The Case for Universally Free Public Transportation The question is no longer whether a form of universally free public transportation is a good idea, but how to best implement such a system. The long-term benefits, such as lowering costs for constant infrastructure investment and creating more environmentally-friendly land use policies, far outweigh the short-term investments. In addition, given technological changes, it is now quite reasonable to suggest that public transportation will become more cost-efficient, more environmentally-efficient, and more demographically-efficient in the future. This essay will argue that now is the time to start planning for and investing in a universally free public transportation system.
As a preliminary matter, the public is turning to public transportation as an alternative to private transportation. As noted by the American Public Transportation Organization, "Steady increases in transit investment have dramatically improved and expanded public transportation services, attracting record numbers of riders on state-of-the-art systems in metropolitan, small urban and rural areas alike" (2008: n.p.). These are fee-based public transportation systems, but the data demonstrates that extraordinarily large numbers of the public are choosing public transportation and that this trend applies equally in both heavily and less populated areas. The demand, in short, is both strong and demographically diverse.
In addition, the data has linked a number of benefits to public transportation. For instance, there has been "improved mobility, safety, security, economic opportunity and environmental quality" where public transportation systems have been implemented (The Benefits of Public Transportation, 2008: n.p.). These benefits do not apply only to a narrow segment of the population. quite the contrary, they benefit individual workers, families, businesses, governmental units, and even national goals such as energy conservation and the health and security of citizens. In terms of health and security, for purposes of illustration, one study has demonstrated that trips using public transportation when compared with private transportation "result in 200,000 fewer deaths, injuries and accidents when made by public transit than by car, adding up to between $2 billion and $5 billion per year in safety benefits" (The Benefits of Public Transportation, 2008: n.p). In another study, by Baily, it was demonstrated that efficient public transportation systems contributed to more efficient uses of land in urban areas (2008: n.p.). The conclusions and findings have been remarkable. they have been remarkable because public transportation is safer, it saves billions of dollars, and it eases land use problems for governmental units and private citizens.
Finally, as pointed out by Morgan, the technology has now advanced to the point where traffic accidents can be fundamentally eliminated through the use of public transportation (2002:18). This can be accomplished through a complex computer-based network that is linked to public transportation infrastructure and has already been successfully simulated using mini-models in controlled experiments.
In conclusion, there is no good argument against adopting a free system of universal public transportation. Such a system would be cheaper to the public coffers in the long run, it would be safer, and it would be friendlier to the environment with respect to land use management. The public demand exists and the technology exists. There is no longer any persuasive reason to wait.
Baily, L. (2008). "The Broader Connection between Public Transportation, Energy
Conservation and Greenhouse Gas Reduction." American Public
"The Benefits of Public Transportation-An Overview." (2008). American Public
Morgan, D. J. (2002). "A Microscopic Simulation Laboratory for Advanced Public
Transportation System Evaluation." A Thesis: Master of Science in
Transportation at the MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY.