not about excusing bad behaviour but removing the immediate source of an escalating fare disputes or robbery.

Free transit isn’t free

Eliminating transit fares will mean paying for them some other way. Like other public services that are free at the point of access, public transit costs can and should be fully-funded by progressive taxation. But eliminating fares also frees up money and resources.

This can't be good: Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne promotes Presto.
This can’t be good: Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne promotes Presto.
Fare accounting costs, ticket and pass production costs, and various other costs associated with fares could be eliminated. Immensely expensive transit pass programs can be buried. Even with tokens and tickets eliminated, the Presto card system in Ottawa and the Greater Toronto Area has been enormously expensive. While transit users will save a bit on fares with Presto, the province’s auditor general says hundreds of millions have been blown on its installation.
All these resources could be freed up and focused on better transit services, more jobs, and better infrastructure. Transit workers can be redirected to other parts of the service, such as attendants at major transit stations, retrained for operating, maintenance and other services.

Can it be done?

Tallinn is an experiment we can learn from and improve upon.
Tallinn is an experiment we can learn from and improve upon.
Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, is considered the “free transit capital of the world”. With a population of 550,000, it is not much smaller than Winnipeg. The free transit experiment started in 2013 after a 76 percent of residents voted in favour in a special referendum.
The experiment is still going strong. The service is a hit with residents, ridership is up, and the transit system is even turning a profit. With 1,000 Euros per registered Tallinn resident being directed from income taxes into the system, transit costs are covered. Registered residents are then afforded a pass card that offers limitless travel. We can learn from what has happened in Tallinn. We don’t need to replicate the same funding model or require pass cards.
Some experiments with free transit have also taken place in Canada. Last summer, the Cape Breton Regional Municipality conducted a free transit experiment. The Mayor declared it “successful beyond anyone’s imagination” with ridership growing 200 to 300 percent – far beyond the 20 to 30 percent that was expected. The experiment showed that free transit will be a hit. It also showed how existing transit fares are major access barriers.

The free transit experiment in Cape Breton showed the huge possibilities of mass transit if fares are eliminated.
The free transit experiment in Cape Breton showed the huge possibilities of mass transit if fares are eliminated.
Another limited experiment in free transit has unfolded in Kingston, Ontario and points to how free transit could be gradually expanded if it weren’t implemented immediately. Over four years, thousands of high school students were phased in to free transit. Kingston is also conducting a one-year free transit pilot project for the city’s 3,000 welfare recipients.
There are other larger benefits of a campaign for eliminating fares. It is a blow against years of user fees being imposed on our public services. User fees are linked to the same policies that have deprived public transit of major capital funds for the past three decades, and sapped money from desperately needed transit systems for rural and remote areas. Cutbacks in services to fund tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy have been partially offset with user fees as costs have been downloaded from federal to provincial, provincial to municipal. The disgraceful destruction of the Saskatchewan Transit Company is the latest example of this attack.
Last but not least, we can strike a blow against climate change by creating transit systems that actually get people out of their cars and create momentum towards significant transit expansion.
Free public transit at the point of use – paid for entirely through progressive taxation – is the way to go not just for improving our transit services, but also for eliminating the single largest point of tension between transit operators and riders. Transit cops won’t do this. They’ll only bring in more problems. Let’s tear out the fare boxes and let’s ride together in a new direction.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

UK Green Party transport spokesperson: "Free public transport in London is the only way to save our environment"

Air pollution obscures the view of the London eye in central London on 9 April 2015 [Getty]

Opinion: CAROLINE RUSSELL The Independent, (UK Daily), 11 December 2016

Free public transport in London is the only way to save our environment


While short-term measures alert Londoners to air pollution that is already high, our car-centric culture needs to be challenged to permanently tackle air pollution.

Paris has a long-standing reputation as the home of free thinkers and this week the city took the inspired step of making its public transport free of charge during a desperately high spike in air pollution.

In London, our own pollution spike recently led to warnings to keep babies away from traffic-heavy roads and to avoid strenuous exercise. Joggers and vulnerable people are choking in London’s dirty air, which also worsens heart and lung conditions and can cause asthma.

With London also blanketed by a thick layer of brown air mainly caused by cars, vans and lorries, free public transport is one solution.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has already taken some short-term measures to tackle pollution, such as erecting signs advising people not to drive and to walk, cycle or take public transport instead. He also deployed signs telling drivers stopped at traffic lights to switch off their engines to protect the health of drivers in vehicles behind them. It is an often overlooked fact that air pollution exposure is often higher inside cars than it is out on the streets.

While short-term measures alert Londoners to air pollution that is already high, our car-centric culture needs to be challenged to permanently tackle air pollution, not just deal with it on 'spike’ days.

The Mayor is introducing an Ultra Low Emission Zone in London to make the most polluting vehicles pay a charge to drive in the zone. This is good as far as it goes – but once people pay their daily charge there is no encouragement to keep journeys short. In fact, quite the reverse: people may drive as much as possible to get better value from the charge they have just paid.

Obviously the most effective way to cut pollution is by slashing the number of car trips made every day. Pollution is measured in grams per kilometre, so cutting the distances driven will cut emissions whatever the vehicle.

So there is a good case for making all public transport free, or at least very affordable, to encourage people to ditch their cars and get about town in the most sustainable way possible.

When public transport is free or very cheap, there is a clear financial incentive to taking the bus or tube rather than running a car. If the Mayor was to follow Paris and make public transport free – even as a stunt during particularly high spikes – the potential health benefits of getting Londoners out of cars and onto buses, trams and tubes, or onto their two feet, would [offset] the lost revenue. 

 Roads could still pay their way even with public transport passengers travelling for free under a road pricing scheme, but this idea has been laying in the long grass since 1999.

The Rocol (Road Charging Options for London) report suggests charging by time of day, road driven on, distance travelled and the emissions of the vehicle being driven to manage demand for road space and keep on top of pollution and congestion. So it would be very expensive to drive a polluting car in central London at rush hour whereas in the middle of the night in outer London with few public transport options it would be much cheaper. The Federation of Small Businesses, London First, the Royal Town Planning Institute, the Institute of Civil Engineers and the Royal Academy of Engineering all support a system of road charging, but no Mayor has yet had the guts to act on this despite a healthy list of eminent supporters.

Until we take some serious action on transport choice, whether you think they are gimmicks or not, London will see more pollution spikes and the worsening health of the people who live there.

Caroline Russell is a Green Party member of the London Assembly and national transport spokesperson for the UK Green Party.