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Craig Hall

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Any one for free public transport

In the UK we spend £6 billion on subsidies to the train and bus companies. If we add 1p on income tax we could raise a further £5 billion giving us a grand total of £11 billion a year to spend on infrastructure and transport and provide free public transport.
Not only would we create real jobs and growth, but it would eleviate congestion leading to cleaner air. Reduce road traffic accidents, increase disposable income to the poorest, after all we are being taxed to get to work and back. Can you imagine coal mine workers being charged to travel down the mine shafts.
It would also increase the chances of reducing our carbon emissions, it's a win win.

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    Feb 20 2013: Not a good idea.
    you're note the first person that thought this, But you're both right and wrong. Yes it has all the benefits you mentioned, but it also have one main problem:

    People don't respect anything that they get free.

    Think about it before disagree ;)
    • Feb 21 2013: "People don't respect anything that they get free"

      That's a pretty broad sweeping statement. I have a little more faith in mankind. I'd rather give it a go rather than not try at all based on a hunch that it wouldn't work.
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      Feb 20 2013: It's baffling why people still continue to drive gas-guzzling monsters in spite of the expense.

      In UK I think that's driven more by aspirational social status rather than actual, and the willingness of individuals to get into massive debt to achieve such pretentiousness.

      If that kind of prevalent attitude is driving how one gets from A to B, then I guess the lowly image of public transport doesn't stand a chance here, no matter how much it's subsidised. Yet in other European cities it's seen as cool to hop on to public transport or to cycle.

      Can you describe more about relocation vans? It sounds interesting.
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        Feb 20 2013: '" It's baffling why people still continue to drive gas-guzzling monsters in spite of the expense."

        Hell, it doesn't even have to be gass guzzling.
        My insurance for even the cheapest, low powered car (Licence acquired mid last year, no accidents or claims) costs me no less than £1,600 a year in insurance, £120 in road tax and 0.17p a mile.

        Just driving 20 miles a week would cost me nearly £40 without even considering the congestion charges, parking costs, MOT's and repairs..
        Drivings becoming financially impossible here and even worse --Public transport costs aren't actually that far behind for the same distance..
        Looks like I'll have to buy a tiny wagon and collect a whole bunch of cats to pull it..
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      Feb 20 2013: Wow! $1 per day? Amazing. (and wise)
  • Mar 5 2013: I take issue with you calling it free. Its not free you are paying for it, maybe not at the time of service but you are paying plain and simple. With government running it you are open to more waste. If you wish to encourage people to drive less then cities need to be set up to sustain said behavior. If things are closer in proximity it would be easier to take a bike or walk. Not to mention an issue I see is that the bus schedules are abismal. I lived 30 minutes from where I worked at the time. In order for me to take a bus I would have to leave for work 2-3 hours early. But on top of work I was also going to school, I don't have time for that. I also work a late shift and the busses don't run when I get off work. The cost to run them at the time I would need is very high. I feel their are many aspects of this you may not be taking into account. Its like Communism. It looks good on paper but not in practice.
    • Mar 5 2013: I don't use public transport but I do pay indirectly through taxation to subsidise the bus and train companies. Maybe we ought to take a leaf out of the London Olympics and allow the Army to run it. After all we will be throwing some of our servicemen, who recently did tours in Afghanistan, on the dole.
      There have been a number of activities suggested in this debate to reduce congestion but a free public transportation system would be beneficial for everyone in the long run.
      If we can send a man to the moon then we should have the capacity to run a viable transport system.
      You've got to believe it could happen to make it possible.
      All this talk about stimulating the economy, creating real jobs and reducing emissions, is just talk.
      It should be given serious consideration given the current economic crisis but no one's talking about it.
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    Mar 4 2013: Where do I sign?
  • Feb 28 2013: Yes I understand what you propose, you want to charge me, the bus user, certain amount of money through taxation in order to provide me with a "free service" which, if the government would do its job, should cost a fraction of that amount. In other words you want to charge me not in the point of service but through taxes, the cost of the ride, plus the cost of the management of the tax money, plus the cost of having a corrupt driver's union, plus the cost of poor maintenance services that have to be done twice instead of one, plus the cost of expensive repair parts that never were into on the bus... and so on, so instead of having to pay X at the point of service I have to pay 2X through taxes.
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      Feb 28 2013: But if I'm not a bus user the fact that I'm paying anyway might inspire me to jump on a bus. Which is actually the point.
      • Feb 28 2013: May be you are willing to jump into a bus regardless of its mechanical conditions, but I won't leave my car to jump gladly into a bus which I know for sure it has not being properly maintained, even if I know I'm paying for it.
    • Feb 28 2013: Ok we will run with the Army. We are putting soldiers on the dole now that we are coming out of Afghanistan. They are already well trained and disciplined and did a fantastic job running security at the London Olympics.
      Even if the costs were doubled it would still have a significant cost benefit, cleaner air, fewer accidents, more disposable income, improve social cohesion and less traffic.
      • Feb 28 2013: If that is you point, then there are much better solutions: Why not making all streets in a radius of 1 mile from the center of the city exclusive to bikes, why not to open express lines for small cars with 2 or more people inside, why not take away taxes from motorcycles, why not passing a law that makes public servants like, teaches, police officers, fire fighters and so on... to work at the nearest school, police station, fire station, etc. from their home. Why not to tax the use of cars according to the weight of the car and the size of the engine. Why not to give tax exemtions to people who share their car with 3 or more neighbors or coworkers.... so my point is still the same: why to give more power to the people who is causing the problem???
        • Mar 1 2013: I am not ruling out any of these other measures, but on their own, they are only half measures in trying to put off the inevitable gridlock. I have already pointed out the advantages of free public transport. At a time when Governments are desperately seeking policies to stimulate the economy and reducing our emissions it makes sense.
          It needs a completely different approach, more substance and less of the spin.
          You mention how incapable our Governments are but that shouldn't be an excuse to sit back and do nothing.
      • Mar 5 2013: Two points here, first, I am not saying is time to sit back, much the opposite: I say is time for we to demand the government to really apply the law on transportation companies to its last consequences!!! Second: to assume that the reason of the grid lock is because people uses their cars is a very simplistic approach. The grid lock is because people need to travel faraway from their home in order to study, work and shop. So if you want a real, definitive and sustainable solution for the problem you must start by reducing the need of the people to travel... Many jobs can be done remotely from home, don't you think a more efficient way to get rid of the grid lock is to make people work at home??? why should I even start my car's engine if can be at my job just by climbing a few steps??? why should I buy a bus ticket if my college is just inside my bedroom??? why should mom would need a truck if the supermarket is just around the corner???, why to give my kid a car if he can do well with a bike???

        I think a city where people can reach whatever they need by walking a few blocks is much better than one in which you can travel free.
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    Feb 26 2013: I think the real question here is how can we encourage people to use mass transit systems rather than their own cars? Whether it is government or private or government funded and run by private enterprise is less important than if it reduces use of individual cars.
    • Feb 27 2013: That is the problem right now, it is government funded and run by private enterprise and it's not very good and will not improve in its current format.
      If you kept fuel costs at current levels, £1.40 a litre in UK, and provided free buses and trains you would see a shift from cars. We have ended up with a car dependent economy simply because it is not possible to get around any other way practically.
      I'm sure that the cost of car insurance would also come down from the current extortionate rates.
  • Feb 26 2013: NO!, the argument goes: "why should I, a tax payer who daily uses the bus and trains twice or more, and who pays for it with his own money, also have to pay it with my taxes"... This is the argument and my point. But you want to solve the problem by giving more power to the people who is causing it!
    • Feb 27 2013: I am talking about financing the transport system through direct taxation but free at the point of service. So I'm not right sure if you understand the issue correctly.
  • Feb 25 2013: Like you said, the point is MANAGEMENT!!!!... do you really believe a government, any government, I don't care the country or the ruling party... do you really believe a government can do a good management job???... if a government is not able to force private companies to provide a good service, how on earth do you believe this same government would be able to provide the service by itself????... If an architect can not force his/her workers to do a good job, would you hire him/her to build your house on his/her own???? Yes it is a nice intention, but once again, do you really really believe your government can do a good management job????
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      Feb 25 2013: No I don't believe a government can do a good management job, but if they stuff it up we can vote them out whereas if a private company does a bad job the CEO gets a pay rise, and is only replaced by a vote from shareholders who probably don't even ride the bus.
      • Feb 26 2013: You are missing my point entirely. The job of the government is not to provide us with public transportation, the government's job is to make the transportation companies to provide a good service at a reasonable price!!!. So, my point is: The government is not doing its job, it's real job!!!. I don't care who's the CEO of the local transportation company, and how he/she got there, or about his/her salary, as long as the government forces that company to comply with all the laws including those regarding infrastructure and vehicles maintenance. I don't understand why tax payers should be punished because some bureaucrats are allowing transportation companies do whatever they want whenever they want, and I am pretty sure those bureaucrats are not elected by direct vote. To me, there is something really rotten inside that branch of the government, and believe me, the problem won't be solved by giving more power to those people.
    • Feb 25 2013: I wouldn't be interested in politics if I didn't think it possible to improve things. We need a more progressive type of politics rather than the push pull of the "left" & "right".
      The London Olympics was a good example of public vs private with the G4S fiasco. It was the Army that lead the way with pride not profit being the driving force.
      I'm Chairman of a local junior football club with 17 teams 6yrs through to senior level. I have a great bunch of volunteers helping to run this Club. We are not unique, there's millions of volunteers out there doing things for nothing.
      My point is there are plenty of good people out, given the chance, would be far better than our current crop of politicians, running the show.
      My proposal was on my manifesto when I ran for parliament in 2010 here in the UK, as an Independent. It was to highlight the inconsistencies of all the major parties claiming to have a serious environmental strategy for the future.
      • Feb 26 2013: I think you are drifting away form the core subject: public transportation management. This not about left and right, this is about power and corruption. You have a fleet of about how much??? 6,000 vehicles???, 10,000???, 12,000???... you must have 2 drivers per bus, and 10% extra for eventualities, that means you have to hire at least 210% drivers, are you naive enough to think they won't want to form a union???... a union leader with that amount of affiliates is or will be corrupt, sooner or latter you will see union executives selling fuel and tires on the black market (obviously stolen from the buses). with that amount of vehicles, are you naive enough to believe the maintenance staff won't be corrupted by the repair parts and service provides to put cheap parts on the buses, at the price of expensive ones???. or to do phantom services to the vehicles???... I mentioning only a few sources of corruption at the operative level, but there is a whole lot of corruption possibilities at the administrative level also.

        In the end who's going to pay for that??? exactly the same people you are trying to provide with a "free service" .

        So, no my friend, this is not about left and right, this is about power and corruption. How are you going to solve that???, give me solid, real, viable strategy and I will support you.
        • Feb 26 2013: I'm not drifting. Public transport was privatised and broken up by a right wing Tory Government back in the 80's.
          The argument goes " why should I, a taxpayer, who doesn't use the buses or trains subsidise those that do".
          30 years on we are subsidising these private companies to the tune of £6 billion and rising. I live in a small town and you can't get out quickly in a morning or get back in quickly at night because of gridlock. There are too many cars on the road and we can't even keep up with the pot hole repairs.
          There is no one addressing the problem of gridlock and yet we have a solution to the problem.
          We need some real jobs to stimulate the economy. Improving infrastructure, providing cheaper alternatives to the car and moving people about more efficiently would be a step in the right direction.
          The union scenario is a good point but that is for another debate. Lets imagine that the Army are going to be involved just like they were during the Olympics.
  • Feb 25 2013: £11 billion a year sounds to me like a very huge amount of money. How much is spent just to obtain, manage and deliver that money?... 20% of it?, 30%?, 50%?... I am sure a few private (competing) companies can provide the service for a lot less. So why to charge all the tax payers with such a heavy load when you can charge transport users with a more reasonable amount.
    • Feb 25 2013: We already have private "competing" companies running the buses and trains and they get subsidies from the taxpayers of £6billion.
      The train companies are trying to price customers off trains rather than invest in improvements.
      As for bus companies, they compete for the profitable routes, get subsidised for the key links that don't make money and don't even bother with break even routes.
      It is true that our previous Governments attempts at running services wasn't a good experience but as I have said in a previous thread, it's all about the management and not a private vs public argument.
      Private companies are there to make money and are not duly concerned with the socioeconomic impact on communities when cutting services.
      By providing a cheap alternative to car use you would in effect be providing the poor with more disposable income, a much more effective type of quantitive easing.
  • Feb 22 2013: My proposal is merely to address a problem our politicians choose to ignore. Gridlock is an issue and I'm merely pointing out the merits of free public transport. It isn't strictly true to state it as free, but you do understand the thrust of it.
    Our Western Capitalist model does not work for the majority and has a tendency to encourage bad behaviour. Just because our Governments are poorly managed right now, it shouldn't be used to write off future projects with better management.
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    Feb 22 2013: Win. Win for Socialism. What about the other ideology? You know the one I mean. . . Free Enterprise/Capitalism. You think the government collecting tax money is the best way to provide mass transportation? When was the last time you saw the government do anything more efficiently, and more profitably than a privately owned company? There are a few things (national defense, interstate commerce) we should allow our government to do, but far fewer than we are now allowing. Government is rarely the best answer. Efficient, affordable service and products come from competition, not from government monopolies.
    • Feb 22 2013: Edward, I'm not talking about ideologies I'm talking about a policy.
      If I was looking for someone to manage my business I wouldn't organise a popularity contest to ensure I had the best candidate.
      Our local council run a multimillion pound business and to qualify, win a popularity contest in the local wards. At national level it's not much different so it's no wonder a lot of money is wasted. That is why Governments aren't capable of coming up with the right answers.
      "Efficient, affordable service and products come from competition"
      Not always the case, take a look at the banks, supermarkets, insurance sector, oil companies, mobile phone companies, most of these resemble cosy cartels.
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        Feb 22 2013: Do you really think you would be paying the same for any of the products and services you (seemingly happily) list as examples of failed Free Enterprise competition if they were provided by a government monopoly? Don't think that because prices are about the same everywhere means there is no competition. You actually are talking about ideologies sir. Your idea is for "free" (which is impossible) mass transit paid for (what happened to free?) with tax dollars and administered by the government. That is about as ideological as talk can get. Every answer you get will be based on the ideology of the responder. For the most part Socialists will say yea, and Capitalists will say nay. I shout NAY!
        • Feb 23 2013: My proposal is merely to address a problem our politicians choose to ignore. Gridlock is an issue and I'm merely pointing out the merits of free public transport. It isn't strictly true to state it as free, but you do understand the thrust of it.
          Our Western Capitalist model does not work for the majority and has a tendency to encourage bad behaviour. Just because our Governments are poorly managed right now, it shouldn't be used to write off future projects with better management.
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    Feb 21 2013: There has not been one public transportation system every that paid for itself. You forget the public sectors ability to squander money without giving much in return.
    • Feb 21 2013: Pat, I am fully aware of how the public sector squander money but please don't fall into the trap of public sector bad and private sector good. It isn't an ideological issue, it's simply down to poor management.
      What I am advocating is a system paid for through direct taxation which would benefit everyone, especially the poor.
      The fact that not a single mainstream political party advocates such a policy is down to who they pay lip service to and not that free public transport is a bad idea.
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        Feb 21 2013: A single political party does advocate the socialism you describe.

        Here in Calif the governor has approved a down payment of 4.5 billion for a train to run in a sparsely(in a state that is bankrupt) populated part of the state. The projected cost when the whole boondoggle is done is supposed to be 10 billion but we all know due to aforementioned wastefulness of the government that the total will be at least double that. A state with 37 million people in it could then give 540 dollars to them instead

        Another local transportation boondoggle was when the bus companies convinced the then LA city council to stop the public transportation we had which was an extensive set of street cars. Then LA rebuilt it at a cost of 11 billion re-tunneling and rebuilding, this boondoggle could have give each resident $1,000.00

        It is not a ideology problem it is a math problem. Not to mention the buses and the trains have a very low ridership.
        • Feb 21 2013: Hi Pat,
          Sorry I should have been a bit clearer, I can only vouch for the rabble in the UK.
          The free public transport policy is an all or nothing scenario and requires a complete shift in mindset.
          Our current transport system is fragmented and piecemeal and only serves a purpose for these train and bus operators making a profit.
          Many households have two maybe three cars to go about their work and pleasure simply because our transport system lacks any joined up approach and simply not practical enough.
          By paying through direct taxation most of us would be better off if you take into account the running costs primarily with getting to work and back.
          We worked out that my partner spends 10% of her net income to get her to work. Stuck in traffic in the morning and at night ensures that she also spends half a day a week travelling.
          We pay roughly 60% tax on fuel and are charged extortionate rates on insurance, the whole thing is bonkers.
          It costs me proportionately more as a % of my income to fill up my tank compared to a millionaire, our Government Cabinet is full of them.
          If you do the maths it works out cheaper, safer and is good for cutting down emissions. How can we take our Gvts green policies seriously if they can't act on something as straightforward and beneficial as free public transport. There's not even a debate about it.
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        Feb 22 2013: I think it is a bit more involved than than. Some cities lend themselves to this and some do not, New York and San Francisco are more dense where Los Angeles is more spread out. If the terminals are very far from your destination than you have a problem after you arrive at the terminal.

        The question I have if it makes so much sense why doesn't private enterprise do this?
        • Feb 22 2013: Pat,
          It wouldn't happen overnight this is a long term policy to upgrade and join up existing links. The reason why we have what we have, a mess, is firms make a lot of money for a poor service and are happy with the current situation.
          The lobby groups representing oil, car and insurance companies ensure that any notion of a free public transportation system is kicked into the long grass.
          Yes it makes sense but it won't make any money for private enterprise directly.
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    Feb 20 2013: i don't get it. you said "free". then you talk about increasing tax. do you think that tax money is not money? btw i don't exactly get how could "1p" generate 5 billion income. 1p is what? per what time period? 5 billion means 83 per person on average. including infants and village people that don't need public transport.
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      Feb 20 2013: Besides the "cost" we pay environmentally for continuation of fossil fuel transport. Nothing is free.
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      Feb 21 2013: I know a transport system that isn't based on "user pays" goes against best economic practice but the concept of "payers use" meaning that if everyone pays for it anyway they will probably use it more might be good for the environment if not for the bottom line.
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        Feb 22 2013: Don't you have to use steroids to ride a bicycle? :-)
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    Feb 20 2013: .
    Just for some clarity on why something like this needs to happen...

    -The cheapest way to get to the my next closest city for the purpose of full time work is a weekly pre-paid transport card which costs £25 per week (a 50% discount).
    -Car insurance, petrol and parking (calculated on my situation) will cost £45 a week.
    -if a person works full time and on minimum wage (£6.19), this is how it works out..

    Using public transport: 16 hours of work just to pay to travel to work for a month.
    Using a car: 29 hours of work just to pay to travel to work for a month.

    So essentially you would work for anything between 2 full days > 1 full week, just so you can afford to go to work..
    Thas pretty abysmal, considering that
    1. The transport is often unreliable and outdated
    2. The transport is rarely well maintained
    3. We pay atleast £5,000,000,000 a year for these companies to exist.
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    Feb 20 2013: How about if you live within 500m of a train station or bus stop you pay a levy. People would go out of their way to make sure they got their monies worth.
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    Feb 20 2013: Yupp, count me in!