Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Canada political candidate advocates removing fares from public transport

Larsen as premier would let you ride transit for free

Dana Larsen, long time activist, founding editor of Cannabis Culture Magazine, announces that he is running for the leadership of the New Democratic Party, on Dec. 29.

Photograph by: Glenn Baglo, PNG

Dana Larsen wants you to ride the SkyTrain for free.
Larsen, who’s running for the leadership of the New Democratic Party, floated the free-ride concept Monday, comparing the SkyTrain line to the highway system.
“As premier, I would designate the SkyTrain as part of B.C.’s highway system, and then get rid of fares for users,” said Larsen. “We don’t charge a tariff to use the road, and we shouldn’t charge a tariff to use the SkyTrain.”
While cutting fares for SkyTrain would put a giant hole in the transit budget – 2010 TransLink estimates for SkyTrain fares collected are $155 million - Larsen maintains it’s similar to the subsidy now enjoyed by drivers.
“BC spends hundreds of millions of dollars subsidizing a free road system for car drivers, meanwhile SkyTrain has a fare, and a lot of that money is spent on the fare-collection system,” said Larsen.
“Why should we selectively subsidize car travel, but not SkyTrain?
“We don’t have a toll on our roads – why should we have a toll on the SkyTrain?”
Larsen credits, in part, the research of environmental consultant Dave Olsen, who has studied free transit services as far away as Hasselt, Belgium and as close as Whidbey Island, just south of the border in Washington state.
“We’re paying people to drive, but we’re not paying them people to take transit,” said Olsen, who has a masters in environmental studies from York University. “A simple way is to make transit fare-free.”
Olsen said transit police on SkyTrain cost $13 million per year, and the government is spending millions to install barriers at SkyTrain stations and on advertising campaigns to get people to take transit.
“Instead, they can just stop charging fares,” said Olsen. “In Hasselt, transit ridership went up 1200 per cent when they made it fare-free.”
While Larsen is considered a long shot to become NDP leader – let alone premier – he’s happy that his idea has started a fresh debate on fares.
“I see a lot of discussion on the Internet – people are Tweeting about it,” he said.
“People are really interested in this.”

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