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Saturday, June 21, 2008


People (and the planet) before profits

Whether it's private corporations or public operations like parks, schools, or mass transit, the operative philosophy in this capitalism run amok society is that everything must turn a profit (or at least break even). Imagine what would happen if it didn't. Well, you needn't imagine in the case of mass transit, because yesterday Bay Area transit agencies offered free rides (I think as a "marketing tool" rather than as a result of a "Spare the Air" day, because free ridership on the latter has been discontinued as "too costly") and here's what happened:
BART set a single-day record with an estimated 394,000 passengers, and Caltrain saw an 88 percent jump from its average weekday ridership.

Ridership on buses run by the Valley Transportation Authority increased 21 percent, with 123,993 riders compared with 102,500 for a typical Thursday. Light-rail ridership also soared, with 42,809 passengers up from 32,134 a week ago for a 33 percent jump.

Ferry ridership nearly doubled, and ridership on the ACE trains was up 17 percent.
Without question the United States has been developed with serious structural problems - homes in the suburbs, and even further, well away from jobs, and spread out in ways that make even the development of mass transit difficult, much less its usage. Such structural problems will not be solved overnight or even in a decade or more. But without question, free mass transit would have an immediate effect, and for the cost in dollars would be far more beneficial to society and to the planet that the proposed "gas-tax holiday," just to name one thing on which it has been proposed to spend money to ease the burden of commuters.

Not to mention the positive effect such a program could have on unemployment, which has just hit 6.8 percent (and of course is really much higher) in California.

For more reading, an earlier post on this subject.

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