Public transport whingers should pay twice as much
SQUASHED in a carriage like sardines, two bankers in striped suits bitched about a mutual client, then switched to moaning about how crowded and late the train was.
“Shouldn’t have to pay for this,” harrumphed one. “Bloody public transport. Should be free,” his mate chimed in.
If 10 strap-hangers and their sweaty armpits hadn’t blocked the path, I might have confronted the whingers with the fact no major world city has ever successfully run a free public transport system.
And if anything, fares for inner-city train, bus, tram and ferry use should be increased, not axed.
Not owning a car, I am completely reliant on the public system, and the occasional lift cadged from friends.
On my frequent trips, I’m mindful the ticket price nowhere near covers the actual cost of the journey.
In Melbourne , for example, fares cover only about half the cost of providing the service. And the other half? Well, that’s a subsidy from state coffers, funded mostly by stamp duty and gambling taxes.
Subsidies are even higher in Sydney. A recent report found residents of the lower North Shore suck up about $80 million in ferry subsidies for inner-harbour travel.
Meanwhile, in Queensland the cost of propping up commuters has jumped from $5.40 per passenger trip three years ago, to $8.25.
Road users pay their way - just look at the hefty excise on every litre of petrol. So environmental arguments aside, why do public transport users think they deserve a free ride?
I paid a premium for my recent property acquisition, a one-bedder within 10km of the CBD, because the location means I’m walking distance to transport that takes me anywhere I want to go.
Making public transport free would really only help those who, like me, already have access to a plethora of useful services.
Eliminating fares isn’t going to help the apprentice mechanic who needs to get to work eight suburbs away at 6.45am in an area where there are no regular buses or trains.
Draining the public purse to offer free transport would in fact most benefit the very people who deserve – and can afford _ to pay more.
I’m not suggesting war vets, the unemployed, students or deserving others should be denied concessions.
But I’d happily shell out extra if the higher fares went toward making the system even more convenient. More frequent services would further boost patronage, bringing even more revenue to the system.
That’s provided commuters coughed up, of course.
I always pay my way whenever I hop on. Yet fare evasion statistics show it’s commuters from wealthy inner suburbs _ the very freeloaders who enjoy the best availability and convenience of services _ who are most likely to avoid putting their hands in their pockets.
It never ceases to amaze me that when caught, these ticket dodgers claim their fare evasion is some kind of political statement about “the system”.
They think it’s okay to steal a ride on public transport system yet when it comes to paying $1.50 for a litre of fuel, there’s not a second thought about reaching for the wallet.
I reckon the oil industry is far more deserving of a dose of politically motivated theft than the public transport system, but even when I owned a car, I never drove off without paying for petrol.
I’m not sure how to react when these same thieves who dodge fares nod appreciatively at me for my strong stance against the car, and for the environment.
Stance? I’m subsidised to the tune of thousands of dollars a year because I choose to live in an area rich with public transport.
Less of a stance, I’d say, and more of a lazy lifestyle choice with a financial upside to boot.
If I were to own a car, the RACV estimates I’d be out of pocket about $11,000 a year. Instead, a yearly zone 1 & 2 ticket that takes me anywhere in Melbourne costs the princely sum of $1800.
It brings into focus the increasingly tiresome carping about Australia’s supposedly Third-World public transport systems and the enthusiasm for fare evasion.
Sure, the perfect storm of population increase, CBD jobs growth and higher fuel prices have put enormous strain on systems in most states.
And it’s true our fares aren’t dirt cheap by the standards of the world’s cities.
But given it comes nowhere near covering the actual cost of travel, we shouldn’t complain.
Yes, trains are crowded. Yes, trams are slow. Yes, buses are late. But have you travelled on the roads in a car lately? Tick all three to the above.
Of course I get as angry as the next person when the system’s unreliable.
But I get angrier still when I overhear pleas for mercy from inner-city silvertails bleating about ticket prices and lousy service. If you actually paid your way, you might have a case.
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