Fair fares?

Houston is considering a fare increase to help pay for additional rail.  I think this makes sense, though I would suspect bus riders would resent fare increases that pay for rail.  Bus riders and rail riders are often different in a variety of ways–for one thing, some trips just can’t be done with rail no matter how great the system (the nature of the route may be too circuitious, etc.), and rail almost always costs more than bus service.  Some people prefer the closeness of bus stops to their final destination, for instance, while others may go farther for rail service unaffected by traffic (though not all rail service is unaffected, and Houston’s does have to contend with traffic lights, if I’m not mistaken).

But one of the other challenges here is the fact that transit agencies almost always think in terms of fare increases to expand service, while transportation departments may think of bond debt or even a tax increase on the general population to pay for road infrastructure.  Obviously, some roads are tolled, which resembles a transit fare, but the vast majority of roads are not.  I am sympathetic to the notion that ultimately, the ideal would be to have transit mimic road transportation in its business model, one way or the other–either a fare free system or additional tolling for road travel.  Implementation of either would be seriously challenging, but the playing field seems quite even for transit as it is, and this story helps make that case.

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