A recent article in Next City asked that interesting question, is transit a private business or a public service? Does seeing transit as a private business makes us more likely to use it more often? Do we expect them to make a profit? Or do we agree that public transit should be accessible to everyone? We don’t expect public roads to make a profit and we all agree we should pay for them. It is worth pondering because many of our transit system are in need of funds and ridership. The pandemic has left many transit agencies depending on ridership fees on the edge of a fiscal cliff. If we treat them as private businesses, are we ready to see them go if they are not able to come up with the funds needed to survive?
According to the article, transit planners say that mass transit is like the postal service, they are expected to cover their expenses as much as possible through service revenue and at the same time provide universal service availability – which means they will sometimes lose money. When they lose money, they are being asked about efficiency. But how do we measure efficiency for a public service which is expected to be widely available? The planners say that we should start seeing efficiency more in terms of how widely available the service is as opposed to serving the most users at the least cost. The majority of Americans think that transit should be available widely and they want more buses and trains, but not everyone is committed to ride transit. And if availability is what we strive for, the funding should be focused on availability goals not usage goals. This is an interesting conversation to have and if you want to learn more check out the resources below. Let us know what you think, leave a comment, find us on social media or be a guest blogger, we would love to hear from you.