The slang term “freeloader” is defined as someone who makes a practice of eating or drinking at the expense of others. I’m sure everyone can identify someone who fits this description, the hanger-on, the last one to leave a party, the person who always seems to forget their wallet.
Well, I’d like to add another group of folks to the “freeloader” list – public transit riders. Maybe not all public transit riders, but certainly those who have attended the recent public hearings held by the Metropolitan Council to complain about the proposed 25 cent fare increase.
Currently, these transit riders pay a whopping buck-fifty or maybe two bucks to be hauled from their suburban park and ride to their downtown office destination.
Even with the fare increase these transit freeloaders won’t even pay one-third of the cost of transit operation. So next time you are at the pump watching the numbers spinning by, remember you also get to pay more than two-thirds of the fare for the bus rider. These are the folks that the environmentalists are holding out as the “saviors of the planet,” the people who are willing to sacrifice for the sinners who drive those gas guzzling SUVs.
The fact is ninety-five percent of Twin Cities’ commuters are auto dependent, they don’t live near a bus stop, they don’t work downtown or they need a car during working hours. These are the people who are paying a dollar more per gallon than a year ago at the pump. For many this is a true hardship, rising fuel costs aren’t just an inconvenience that can be avoided by hopping on the bus. Yet when asked to pay another 25 cents to cover a portion of the increased fuel cost for the buses they ride, the list of complainers is headed by the likes of Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak.
But with Metro Transit projecting a $15 million deficit next year, even after an additional $30 million subsidy from the State Legislature, and growing red ink to as much as $40 million in 2010 and 2011, the whiners show up to complain about another two bits.
Currently, Metro Transit can’t even reach the legislative mandate of one-third of its operating costs be recovered by fares. Peter Bell, Chair of the Metropolitan Council admits even the 25 cent fare increase will only generate about $7 million a year, not near enough to cover the projected shortfall for next year.
Don’t forget these operating losses are on top of additional funding for transit operations which came from the passage of a 100% dedication of the Motor Vehicle Excise tax in 2006, 40% specifically dedicated to transit. Not to mention the additional $100 million that will be coming from the ¼ cent sales tax just imposed in five metro counties that will be used to pay for new transit projects.
We need to remember these are only the operating deficits, i.e. the cost of labor and fuel. What about the hundreds of millions in state and federal tax dollars that it has cost to buy the buses and build the rail lines, not to mention the free park and ride lots? These capital costs total billions of dollars that aren’t calculated into the cost of operations.
Worst of all transit subsidies are supposed to justify the felonious argument that public transit reduces congestion. Anyone remember the bus strike a few years ago? The impact of no buses, while certainly a hardship for the transit dependent, was actually a plus for most auto commuters, no buses clogging downtown streets and no waiting behind the bus while trying to make a right hand turn.
It’s time that public transit riders actual pay at least a third of the cost to operate the system they use. And if the goal is to help the truly transit dependent, then don’t charge them a dime, but make the guy who earns $70,000 a year pay another buck a day to get to and from work.
In the face of rising fuel costs everyone is going to pay more for transportation. Why should public transit riders be protected from this reality? There should be no free lunch for these freeloader-freeriders.