Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Kansas City is first major city in U.S. to offer no-cost public transportation (citylab.com)
444 points by jonbaer 37 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 380 comments



Seattle used to have this for an area of the city. It was called the "Free Ride Zone" - and it had some unexpected consequences.

The primary problem is that homeless people would get on the bus because it's warm, and would fall asleep. The busses became rolling homeless shelters.

This caused other people to take the bus less, because of public safety concerns, as well as simple quality-of-life issues like unpleasant smells.

Eventually it was scrapped.

But this issue has been returning as it's now common knowledge that Seattle bus drivers are instructed not to collect fares from anyone that declines to pay.


It's not just the free fare - it's the abysmal lack of shelter options and the attempts by cities to criminalize encampments and force people to find somewhere indoors to avoid arrest.


100% this, I’ve been homeless and slept on the bus or subway to stay warm (and safe) and not once did someone try to help me. And now I’m years out of being in that situation and I am part of the same problem, I almost never take public transportation and use Lyft or my car to get around.


> I’ve been homeless and slept on the bus or subway to stay warm (and safe) and not once did someone try to help me.

Curious how someone could have most helped you at that time in your life if you don't mind sharing.


I live in Boston and arrived at my usual subway stop with a half-eaten breakfast sandwich and an iced coffee in hand. There was a "kid" (probably late teens, early twenties) sleeping on the bench and he looked like someone who was newly arrived in a tough place. I thought of my own pre-teen son and thought of what I'd want someone to do if they encountered him in this state.

When I approached He asked for change, which I didn't have, so I asked if he wanted the remaining half of my sandwich and iced coffee instead. The sheer joy of his reaction as he took the sandwich and coffee is something I'll always remember.


So you gave a kid leftovers? That's kind of like giving with the most least amount of inconvenience.


It was the breakfast I was planning on eating. It wasn't a grand gesture by any stretch, but it was a lot more than anyone else had done for him that day.


Just 'cause no one less was helping doesn't make you a saint for giving your leftovers. Maybe you can take this as a lesson for next time you're in opportunity to give.


I think the city should just provide enough shelters for the homeless. That seems cheaper than running public transport that's not getting used the way it's intended.

It's hard to fix every cause of homelessness, but providing shelters is pretty easy.


The rationale for why "just add more shelters" is hard has been explained to me as:

* nobody wants a shelter built near them * even if it does get built, it's often women/children only

and the second bullet point isn't (afaik...) just sexism or anything, it's just picking risk categories. Consider all the following like you were an insurance company trying to appraise how costly it is to do business with a group of people: Apparently homeless men are, collectively, more expensive to shelter than women/children because they're plagued by more expensive issues - more violence, more drug issues, etc. So homeless shelters frequently can't afford to operate if they try to shelter men. So it becomes an issue of "women/children only" or "it's literally too expensive to safely run the (both-genders) shelter to be feasible".


But leaving those men on the street in also expensive for society. I understand this is how it works for any individual shelter, but for the city as a whole, they're going to be paying for this one way or another, whether they provide shelters, let them sleep on the bus (a great place for people with violence/drug issues) or just abandon them to the streets to let them figure it out on their own. I think providing shelters, and maybe guidance with their problems, is still going to be the best option for the city. As long as they can look at the entire context, and not just a single shelter.


> I’ve been homeless and slept on the bus or subway to stay warm (and safe) and not once did someone try to help me.

The way in which you wrote this could be misinterpreted, so any clarification would be welcome: did you then or do you now feel as though someone is obligated to help you? If so, who and in what ways?


I’m guilty. I’d like to help but I’m not so sure how.


A friendly hello and a few bucks


You feel that people in proximity to you owe you attention and money?


No one ever gave you cash? Did you ask for it?


It didn't end well, but, the majority of people who are homeless are invisible, they don't appear to be any different than the average city person. The people who are being complained about are by in large people who are in need of public health services that have been slashed since the 1980s in the United States or never existed. I don't have a solution


> "(and safe)"

Want to make sure this part of the comment is also highlighted because big homeless shelters can be really difficult, scary, and even dangerous places, even when there are beds available, and so unhoused people have to wrestle with whether it's safer/more desirable to sleep outside rather than deal with all that. And that's not to mention all the cumbersome rules and religious proselytizing they might have to deal with in shelters. Warehousing people is not a good option.


Yup, just earlier this post showed up in my thread with people trying to criminalize sleeping in public areas so homeless can be arrested.

https://www.npr.org/2019/12/16/788435163/supreme-court-wont-...


Well they should, shouldn't they. Nobody should be able to monopolize and ruin the commons, whether or not they have a home.

The problem isn't the criminalizing of sleeping in public spaces, it's the lack of publicly funded shelters and publicly funded (incl. mental) healthcare for the homeless.

We should pay to give them a place to sleep, and punish them just like anyone else if they choose to set up camps in public spaces.


> ...and punish them just like anyone else if they choose to set up camps in public spaces.

"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread."

Often applicable, but rarely quite so literally.


You conveniently left out the part where your parent commenter wants to build shelters so that people don't have to sleep under bridges, whether rich or poor.


And they conveniently left out that that is exactly what the law has been ruled to say - if there are available suitable shelters then you can criminalize sleeping in public areas.


> We should pay to give them a place to sleep, and punish them just like anyone else if they choose to set up camps in public spaces.

A little empathy would clarify that if there were any (holistically) better option, then homeless people would be preferring that to sleeping on the streets.

Firstly there needs to be "enough" available shelter, which accommodates the richly varied life situations of people. Secondly, it's no use having these shelters in the middle of nowhere such that their tenants are disconnected from a thriving economy and the rest of society.

The commons are, after all, for common use, and it is coercive to punish the homeless (often considered "riff raff") for "ruining the commons" if one's delicate (bourgeois) sensibilities are affected.


Which I believe is what the SCOTUS essentially ruled today. If the city doesn’t have adequate shelter you can’t just arrest people for existing.


Well, semantics...SCOTUS refused to hear. But by refusing, it was an implicit support -- but I wouldn't call it a ruling. A ruling would be more along the lines of indelible -- this was more a filibuster.


You'll change your mind as soon as you don't have a place to stay. Getting arrested because you were involuntarily evicted for your home is bullshit and tried to sleep somewhere is bullshit.


Couldn’t you use your car? 24 hour fitness for showers? I see many people do that. They don’t bother anybody. They’re actually trying to work very hard, it’s just the property values are so costly, that they end up homeless in their car.

The homeless that are on the street are typically very hostile and going through drug withdrawal. It can become a public safety issue then.


A car isn't an option for everyone. I personally don't have a car. And 10 years ago when I was homeless, I couldn't afford to keep the car I had; it got towed because I couldn't afford to pay for the registration. On a more practical note, I was too big to sleep in my car anyway.


Sleeping in the car is also illegal in a growing number of places[1]

[1]: https://nextcity.org/daily/entry/10-facts-homelessness-2014


If you'll hold off on the criminalization until all the shelters are built, maybe, but the former is easier than the latter and not everyone is equally invested in the two endeavors.


And not just shelters. Proper shelters.

Shelters without forced religious services. Without forced NA/AA. Shelters that will allow families to stay together. Shelters that don't take away walkers and oxygen tanks due to being "weapons". Shelters that are safe, for everyone, especially if you are trans. Ones that allow folks to actually improve their life instead of waiting hours for food and mandatory classes. Bonus points if they provide for pets as well: I know of at least one woman that stayed with an abusive partner because of this. Her only friend in the country (!) was her dog. (He died while she was pregnant, so she got a better life, but no dog).

It is unfortunate that the shelters we do have are rarely good enough.


If such shelters existed in my city, I’d seriously consider becoming homeless for a while to save for a deposit on a home loan faster than I otherwise would while paying rent.


It doesn't really mean these would be comfortable places - it would still just be shelter. The stuff I listed are just basic things I think we should do for people, regardless of situations. Folks shouldn't suffer due to misfortune.

I don't think society is at a place to do such a thing, but I'd personally like to see everyone getting the option of low-cost to free basic housing. A single person would minimally get a private room and bathroom: More likely a proper studio with a small kitchen. Clean, secure, and functional. Easy-to-clean and easy-to-replace surfaces and appliances. Professional cleaning 2-4 times a year, mandatory.

Of course, I think we should only have shelters for folks that have temporary emergencies and homes for everyone else. People will still need shelter from time to time even in a more perfect world - fires, floods, abuse, money mistakes, and so on happen.

This is all a dream and I don't think we'll get to this point soon enough.


> We should pay to give them a place to sleep, and punish them just like anyone else if they choose to set up camps in public spaces.

Good luck with the former. The NIMBYs will fight it tooth and nail, every millimeter of the way.


Then elect better legislators to reign them in or will at least pass laws that will disallow that sort of thing.


What is it that's preventing us from forcing our politicians to offer better options? I would vote for a solution to this, and even donate money to it, if enough other people were doing the same.

Don't most people feel the same about this issue? What systemic problem is preventing a huge mass of people who agree on this from making a meaningful change happen?


It's just a much harder problem to solve than you realize it is.

The truth is a lot of the homeless people that aren't in shelters choose not to go to shelters. Why? The biggest reason is because shelters don't allow drugs or alcohol, and if you're an addict that's an immediate pass.

There are other reasons too. Sometimes couples want shelter together, but most are separated by gender (and for good reason: to prevent sexual assaults). Sometimes a person has a pet, and pets are generally not accepted at shelters.

So, what do you do? Allow people to shoot up in a shelter? Or deny heroin addicts shelter? As I said, it's not obvious how to fix this. It's definitely not just a "build more beds" situation in most cities.


I think it's to start treating addiction as a mental health issue and reopen facilities dedicated to treating more serious mental disorders - in a lot of places mental institutions were closed because of perceived (sometimes quite real) mistreatment but they were never replaced, society just moved on - so now you've got a mix of folks on the street, addicts, inherently mentally disabled and the jobless.

Jobless homeless are easy to solve and is generally a transient condition, it's extremely dangerous period of their lives but most people will recover in a small number of years with the right support structures - the mentally disabled without support structures are a permanent problem and we just need to provide funding for permanent support workers for them - lastly, addicts are heavily ostracized but their condition is potentially recoverable - still, addiction treatment is a multi-year or decade process and addicts need solid support structures including a stable living situation to dig their way out.

So more beds won't help, the funding going into care is pathetic and it has constant exponential costs on society - more drug users on the streets today means even more tomorrow as more people fall into that cycle. I think legalization of the softer drugs would help, we've done it with MJ up here in Canada and we have yet to devolve into a lawless anarchy, but I really don't know about things like heroin or meth.


As I was saying, what's stopping us from forcing the politicians to provide better options?

Is there some way we can organize a discussion about practical solutions to this issue, and then pick that and tell the politicians to go do it?

I'm not saying our current solutions are good by the way, which seems to be what some people replying are interpreting my comment as.

I'm personally in favor of just state funded small apartments, where yes, if they want to shoot up, let them shoot up.


Yeah, housing first is absolutely the way to go. Sadly the very thing causing homelessness also makes housing-first much more difficult: astronomically-expensive real estate. Condos in Seattle cost more than $500/sqft, and investing tons of money to construct these buildings further props up the ridiculous valuations.

Socialized housing is absolutely the answer, but homelessness will never be solved until we stop treating housing as an investment. Housing increasing in value is also housing increasing in cost. Investment growth is diametrically opposed to affordability.


How can socialized housing be the answer? Government has proven repeatedly that it cannot build housing as efficiently as private companies. Government housing projects also very quickly turn into slums since there are insufficient employment opportunities nearby.

The single best thing governments could do is increase density in areas with high economic opportunity. This can also be done very easily with a few strokes of the pen: Higher density zoning, and a land value tax.

Land value tax is critical as it ensures that landowners must develop their land rather than simply rent-seek if they are lucky enough to own in a desirable and growing area.


>homelessness will never be solved

Interesting. Question: do you think that if all of a sudden a wand was waved and everyone homeless in a given city/geography was magically housed that there would still be (eventually, over time) further homelessness or do you think that homelessness would cease to exist from that point forward? What do you think would happen in say, 5-10-15 years out?


> in a given city/geography

When a city is more hospitable to the homeless, it attracts more homeless. The homeless problem in California's major cities is in part due to their their (relatively) accommodating treatment of the homeless.

Cities, even states, aren't ever going to be able to fully tackle this problem alone - there needs to be a massive initiative at the federal level.


>there needs to be a massive initiative at the federal level.

What would that look like to you?


I think my "obvious" solution is that you let people use, and provide methods for them to use safely (needle exchanges, etc.), and offer them support to quit using.

By stopping people at the first step, you make it a lot harder to provide the second (safe use) and third (use reduction).

Nitpick: I don't like to use the term "homeless people", because it puts homeless first and the emphasis on them as a fixed group of people. They're just people who at this time have housing insecurity, and I think this framing means we can solve it by providing people with safety and security and resources.


> They're just people who at this time have housing insecurity

They're homeless, trying to hide that reality with a non-sense PC euphemism doesn't change that. This attitude isn't helping, it's obfuscating and bad. They're not housing insecure, short people aren't height-challenged, disabled people aren't differently-abled.


Homelessness is an immutable characteristic they can't change? Sounds like you're reinforcing why the change in framing is helpful and emphasizing their personhood first, their living conditions second.


You say it's not obvious, but then you ask:

> So, what do you do? Allow people to shoot up in a shelter?

And the answer is yes, obviously. Safe-injection sites and opiate maintenance programs work.

And you also go several steps further by ending drug prohibition entirely. Prohibition has created an environment where the only opioid drugs available are highly concentrated and easy to smuggle, just as alcohol prohibition converted a nation of beer and wine drinkers to whiskey addicts. With raw plant forms of coca and poppy available, we'll see far fewer people shooting up heroin or smoking crack (just as we see today in places where cultivation and consumption of these plants is commonplace).


Unfortunately the answer is not obviously yes. A long time ago I volunteered in a shelter. High (and drink) guests can be more violent and argumentive; fights will break out over people stealing drugs. They pass out and make messes with bodily fluids that have to be cleaned up. They leave dirty needles laying around.

Few people, including other guests, want to deal with these and the safety issues and so fewer come (including the volunteers).


If folks can steal other people's stuff, it is not a good shelter. It doesn't matter if it is drugs or any other personal belonging. If folks can steal drugs, they can steal money as well.

Build better shelters.

But more than that: You can require certain things, like not being violent with other folks. That they clean up their own messes. Provide mental and physical health care at the shelter and offer medical help in weaning off drugs. This won't work in an environment that isn't safe and secure, for both the person and their stuff.

More unpopularly: Require that they shoot up in the proper location, where there are sharps boxes and so on. Get treatment for folks or employ trained staff to help folks shoot up (if you can't help folks stop, we can do it as safely as possible).


[flagged]


Humans are fucking difficult. It doesn't mean you cannot help folks and provide mental and physical health services. You'll probably get better because you have trained people that have dealt with addicts before instead of the average homeless shelter employee/volunteer that has little to no education to back them up - merely a will to help others.

And no, it won't be perfect. It rarely is. But it is a much better start than the shitholes we call homeless shelters now. Stop treating folks like animals, even if you look down on their lives.


Are you saying that you volunteered at a location which expressly served as a safe-injection or maintenance program site? Or a place where addicts clandestinely acquired and used heroin?

This discussion is about the former: is it a good idea to have safe injection or maintenance facilities at or near shelters? The consequences you are describing sound to me like symptoms of the latter, which are not widely described at actual safe injection or maintenance sites.


I volunteered at a shelter in a Boston suburb and the problems were fairly small compared to big cities. This was a while ago so heroin wasn't much of a problem; by far the drug of choice was alcohol with crack a distant second. You cannot allow alcohol in a shelter, it is a recipe for disaster.

The problem with simple solutions is that many people don't want to do what you think they should do. They don't want safe injection, they want their hit now. They want to drink until they pass out. They want the freedom to make bad choices.


Yes, you can have alcohol in shelters, it is cheaper, safer, and in all ways except performing a puritan morality play, better. It's called low barrier shelters, or housing first. Seattle's DESC housing has been successfully providing it for decades. Plenty of successful programs have implemented it in multiple countries. It is not a new idea or an untested idea. You can't have it in a shitty "shelter" that just lays out sleeping mats by the dozens in a big empty room and then turns out the lights, no. So what?


If you give everyone houses, it relieves pressure from the housing system which causes rents to go down. Therefore, every landlord opposes actually solving homelessness. Since we have government by the rich and landed, we get their position encoded in policy.

The degree to which reality diverges from this prescription is the degree to which the politicians fear either a) a declining bushiness environment or b) riots


>If you give everyone houses, it relieves pressure from the housing system which causes rents to go down.

Care to explain your logic around this statement?


If you provide a real, quality outlet to all people facing homelessness, then people fear eviction much less. Therefore, they will readily turn to the public option in times of crisis rather than scrabble to pay rent. This lack of fear of the the landlord results in less negotiating power.


Not sure I fully understand though do appreciate the communication.


The problem is that as soon as they increase your taxes to pay for something that you want to pay for, they will take that money and use it for something else.


That's not a problem but a feature of government. Otherwise the government will just focus on dirt roads and horses. Don't like taxes? Move to Somalia.


I’m failing to see the logic of your statement.

You’re saying it good when the gov’t raises taxes to pay for outreach to the homeless, but then spends the money on something else, like a new stadium?


[flagged]


Because that's an unreasonable stance to take, social welfare shouldn't be shouldered only by those people who care.

As a society we have homeless people and as a society we need to provide options for them.


> because it's warm,

allowing encampments won't probably solve that unless they somehow provide heat?


In SJ under the 280/87 interchange along the bike path the homeless build wood fires and garbage fires.


I moved out the year before it was scrapped, but I am not so sure it was because of homeless people. When I lived in Seattle I had literally 0 bad encounters with homeless people on buses. [Definitely nonzero on the sidewalks]

The worst part in my view about the free ride zone was when you would take a bus from downtown to outside the zone. You'd need to pay when you left. Which was hard to enforce, so I think a lot of people walked off. Even if you wanted to play it right, you needed to remember when to pay and when not. I remember hearing from drivers that they didn't care if you pay anyway.

Of course in recent years in towns like Seattle or SF there is always somebody trying to say that the homeless are responsible for the downfall of everything.



That kind of (unintentionally, I'm sure) makes it sound like they introduced the free ride zone, quickly attracted a lot of homeless people, and so cancelled the program.

It actually ran for almost 40 years. It started in 1973, and ended in 2012.


Interestingly, here in Melbourne we have a similar system when it comes to paying fares. It's not the bus/train/tram drivers responsibility to ensure you pay your fare, you can walk onto a bus without tagging on and the driver won't even blink, it's the job of roaming ticket inspectors to enforce fare payment.

In my experience, we don't have a particularly significant problem with homeless people and other "undesirables" on public transport. It probably helps that they have police patrols at most train stations at night.


In Melbourne it had some not so great effects. A lot of people will use it instead of just walking a couple of blocks and the free zone is already the slowest and most congested part of the network, so it made PT worse for everyone else. As a resident of zone 1 I now get to subsidize the free users in the city and zone 2 because they removed zone 1 only tickets.

I have a feeling the people complaining about the homeless would say the same things encountering "undesirables" on our PT though, it's just a disguised "I have to interact with poor people" argument.


Yep, I personally would much sooner use public transportation that charged $10 (with no exceptions) than free public transportation. Sharing close quarters with aggressive, smelly, intoxicated, unstable people is stressful and unpleasant


The Kansas City Zoo has to let people in certain counties visit for free every so often, as part of the agreement by which it receives funding from those counties. This used to be implemented as periodic "free" days, but those became so notorious for outbreaks of violence that they switched to sending vouchers for different days to every household in those counties so the free-day visitors are spread out rather than all there at once.


I bet that probably increases the number of visitors visiting for free too. Since, many parents and families may not be able to take a specific day off if they work in low-wage service industry jobs. It’s probably better all around, but has more cost with mailing vouchers.


Wow. Have you ever wondered that may be inequality should be a problem worth solving instead of finding yet another way of isolating yourself from the problem?


I'm not entirely clear on how avoiding unpleasant situations precludes also working to fix those same situations.

(I'm also not clear on why this is an "inequality" problem rather than a "destitution" problem.)


"Out of sight, out of mind" is real and not uncommon.


Not being assaulted is privilege now?

I live down town. There's a homeless man on drugs who screams at the top of his lungs at random people every so often until the police come and pick him up.

If you would rather he not be out of sight and out of mind please send me your address, I will buy him a one way ticket so he can camp out in your back yard.


Generally, most people who are "pro-homeless" or talk about treating them with respect don't actually live near or otherwise interact with the homeless on a regular or even occasional basis, which lets them feel superior and cast moral judgments on those of us who do live near the homeless and try to do something to contain the problem.


I have been substantially inconvenienced by people who are homeless. I live down the street from a soup kitchen, and I got scabies after someone apparently spent the night in my unlocked car. But obviously any inconvenience I experience pales in comparison to their suffering on the streets.

It's natural to be frustrated and annoyed by homelessness at times, but surely it's easy to also feel compassion for these people, too, no?


It depends on the situation. I certainly feel compassion for people who are down on their luck; who want to be part of society and have just gotten unlucky; and who are scraping to get by and trying to fix things. I absolutely want to extend them help and see them get back into a healthy, happy, and productive state (and have done so in the past).

That being said, I don't have much compassion for people who harass me incessantly for money and scream obscenities at me when I won't give them any; who pull weapons on my friends and mug them at knife point in broad daylight; who urinate and shit in public without even making an attempt to seek privacy; who are violently disruptive just to do it; who shoot up drugs on the street and make no attempt to seek treatment or be part of society; who get on public transport and start screaming about their schizophrenia-induced religious nonsense; etc.

These individuals certainly show no respect or compassion towards me or to people I know who have been assaulted by them. Why is it my responsibility to deal with them as a private citizen when many don't seem to even want to be helped and when the government who I pay taxes to in part to ensure my public safety doesn't seem to care either?


Many of these people experience serious mental health issues, including addiction. I've had mental health struggles myself (depression) as have many people here. If you are among them, ask yourself how well you think your recovery would have gone without a safe, warm, dry place to retreat where nobody would bother you.

Then there's the issue of many mental disorders strongly affecting executive functioning, which is required to keep appointments with their healthcare provider. Even people in the most stable of circumstances miss appointments; now think how difficult that would be when you don't know where you'll be sleeping that night (plus aforementioned mental health issues).

All of these issues compound on one another. I have nothing but sympathy for people experiencing homelessness, and nothing will change that.


When I worked for the public defender, most of my clients were homeless at some point.

They were homeless, and mentally ill, because they chose to use powerful, mind-altering drugs that fucked up their brains. They chose to keep using those drugs.

I have absolutely no sympathy for drug addicts. Using drugs is a choice. The fact that it has serious consequences does not engender sympathy. If anything, the fact that people know drugs will fuck them up and still use them anyway makes me less sympathetic to drug addicts.

I have great sympathy for the homeless who are merely down on their luck. You can identify them pretty easily. They're the ones that aren't drunk or high, and they're usually in the shelters at night because they'd rather have a hot shower and a hot meal than spend a night on the street with the addicts.


Generally, people who make that argument are completely wrong and somehow fail to recognize how nonsensical it is to argue that social workers etc just don't interact with homeless people enough to see them with contempt.


Social workers aren't pro-homeless. They're pro-people, and they generally work their asses of to get people into housing so they aren't homeless anymore.

And yes, every single one of them absolutely feels contempt for the homeless who choose the streets over shelter just so they can stay high. I worked with enough social workers when I was a public defender to have a better grasp of their views on the homeless than you do.


That's such an obviously false statement that I can't believe you bothered to type it. I've been related to enough social workers to have a better grasp of their views than you do, apparently.


Going to need a source on that. In my experience it is only people who are exposed to homelessness in some way that have any feeling on the matter what so ever.


I'd argue that this would not be different if he had a home.

We should offer drug treatment to those that want it and mental health care to those that need it. This particular example isn't really a problem with a home except in a sense that weve not provided the person housing they can keep up with.


Thanks for helping me think on this.

Background: I personally feel that dealing with our collective failings is a collective burden. Your shitty situation is you getting the short straw in the lottery of who feels that collective failing more acutely.

It's disappointing to hear people conspire on engineering situations so that people like themselves simply don't notice/feel the failing personally, rather than hearing them spend energy working through a more complex resolution of the broader failing.

A don't think anyone's saying you're a bad person. But it maybe sucks to hear that you feel it's been shoved onto you alone (which is prob true), and then that others are rallying behind your shoving it elsewhere out of sight.

(Note: i realize this thread is a pile-on and your not the initial commenter :)


> Not being assaulted is privilege now?

That is not what I was talking about, albeit assault being a valid concern.

I too have been approached. There is "plenty to go around" without your kind offer, which I decline but not for the reasons I assume you hope for but for which I just stated ["there is no need"].


> Not being assaulted is privilege now?

wasn't it always?


In the USA, and seemingly most other modern liberal democracies, that being true is the crux. "Equal protection" seems damaged beyond all repair, noting also that now this imbalance has now seemingly blown up in the face of the USA, India, and the UK. The justice systems of these countries are systemically failing with huge miscarriages of justice abounding. So to make a long story long regarding your question.. Yes.


But when people's health and safety are immediately threatened I find it difficult to argue that people who are able to shouldn't avoid the threats.


What can be done outside of good free healthcare that views mental health including drug use as a public health issue? I live in Detroit and we have abysmal services for people in those Circumstances


It's a lot easier to isolate myself than it is to solve homelessness.


But it can't really be _fully_ solved. In any case there will be people who simply refuse the responsibility of being a proper adult and _choose_ to live under a bridge. In a city of a 700K+ people (Seattle) there will be hundreds of such folks. What do you do with them in a free country?


>But it can't really be _fully_ solved. In any case there will be people who simply refuse the responsibility of being a proper adult and _choose_ to live under a bridge.

Do you think humans have agency and can choose or ?


That's a bit elitist, isn't it?

We could also ban vagrants from being inside the city limits at night. Out of sight, out of mind.

More seriously though, take an Uber (or UberPool) if you want clean, sober public transport.


Sorry that's just not an acceptable answer. Telling everyone to add to traffic in the city just to be in a clean environment is stupid.

I spent two weeks in Beijing. They actually kicked the homeless out of the city and there are constant reminders to keep the subways clean. It was really nice.


This is not actually true. Beijing has a massive underclass of people living illegally because they don't have internal passports that allow them to live in a city. This let's the city have the benefit of their labor while being able to crack down harshly and jail/deport whenever. They also don't provide any social services for these people (trash pickup, school, medical). So that's why many people who you might otherwise have seen were staying out of sight in the rich areas.

If you want to read more, the Chinese system of inherited internal passports is called hukou.


Thanks for the info. Maybe the explanation was dumbed down for a foreigner.


This comment makes me feel sad. No judgement of the speaker intended in that, just saying so.


The rolling homeless shelter meme is a way to virtue signal against the existence of the homeless. I have been a consistent bus rider in Seattle since the mid 90s, and the bus is not a destination for homeless, much less so than the library. Many homeless people have bus passes legitimately, and are more respectful than the average rider.


The L.A. metro would like to differ. If only sleeping and smelling were all the problems. How about yelling nonstop obscenities?

I still take the Metro but when bringing the wife and kid with me I get an earful of complaints.

Interestingly, this doesn't happen when we take the metro in Rio de Janeiro. Presumably because there are paid barriers to entry, and employees in the stations. Not sure if they have public mental treatment but they have public hospitals.


As a Seattle bus rider, I would have to disagree. A few outlier homeless (e.g. those who shit on the bus) can create irrational triggers among the general public which decrease bus use.


Wanting to avoid literal shit on a bus isn’t irrational. If it’s a common enough issue that it’s acknowledged as more than a one-off thing, it’s rational to want to avoid that.

And it’s not only wanting to avoid shit on a bus, but wanting to avoid people who have no concerns with shitting on a bus. They’re unpredictable.


I've never seen shit on a bus. What's the likelihood that you'll see shit on a bus? I've on many occasions seen shit in public restrooms.

What's the rational thing to do about shit on public restrooms? Is seeing shit on a bus worse than seeing shit in a public restroom? I guess we're used to seeing shit in restrooms, so it doesn't carry the same stigma.

Maybe if there was more shit lying around in general it would help destigmatize our fear of having to be aware of other people's shit. Potty training for many kids can be difficult and traumatic, but for most of us after a while we don't even give it a second thought, because we're so used to it.


The person I replied to mentioned it as something existing.

And shit in a restroom is an unpleasant thing to see, but it’s a facility set aside for the explicit purpose of shitting. The explicit purpose of a bus includes transport without shitting. I find it hard to imagine that you can’t conceive of the idea of people being exposed to shit and the types of people who have no issues shitting while on a bus. They’re not mentally stable people and they’re quite possibly dangerous.

And no, we should absolutely not destigmatize shitting on buses or in places other than toilets. It’s not only disgusting to look at, but that’s how you spread deadly diseases. It’s a problem the Romans knew how to handle—let’s not set ourselves back in time 2000 years because some mentally unstable person might be offended.


Plenty of people believe in things that don't exist.


Plenty of people also deny problems that do exist.

I’ve encountered people pissing on buses. Shitting isn’t something I’d doubt happens, especially in places like Seattle and San Francisco.


I ride busses around Seattle a lot and have never seen or heard of it happening. I'd be willing to entertain the possibility, but I don't believe it without evidence, and someone saying they are scared of it happening doesn't count as evidence.


Which routes do you take?


> shit on the bus --> irrational

Interesting take, to say the least.


We can't have free transit because people without homes will use it to get out of the cold.

It's like a USSR joke.


After the fall of the Soviets, I heard that a joke over there was, "Everything they told us about communism was a lie, but everything they told us about capitalism is true."


Arh, is this why why people in US hate public transport and prefer to drive themselves or go by taxi?

For those of us living in the "outside" world where public transport are the norm, it is sometimes hard to understand why public transport is treated so differently in US.


The reasons are:

1. Public transit is very slow relative to cars. This is because the U.S. was mostly built after the invention of the car, which means road capacity is higher, parking is easier, and distances are farther. Even in places with decent public transit, it takes 2-3x as long to get somewhere on public transit as driving a car.

2. The U.S. is a rich country and more people can afford their own car or to take a taxi/rideshare.

3. Public transit is less comfortable and convenient. It involves walking and waiting outside, possibly in bad weather, and possibly crowding. If you are carrying things with you or bringing small children, the hassle is magnified trying to maneuver through small spaces with large items quickly.


At least in cities and during the day, good public transport is faster than cars at any distance. In London or Paris (and even New York), you'll see hedge fund managers on the subway.


London and Paris don't have motorways that go into the city center like most U.S. cities do.

Even so, even in say, Paris inside the ring, it's typically faster to take a taxi than the Metro. Go on Google maps and pick some random routes and see for yourself.

As soon as you go to a smaller city or travel outside the densest part of the city, the car becomes dramatically faster.

My observation is that hedge fund managers do not typically take the subway. They have chauffeured cars so that they can make productive use of their time while driving. In the rare instance that transit is faster, being able to simply sit down and take calls, do email, etc is very valuable and is not practical on most forms of transit. Certainly confidential calls are a no-go, and laptops are not practical except on some commuter rail. Furthermore, on most transit trips, the time is broken up. At minimum you have walking time, then waiting time, then moving time, then more walking time. With transfers it's broken up even more. You'd be lucky to have 1/3 of the time sitting in a seat where you could peck out emails on a smartphone.


That really depends on the city. In DC, my drive commute is ~10-20 minutes in the morning, and my train commute is ~40+ minutes. Why? Because I have to transfer once, and walk to and from the stations on either side.


he said good public transport


>2. The U.S. is a rich country and more people can afford their own car or to take a taxi/rideshare.

Is this true? It was my understanding that a large % of Americans can't even afford to buy a car and have to take out a loan as well as cutting down on other living expenses to have enough money to drive to work.


The US is 4th for cars per capita. Behind San Marino, Monaco, and New Zealand.

Regardless of whether it’s “affordable” to own a car, people do it anyway.

Financing for vehicles in the US is very accessible. There are dealerships who advertise on the radio in my city that they cater to people with “multiple bankruptcies”, and “no drivers license”, with little to no money down.

As a more extreme anecdote:

I had a bad roommate in college who spent almost all of the money from his part time minimum wage job on alcohol. He routinely “bought” a car, didn’t make the payments, and when the tow truck showed up to repossess it, he just went out and “bought” another the next day.

His high-risk loans didn’t have great terms, but he always had a car.

Also, even with some of the lowest required insurance minimums in the developed world, the number of uninsured drivers in the US is huge. There are insurance companies that will give you insurance for a single day too... just long enough to register your car and get a license plate.

Used cars are super cheap in the US too, and in most places, inspection requirements are minimal. You can buy old and ugly but running vehicles for less than a yearly bus pass in many places.


You comment just confirmed my thoughts that people in the US often can't afford a car and are forced to go through any insane measures possible to use one since it is a requirement for life in the US.


Of course, I am giving examples of extremes.

But in general, I’m just saying that cars have low barriers to obtain here, for whatever the situation may be. That situation is sometimes necessity, but not always. This is not a phenomenon that only exists in places without public transit.

I also wanted to convey is that the concept of “affordable” isn’t exactly comparable across cultures, classes, and backgrounds.

As you may know, cars are a status symbol in the US. My roommate in the example above absolutely considered himself able to afford a car. Even though we lived in a place with a viable bus route that would have taken him everywhere he needed to go, his car was an essential enough part of his identity, lifestyle, and status that he decided to prioritize it as he did.


You aren't mistaken.


Yes he is, and so are you. I just spent 2 minutes and found half a dozen vehicles under $1000 that will likely run well for years.

Public transit really isn't an option for most people in the US, and even if it is, unless a transit pass is subsidized, a car like that is probably more cost effective even including fuel, maintenance, and insurance, not to mention the savings in time and freedom provided by a car (any car).


At some point you should maybe sit down and figure out how much your car is costing you each year. And get back to us.


For me its infrequent and unpredictable bus timings, limited bus stops, long travel times. If I took buses to work it would take 1-1.5 hours to reach my work. When I drive, it takes 30-45min. And the bus is available only once an hour during peak hours.


The unpredictable timing and long travel times occur as a unintended result of consolidating public transport options.

It starts when transportation planners get the "bright idea" to cancel lines that don't have some threshold of number of riders. On paper that looks good because it culls the lines that aren't as profitable, allowing the operating budget to shrink. In reality, it makes transit slightly less attractive, less flexible to riders, and it means that some places aren't reachable directly, conveniently or at all.

Decades of this kind of behavior coupled with increasing distaste for public expenditures and you're left with a transit system that only serves patrons whose time is worth almost nothing, who are desperate enough to burn 1-2 hours of travel to get to places that are reachable in 20 minutes by private vehicles.


> it is sometimes hard to understand why public transport is treated so differently in US.

It is worth remembering that the US is much larger than all of Europe, is considerably less dense, and much of it was not well-developed until after automobiles were in wide use.

Public transit doesn't make logistical sense in much of the country. It does make sense in some places, of course, but it's less of a part of the national culture because there are so many areas where it's not a good idea.


On the grand scale, sure. That's the conclusion you'd reach if you average all the empty land in the U.S. where absolutely no one lives. But just like europe there are dense places in the U.S.

Much of the U.S. and many suburbs were developed with streetcars in mind that were later removed in favor of private car ownership.


That argument falls apart when you look at countries like Australia, China, Brazil - plenty of open space but cities have public transport because the nation culture isn't dead against it.


I feel like none of the replies to my comment read my second sentence.

Yes, there are many cities in the US with enough density to support public transit. Most of them have it.

My point is that public transit is not a large part of American culture and history which significantly depresses demand for it.

Most Americans grew up in families that owned a car or two and used them to get everywhere. When you ask an American how to get groceries, their immediate mental image is getting in a car, taking a long drive to a big store, and filling up the car with a week or two's worth of stuff. Tell them they can't own a car and all of a sudden they don't know how to solve mundane problems like this anymore. There are other perfectly fine solutions, of course, but they don't know those solutions yet. It's not part of their culture.

Also, most Americans live or at least grew up in cities whose urban planning was designed around automobiles and parking lots. They are spread out to make room for parking lots, which in turn makes public transit slower and less economical. People need cars because cities are too spread out for transit because people prefer to drive because they have cars because cities are too spread out...

There is a huge path dependent effect here where most cities aren't laid out for public transit and most people don't prioritize it.

People from outside of the US love to criticize how stupid Americans are for not having great buses and rail everywhere, but few want to acknowledge that no country is free of its own history and culture. Cars are a big part of ours. We are making progress, but the physical topology of cities and the culture loaded into the heads of several hundred million people cannot be refactored as easily as code.


That argument gets repeated in every conversation about public transit in the US. The truth is that even in large dense cities public transport is abysmal compared to much smaller cities in Europe.


I don't think you're really disagreeing with him. We all agree that transit stinks even in big metro areas (NY/Chicago are decent but still not to European level). The issue is that in those dense areas it's now extremely expensive to build, and in other areas, there isn't enough population to support large build outs (like in the southeast where I grew up). Compounding that is the fact that rail would have to compete with fairly cheap flights.


It's not that expensive if you're not afraid of taking away space from cars. Bus lanes and trams are relatively cheap to build.


The US is a bit smaller than Europe, actually. 9.8mi sqkm vs 10.2mi sqkm. But yeah, less than half of the population density.


I'd suggest that "Europe" in this context is really referring to Western/Central Europe, which is the "Europe" that non-European Anglophones tend to think about.


> Arh, is this why why people in US hate public transport and prefer to drive themselves or go by taxi?

I am an American and I don't get it either. I think it varies by geography, where else you might have lived, etc. I grew up on the east coast and always hated taxis, and didn't like to drive.


It all has to do with investment. LA has one of the largest metro systems and a million people use it a day. 60% of NYC commuters use public transport. In cities that build and improve transport, it gets used. It has nothing to do with culture but rather what is actually built.

It also doesn't help that transit agencies in smaller cities have been degenerate. Their answer for declines in ridership is to consolidate and cut service, not improve the network, which leads to more decline, and more consolidation, until you end up with a place like many commenters in this thread where 1 bus comes every hour, usually following the path of a former streetcar right of way that was ripped out by monied interests 70 years ago.


Look at the history of public transportation in the US. It is notoriously underfunded, and was intentionally starved in favor of pushing car ownership.


[flagged]


Ridiculous.

Americans are practical like anyone else. Transit in the US tends to be (much) slower than driving, so people drive.

In the few places where transit actually works, like New York, Americans use it.


My last town, the bus at busy times would literally stop on every major corner to let on or off one person. Plus, there was no actual place for the bus to pull out of traffic, so every block, it would stop in the right lane.

So the bus took at least 4 times longer to get to downtown, and caused TONS of frustration with other drivers, who were always frantic to get to the left lane to get around the bus. Tends to not leave a great impression on people. Now, if there was something like a BRT, with limited stops, out of traffic, with much faster loading, then that would probably really change its image in my town.


I think it's more like "fuck sitting on the train for 40 minutes next to someone who is laying across a row of seats literally covered in their own waste." If you ever get onto a crowded BART and see a conspicuously unoccupied area, don't be tempted to venture near it.

It's certainly not a judgment of that person. It's just not how you want to spend your commute. Clearly that person is not healthy, and the entire situation is not healthy for anyone.


I'm sorry, I have to push back here. Is it a "fuck poor people" mentality, as you state, to not want to be near people who smell of urine, excrement, BO, stale drug smells? This is simply the modern nose being accustomed to sanitary smells, can you really say it's a "fuck poor people mentality" if it's down to literally never smelling those smells except on public transport?


There is some of that, but some of it is just snobbery...meaning kids are made fun of if they take the bus rather than driving in their own car or getting a ride from their parents. It starts from an early age, and isn’t entirely related to disgust.


These undesirable aspects are at least partially a result of the same fuck the poor mentality. In countries that actually care for their populations, homeless and otherwise, this problem is far less severe.


So fuck the middle class because the rich don't want to pay taxes?


There's a great deal of evidence that we actually save money by providing housing, shelters and other services to poor people. Unfortunately, the politics make this unpopular and dictate that when they are provided they come with strings attached that discourage their use. It really isn't a question of not wanting to pay taxes and much more question of demonizing poor people.

The money spent on policing, cleanup, and emergency medical care is often far more than we would spend if we would just fund helping lift people out of poverty without all the moralizing.


The middle class makes up most of the tax payer population. You can't tax income at the top and expect much unless you added 20%.


Your statement isn't incorrect, but it has missed the point. Yea the middle class will always bear the majority of the tax burden in absolute terms, but that doesn't mean it's silly to tax the rich, the take home is pretty minor but they should always be paying more money in absolute individual terms than the middle class - right now they usually pay less, sometimes they pay nothing, sometimes they get a handout.


Most of the tax payer population, but not most of the gains available for taxation. Small increases in taxes to the very wealthy would far outweigh large increases in taxes to the middle class in terms of government revenue.

On top of that, you say "unless you added 20%" as if that's something that's beyond the pale when in fact the wealthiest people pay far less in taxes that at any point in our country's history.


The top 1% in the US has absorbed nearly the entire economic growth for the last 30 years or so.

The number of people doesn’t really matter. It’s the percentage of wealth that they hold that matters.

Other segments of the population have seen absolutely no economic growth.


The top 1% isn't getting income via employment payroll.

They own entities globally and can afford to give themselves a dollar a year salary. If you are only raising employment income taxes you have to get it from the middle class.


[flagged]


I'm reminded of the slums currently surrounding Paris which are almost as bad as LA's skid row, but less visible simply because they're further from the people in power.

Or what about Britain's history of horrific poverty that formed the basis for nearly all of Dickens' work. Germany's far more recent history, especially for those on the East side of the wall. Russia's treatment of its poor during and after Communism. The way that people just ignore the poor, and even dying around them in China, and India, without even taking a few seconds to call emergency services.

Which country has contributed personnel to every major UN mission? Which is the only country to have provided medical assistance, food, and logistics support after every major terrorist act or natural disaster through January 2017? Which country sends more volunteers around the world to house the poor, feed the hungry, and teach the children than nearly every other nation combined? (Hint: the answer to all of these is the US.)

But sure, only Americans only think of themselves...


I did not say only Americans do this. Nonetheless, I am not convinced the homeless issue in France competes with that of LA, Dickens wrote in the 19th century, and this is the 21st.

Which nation has military bases in every populated corner of the Earth? Soothing platitudes such as yours have always underwritten imperialism.


In my entire life, I have never experienced those smells on public transit in a wide variety of cities. So if you're experiencing those smells a lot, that is a local issue with an oversized burden on public transit because, well, fuck the poor people who take transit.


That's because your transit system is taking up the slack in other parts of your municipal system that are failing, not because public transit is bad.

It's because "fuck poor people" is happening across a broad spectrum.


This. imho transit ridership bears more of the burden of the "fuck poor people" undercurrent of America.

It's maybe the snowy after image of the American Dream: Anyone can make [if they work hard] / It must be their fault if they don't make it.


Even in its most dysfunctional state, like busses that are total shit and run once an hour on a drunkenly erratic schedule, it's still operational as compared to other things like homeless shelters, drug rehab centers, and mental health care which don't exist or are completely overwhelmed.


As much as rich people hate buses, they're a vital transportation resource to working folks - I take a bus and metro every day and save a bunch compared to owning and commuting in a car.


You don't take the bus because you like it, but because you have no other option.


Nope, I've got plenty of other options, I just choose to take the bus and support public transit. I do well for myself, not stupid SV levels of salary, but quite comfortable.


There have been places where I could have commuted by car (i.e., I owned a car), but chose to commute by bus instead.


It is far from just poor people who make public transit unpleasant: https://twitter.com/hashtag/garbagepeopleofnjtransit


All you have to do is search “KC bus shooting” on YouTube.


Although you forgot to mention BART, do you believe such is common across US public transportation?


That is essentially treating the symptoms, not the cause.


Right. So of course we're supposed to solve homelessness. Know how this can be accomplished in Seattle?


Seattle needs a great deal more housing.

https://streetlifesolutions.blogspot.com/2018/05/seattle-sta...

The US needs to provide a national health care system. Our current system is actively part of the problem.

Homeless services need to do a better job of providing "opportunity," not just charity. Most homeless services actively help keep the problem alive, a la The Shirky Principle.

https://streetlifesolutions.blogspot.com/2019/08/give-man-fi...

https://streetlifesolutions.blogspot.com/2018/07/the-shirky-...


Lot of the homeless services do offer job training. Goodwill is all about job training and Salvation Army also offers job experience for people recovering from addictions. Issue with homeless is a lot more complicated than access to jobs.


I once qualified for assistance with job hunting based on my handicap. Thankfully, I was offered a corporate job making better than minimum wage about the time I completed the lengthy intake process or they would have had me permanently underemployed and destitute instead merely trapped in poverty for a decade or more.

Please note that I spoke of opportunity, not jobs nor jobs training programs. Lots of job training programs et al actively limit opportunity. They don't want their participants to get too uppity or ambitious.


You don’t need to solve all of homelessness, just providing something competitive with a bus could be a start one would think.


Seattle has tried that.

People with chemical addictions will not go to shelters because shelters don't allow you to be drunk or high.

So shelter beds go unused, and people shoot up and drink in parks, on sidewalks, and on busses.


> So shelter beds go unused

Shelter bed usage in Seattle runs at 90% as of last year, with low reported use rate before that being an artifact of bad reporting rather than reflecting actual conditions [1].

[1]: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/homeless/qa-with-p...


If true, then there is something wrong with the policy that all shelters need to be sober. Introduce some number of shelters—in parts of the city where high drug usage is a problem—that include safe use spaces (i.e. with medical access, clean needles and dispose boxes, no drug arrest policy etc.)


Cities increasingly are calling for safe injection sites, but it is against Federal law


Federal legislation doesn’t stop Seattle from allowing the sale of marijuana, so that is a pretty lame excuse.


Depends on what leverage the federal government has over shelters vs dispensaries.


LA tried it too.

There are several thousand shelter beds that go empty each night in LA County, include nearly a thousand in Skid Row, because the shelters have sobriety requirements and most of the homeless would rather be high than housed, especially in the summer.

In the winter, it's usually easier to convince the homeless to knock off the contraband and use the shelters, especially after the first dozen or so weather-related exposure deaths.


You don’t need to solve it. But there are numerous tried and proven ways of significantly reducing homelessness. We could start by evaluating and employing some of these.


That statement is the equivalent of inserting “just” into technical advice, as in “It’s just code” or “Just scale out.” If it was that simple, the problem would have been solved.

Here’s the laundry list of things Seattle has tried and is trying: https://www.seattle.gov/homelessness, https://www.seattle.gov/homelessness/addressing-the-crisis


Note that homelessness is not a problem of the same scale as Seattle in many cities around the country, and around the world.

These cities have in turn some measures and initiatives that are proven solutions that reduces homelessness. Note that not all of them could work in Seattle, but some of them might.


The most glaring one in response to this symptom is to offer at least some public bath options.


Hopefully with some better allocation of resources. https://www.zerohedge.com/political/seattle-taxpayers-fund-t...


yes we're supposed to fucking solve homelessness.


That's not actually true. The ride free zone ended because King County has a ton of suburban communities who resent their delusion that they support Seattle through taxes. When the county wanted to pass new car tabs, some of the suburban reps refused to approve it unless the ride free zone was scrapped in return. Luckily for them, they were able to take advantage of the existing biases of people like you to spin their bullshit as "we were making busses better" instead of the actual reason, "fuck off Seattle and busses". https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/warning-seattles-f...


[flagged]


Weird takeaway, but you do seem to be in a bad mood. This isn't reddit - maybe you need to log off.


Portland, Oregon also had a Free Zone that was eventually canceled for similar reasons.


Salt Lake City used to have a free ride downtown zone - don't know if it still does, so it was basically free buses in a very limited number of streets. I think basically 4 or 5 stops away from the 1st Main - so not enough to be interesting to homeless people as a place of accommodation.


Do homeless people in the US really care about tickets?

Here in vienna they take the public transport anyway since the ticket inspectors dont bother with them and the dedicated securities will throw them out anyway if they are forced to bother.

Worst case is that they spent some hours at a warm police station.


> The primary problem is that homeless people would get on the bus because it's warm, and would fall asleep. The busses became rolling homeless shelters.

That's not really unexpected.


The curse of the bottom 1%. This is why we can't have nice things. The bottom 1% in terms of behavior/ethics always ruins it for everyone else.


Many European countries have free monthly passes for poor people and I haven't noticed any problems of that kind.

Nor do I actually see what's particularly "unethical" about riding free public transport when it's cold outside? If capacity on rolling stock is tight, four square feet of floor in a warm room should be eminently affordable for the world's richest country. And, no, the availability of shelters doesn't make homelessness so comfortable that it becomes a lifestyle choice, or do you know anybody who would want to exchange their job & home for a homeless shelter?


Portland avoided that by busses running through their free ride zone continuing on to non free zones making them not really work as homeless shelters.


> "The busses became rolling homeless shelters"

That makes me wonder if that would be a viable way to handle homelessness. Build mobile homeless shelters with beds and toilets. Have them stop at places with services for homeless persons like showers and laundry. I wonder if it would cost more than just paying for a rented apartment or hotel room?


Related: Homelessness is Solvable - Malcolm Gladwell

> https://www.rockefellerfoundation.org/solvable/solvable-podc...


> But this issue has been returning as it's now common knowledge that Seattle bus drivers are instructed not to collect fares from anyone that declines to pay.

Is this legal? From where I come, you can be booked if you intentionally refuse to pay fare.


Of course it's legal. Basically bus drivers are told not to hold up an entire bus route just to call police to come and arrest someone who won't pay a fare. Even with that in place I have sat on a bus in peak hour traffic while some jackass bus driver yelled at someone who had accidentally got on the wrong door and made them squeeze through a whole crowded bus to swipe their stupid orca card. As if that was worth holding up everyone on the bus, plus the bus behind that couldn't get to the stop, etc.


Thanks for clarifying.


In Orlando there is a free Bus system downtown only on certain routes. They don't seem to have the homeless problem on the bus. But I suspect that may be because homeless generally don't need to seek warmth.


Not to be rude, but don't you guys have security to just take them off ? It's a public disorder no ?

I do feel for the homeless, and of course its a refuge etc, but its a public service and so can be removed from the tram/service.

Its not a difficult solution to have to just grab a free ticket which could take you to the end of the line. In which case, no ticket (even free) no pass.

I have a high opinion of Seattle in my mind, not that I've been, but to not think of ways around the problem and just throw it in the bin.. I dare say, it might not have been just the homeless problem.

> not to collect fares from anyone that declines to pay

How is that possible by the way ? Get on without paying ? Why would any driver do that anyway ?

-- Edit 2 -> I am coming from a EU & ASIA experience only


This is where uber progressive US cities, in particular the West Coast, differ from Europe.

You can get away with almost anything that isn't assault. Smoke pot and drink on the street -- no problem. Urinate anywhere you like. Pitch a tent on a sidewalk and stay for weeks. Shoot up in parks and just throw your needles on the ground. Even things like shoplifting are not prosecuted.

I love German transit because it is so quiet and peaceful. Meanwhile in the US, I've seen people bring stereos onto transit and play them at full blast. I've seen people pee on subway platforms in full view of everyone. I've seen people fight on busses. I don't even know how crazy you'd have to act to actually get arrested, because it never seems to happen.


Enforcing laws against the homeless is not the done thing in Seattle. The problem is not thinking of ways to detect their law breaking, but rather that the city chooses compassion over order and consequently ignores their lawlessness instead of enforcing the law.

If you do come to Seattle, you'll find the streets teeming with the homeless who are completely undisturbed by the police. Just walking around the city, and trying to avoid the homeless, I've witnessed multiple instances of homeless shoplifting, hard drug use (injecting themselves, crack pipe, etc), bodily functions on the street, threatening behavior (homeless people simply screaming invective and threats at passersby), to say nothing of people camped in sleeping bags on sidewalks and tents.

You can absolutely get on buses without paying. Simply ignoring the driver and walking by is all that's required. The police will not be notified, nor would they respond if they were, nor would their response be effective deterrence if they did.


First visit to Seattle: dinner date at a restaurant downtown, step outside and within minutes a homeless guy crosses the street and tries to jump-kick me, then he falls down and just lays there unresponsive. One of the most bizarre/confusing things to ever happen to me.


Its strange how the American version of compassion is to totally ignore homeless people rather than do anything to help them.


Including medical, police, benefits, and so on, there's approximately a billion dollars a year spent on Seattle's homeless.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homelessness_in_Seattle#Respon...


I honestly appreciate this; its probably one of the reasons I have a subconscious appreciation for Seattle.

As I mentioned, I don't know enough about the area/situation.

But I am genuinely pleased that people at least give a shit.


I suspect it's easier to appreciate from afar. Personally, I found it quite distasteful and frustrating to live in a dirty and dangerous city. The city's permissive attitudes are a major reason I left.


No, it's pretty easy to appreciate as a resident of the city. I do, and so do a ton of other people who still live here.


This sounds like a recitation of hyper-conservative Sinclair Broadcasting's Seattle is Dying program from earlier in 2019.

Here's a response to that: https://www.realchangenews.org/2019/11/06/no-seattle-isnt-dy...

Also: I've lived in Seattle since 2003, and in Capitol Hill since 2005. I've worked in Pioneer Square, in the 'core' downtown area, and on Capitol Hill. Currently, my commute takes me 1.7 miles on foot or bus through Capitol Hill.

I see plenty of homeless people on my daily commute. The housing affordability crisis is worsening, and the city is simply not doing enough to solve it. I occasionally see needles laying on the ground or people shooting up. They don't have anywhere to go to shoot up, so they do it on the street. I'm not sure what their alternatives are when our supposedly progressive city council and mayor restricts options to create safe injection sites.

All that said, the most unsafe I have ever felt in Seattle has been when I've been in the presence of alt-right protestors and counter-protestors openly carrying firearms.


>> not to collect fares from anyone that declines to pay

In LA, the bus driver doesn't want confrontation so just stays silent. People just board without tapping their card, although sometimes in rush hour you can't get to the tap reader so it's not always malicious. Security is only present at larger subway stations, not all, and is just there to break up fights. They don't ride the busses or trains, either.


Actually, SDOT has a pretty good security system. They have a number which you can text so you don't have to make a call on the bus, and they do fare checks on the lines where people can pay on the platforms and board at the rear. But if a passenger isn't being aggressive or intrusive, the worst they're likely to get is a summons for not having a valid fare.

And put yourself in a bus driver's shoes - if someone just walks on the bus, what are you going to do about it? Best case, you cause a major delay for something that is unlikely to be prosecuted. Anyways, from a practical standpoint, I think that Seattle's transit only gets about 1/3 of its funding from fares; at the end of the day their mandate is to move people around with as little friction as possible. Also, even if there was an incentive to be strict, the 'one RFID card to rule them all' system is pretty recent; plenty of people just wave some sort of ID or the paper transfer ticket that you get from paying cash. Checking all of those carefully would mean longer delays.

I guess it might sound odd, but Seattle is not what you might call an ideal city. Evading a bus fare is less criminal than plenty of petty things that the police have a stated policy of ignoring, such as actual theft, and it seems like the public transit agency makes do because it's not their job to deal with that sort of thing.


I live in DC so this might not be comparable, but our bus drivers are too focused on driving to worry about fare collection. How do you keep someone off a bus who refuses to pay the fare, and stay on schedule? There's really no way to make someone cough up $2 on a bus like there is on the Metrorail.


In London, drivers turn off the bus entirely and rely on peer pressure to solve the problem. I’ve seen it happen multiple times. Sometimes it works out, sometimes passengers turn on the driver. But not paying? The bus just won’t leave until you do.


Fair, I am in Europe, and at the stop, the bus will stop to accept the fares, one by one, there are NFC cards which make a particular noise if you want to fast pass - bad noise if you don't have the money on the card, nice noise if you do.

But I will be the first to admit our public transport would not be the most punctual!

- EDIT: And if someone wont pay, and it delays the driver leaving, the other people on the bus start shouting at the person who wont pay! Or in certain times, pay for them :)


I don’t know about not collecting fares. I’ve been kicked out of bus because my orca card ran out of money and didn’t work. Some drivers are pretty up-stick about it.


> and it had some unexpected consequences.

Perhaps instead of waving our finger at free buses we should look for the root problem(s) that leave too many ppl with too few choices. Eliminating the no fare might have kept the marginalized off the buses, but it didn't address the problem. There still there. Somewhere.


It's so infuriating to see big cities completely incapable of dealing with homeless people as if they are delicate creatures that can't be touched, and then have the majority of people ignore them even though they are assholes that make a scene every single time. Most of these people act that way because no one has taught them any better and therefore they have no incentive to act otherwise.


Having the spent almost the entire past 5 years living happily houseless, I need neither your judgment nor your support.

I do think you are being malicious, though, and I think you know that you are just totally incorrect.


Sorry, didn't mean to be abrasive, was just responding to the general situation. I think we can't group all of them in one bucket, I understand some are older and/or disabled people etc., and are in a bad situation, but that's not the only bucket, is what I was trying to say.


[flagged]


It actually sounds like you haven't met homeless people. I have lived in SF and LA for most of my life, and I can assure you, I know MANY homeless people PERSONALLY. What you are describing is how it used to be prior to 2010.

Right now there's rising population of relatively young, relatively healthy people who are choosing to make sacrifices. Sure it can be tough but you can't complain if you actually have options and your choice is to sacrifice some shelter for extra money. The problem is these places with homelessness crisis actually have law enforcement crisis and this increases the incentive for people to live on the sidewalk instead of moving to a cheaper city. There are hundreds of options of cheaper places to live. If you can work why choose to stay in a super expencive city that demands high skill labor?


Ditto. The parent comment to yours ignores that a huge part of CA's homeless problem is that they aren't CA's homeless. They're the homeless problems of more than a dozen other states too selfish to take care of their own homeless.

CA doesn't do a great job of dealing with the homeless, but we'd have enough shelter beds for all of our own homeless if people from other states weren't taking those spots.


Great to see. Our tax money subsidizes car ownership (quite massively) already, glad to see some equity here. Everyone kicks and screams about transit systems "paying for themselves" but nobody asks the same of huge highways in the middle of nowhere.


> Everyone kicks and screams about transit systems "paying for themselves"

If you mean paying for themselves with fares, then no, as most public transportation does not cover the costs with just fares [0]. For example, I'm in Seattle currently and the fares only cover 20-40% of costs [1]. Not that I am complaining as I take the bus to work everyday, but it's not a slam dunk case of invest more because it has a positive return on investment.

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Farebox_recovery_ratio

[1]: https://www.soundtransit.org/sites/default/files/fare-revenu...


I think what the original commenter meant was that people get upset because they don't want to subsidize transit systems, and would rather have them break even or turn a profit.

What a lot of those same people don't understand, is that taxes pay for the road systems.

The people that understand public transit realize that it's hard to recover the costs without assistance (taxes).


> What a lot of those same people don't understand, is that taxes pay for the road systems.

I don't think those people are failing to understand anything. They're just people who use the road systems and don't use public transit.


And those same people fail to realize the fact that they are moving at all in their car in traffic is thanks to those 50 people crammed in the bus in the next lane. Could you imagine if the million people who take LA metro daily suddenly switched to cars? The city would functionally break.


Yes, for some reason, no one ever thinks of the opportunity costs here. This is why all public transit should be free and all street parking should be paid. If I need to pay 6 bucks to go into town and back on the train, but I can pay a couple bucks in gasoline cost and have free parking, why would I choose the train? The city can change this so easily and maybe even in a way that they lose no money.


I think exactly that happened in the last Washington state election. The state legislator put on the ballot a measure that would limit the amount the state could tax each car owner. Proponents would claim that the tax was going towards public transit infrastructure (like Sound Transit 3) and that it was unfair to tax car owners for that.

The measure was approved.


The measure was sold largely as a general flipping of the bird towards King and neighboring counties by the rest of the state. Generally there is opposition from eastern Washington for car tabs going to fund Sound Transit's investments on the western corridor, which doesn't really do anything to benefit those that don't live in the western corridor.

And yes, I am aware that King net exports money to the east. I'm not sure how impactful that argument is for a minimum wage worker living far away from Seattle paying $500 a year on car tabs, for a car that they have no alternative but owning in order to get to their job.


You might want to reference [1], as you are flagrantly incorrect.

https://www.dol.wa.gov/vehicleregistration/docs/VehicleFees....

> If you live in the Sound Transit RTA district of King, Pierce, or Snohomish counties, you may be required to pay an RTA tax that helps pay for local mass-transit projects.

Municipalitis tacks on an additional fee, Seattle's is 80, Spokane's is 20. The only way for someone to be paying $500 in Wenatchee is if they owned 4+ cars.

[1] http://www2.csudh.edu/ccauthen/576f12/frankfurt__harry_-_on_...


I thought the SoundTransit car tabs were only paid inside the SoundTransit area? Are Eastern Washington voters really paying $500 car tabs to build light rail hundreds of miles away? That would be shocking to me if true.


You are correct, the RTA tax is assessed at the time of (car tab) renewal using the vehicle's address of record. It only covers Snohomish County, Seattle area, South King County, East King County and Pierce County.


No, they aren't, but they are convinced that they are.


It wasn’t the state legislators who put that on the ballot, but anti-tax activist Tim Eyman. We’ve been down this route before with property taxes and even car tabs. Note that a previous county-wide initiative approved the car tabs in the first place (in those counties only), they were then repealed by this state-wide one. Amazing how the vote can swing when sampling grows beyond King and parts of Snohomish and pierce county.


I have a really hard time believing public transit could reasonably compete with the highway system with respect to return on investment. Consider how much food and consumer goods would cost without highway infrastructure never mind the secondary effects. Consider also that you would be making road travel prohibitively expensive for the lower classes.


Public transit isn't meant for private (commercial) distribution of goods.

There are other trains for that, and they are hugely important to the US infrastructure. We would not be the country we are today without rail.


Interestingly, in some cases the amount of subsidy required may go down by eliminating fares and the associated collection and ticketing infrastructure. (That doesn't account for changes in ridership level. On the other hand, it also doesn't account for speeding up pickup times by not worrying about fare collection.)

On balance, it's likely more efficient to pay for public transit via approaches like taxes on businesses served by that transit (who will get increased business).

At this point, I don't think fares serve much of a revenue function; they serve as a filtering function, excluding people who can't afford them, and as a PR function, making transit get more votes.

Also, I have a lot of sympathy for "should we subsidize this or not" arguments, but any such argument also needs to take into account how much we subsidize roads. Gas taxes and registration fees don't fully cover the costs of roads, any more than transit fares fully cover the costs of transit.


Not all of the ROI can be captured with fares.

For example, public transit takes people off the road and keeps commutes for other people reasonable (or at least makes them less bad). Which is why it makes sense for public transit to be subsidized by people working in a region even if they aren’t necessarily using it.

If public transit is good enough, it can even make it so people don’t need to purchase their own cars+gas+insurance, which is a huge cost savings. You can argue that this would be more fairly priced with fares than taxes, but again, cars off the road (less parking infra, less air pollution, etc). Only capturing this value via fares turns this from a global optimization problem for a region into a local optimization problem for each agent

Also some public transit does pretty well with fares anyway. Caltrain covers about 75% of its operating budget with fares (and parking and some other minor income sources).


A large portion of routes are low demand and have few passengers. Does an empty bus reduce congestion?

I'm not sure what percentage of routes are like this, but I assume it's non-trivial because predicting demand is a tough problem.


By this logic: A large portion of roads are low-demand and have few drivers. Why do my taxes subsidize the upkeep of those roads, and not just the major highways?

Low-demand, niche routes are necessary for a public transit system to work for its users. Sure, 80% of my trips might be on 2 or 3 routes. But without access to the handful of routes I ride the other 20% of the time, the system wouldn’t work for me, and I’d need a car to get around.

For example: when I take the bus later than ~9pm, I’m often one of just a few people riding it. But knowing I have the option to take the bus late at night is critical to the system feeling reliable. This allows me to live without a car.

Hopefully, this effect reduces congestion in my city, as more people are enabled to live low-car or car-free.


Feeder lines are important. If they didn't have low demand lines to far flung areas, those people who take advantage of these lines would have to use cars and contribute to traffic by the time they get to the city core with everyone else.

Demand predictions are pretty robust these days. Civil engineering is an entire science.


The problem is there's no additional investment into the system to make it attractive to riders. The KC transit system is poorly designed and making it free isn't going to make it good. Better to keep charging the fare and use the revenue to improve service, then reevaluate when ridership is growing.

Transit investment has a LOT of catching up to do to even get close to the types of subsidizing and handouts we give drivers in every corner of this country.


> Transit investment has a LOT of catching up to do to even get close to the types of subsidizing and handouts we give drivers in every corner of this country.

That’s completely untrue. Yes we spend more on vehicles than transit. But way more people drive than use transit. There is not even a comparison.

In 2016 federal and state spending on road, transit, and water infrastructure was $416 billion: https://www.bidnet.com/resources/business-insights/us-govern.... Water is about 1/3 of that, leaving $276 billion for transportation. Spending on transit was $65 billion, or 1/4 the transportation spend.

Transit, however, accounts for just 5% of commutes: https://www.bts.gov/content/commute-mode-share-2015. 85% is driving alone or in a car pool. So we spend 3x as much on road infrastructure, but 17x as many people drive to work as take transit.

If you run the numbers on a cents of subsidy per passenger mile basis, busses and subway trains come out to $0.50+ per passenger mile. Roads are just $0.02 per passenger mile. Even adding in CO2 footprint and pollution (assuming that cars are all ICE) puts you at about $0.25.

Transit is incredibly expensive.


Transit is not something you look to make money on. That's precicely why every private transit agency has failed in the U.S. You invest in transit because it creates economic opportunities, it's environmentally responsible, and it's the best way to move people in and out of a congested city. You ever try driving into Manhattan or through downtown LA?


I’m not disagreeing with your broader point but none of those studies account for space utilization issues. Transit uses space better due to lack of parking and more density per track.

No idea how that impacts the actual dollar numbers but it’s worth noting.


Loss of life impacts the dollar amount.

Unintentional injury is the leading cause of death for young people. Of which, motor vehicle accident is the leading cause. It takes second place after age 25 due to overdoses. Young people have the most life left to live.

https://www.cdc.gov/injury/images/lc-charts/leading_causes_o...


The cost per passenger per mile is two orders of magnitude lower for roads than for public transit; I can’t imagine parking space accounting for that.


What is the cost on the road when the road is full and can’t be expanded? Lots of urban areas in the US have this problem.


Parking space and the tracks/roads/right of ways themselves?

I don’t expect it brings them to parity but I expect it’s non-trivial.


Per person? It's not. Cars are.


> The problem is there's no additional investment into the system to make it attractive to riders.

It seems to me that public transit probably follows the law of demand fairly strongly, and reducing the price will almost certainly make it more attractive to riders. Of course this won't fix all problems with public transit, and I don't think that's the goal. It sounds like the goal is to increase ridership (and specifically to increase access to people who cannot easily afford the fares).

> Better to keep charging the fare and use the revenue to improve service

Or...use tax revenue to improve the service. That's the point, and is exactly what happens with most public roads.


The question is whether or not $9M annually would be better off making more useful transit. As it stands, very little of KC is covered by frequent transit throughout the day, and in fact much of it is covered by services that don't run the entire day. https://ridekc.org/assets/uploads/route-maps/SystemMap.pdf

A free bus that runs every hour is still going to screw you over if you mistime your walk to the bus stop and it leaves without you. The bus not being available at noon is not made better because it is free, because there's still no bus to take.


But the point is to offer rides for free and use other money (presumably tax money) to maintain (and hopefully invest in more) infrastructure. I don't see how the current quality of the KC infrastructure is relevant: if it's bad, then they clearly the $9m in fare revenue isn't cutting it, and they already need tax revenue to make it better. If they can't or don't get the tax revenue they need, then that's definitely a problem!


Or, you could use the tax money that you could use for free rides (that only makes bad service marginally more useful) and put it towards more useful service? It's not as if this money came out of a box labeled "only for free fares." Right now this is a $9M opportunity cost, annually. To get both the free fares and $9M of better transit would double the cost of this, but then you'd have to ask why not use all $18M on better transit, etc.

Making a service that isn't usable most of the day free still makes it unusable for most of the day.


> To get both the free fares and $9M of better transit would double the cost of this, but then you'd have to ask why not use all $18M on better transit, etc.

But then there is a reason for that -- spending has diminishing returns. If you have some money and you could use it to serve an area with 1500 riders then that may be worth it, but once you've served it, the next best unserved area which costs just as much to serve would only have 750 riders, which may not be worth it. The point where you stop is where the value of the service no longer exceeds the cost.

And the value of eliminating fares has a major comparative advantage because it allows you to eliminate the cost of collecting fares, which is typically a huge fraction of the money collected in fares. Especially when the fares are already subsidized (which they are most everywhere), because then you still have the pay the full cost of the collection infrastructure but generate much less revenue. In some places the cost of collection can exceed the total revenue from the fares. And even if you beat break-even, the little amount left over is hardly worth losing the benefits of having fewer cars on the road.


I would argue that KC is nowhere near diminishing returns on transit spending. Right now, despite having lower fares and higher metro population than, say, Rochester NY, KC has less than half the transit ridership per capita.

https://www.apta.com/wp-content/uploads/Resources/resources/...

Off peak travel is generally also much less expensive, since you already have the buses and drivers doing peak-only shifts generally spend the middle of the day just sitting around. KC could run a lot more all-day service and garner a lot more ridership.


> I would argue that KC is nowhere near diminishing returns on transit spending.

The status quo doesn't really have anything to do with it though. If it's optimal for them to spend $X on transit while also eliminating fares, then that's what's optimal whether they're currently spending $X or $0.2X.

> Off peak travel is generally also much less expensive, since you already have the buses and drivers doing peak-only shifts generally spend the middle of the day just sitting around. KC could run a lot more all-day service and garner a lot more ridership.

Which would tend to make it so that you would build more transit before you hit the point of diminishing returns, but that doesn't mean the point of diminishing returns doesn't exist, or that we shouldn't also eliminate fares. They're just two independent questions.

It's like asking whether we should increase the size of the child tax credit or subsidize solar panels. Maybe we should do both. Maybe we should do neither. But the answer to each question has more to do with whether its benefits exceed its costs than how you answer the other question.


The flip side of this is induced demand. If you create a better option, more people will use it, more overall trips are taken, and more value/tax revenue is generated indirectly.


You leave out the possibility that they could run much better service with the money they have and they need to plan better. I don't know if that's the case here, but it's always the first thing to ask. Too many poorly run transit systems skip right over that to dumping more money into a poorly planned system and wonder why it doesnt work.


If the transit system sucks compared to the alternatives, free fares are meaningless. When I lived in Phoenix, I could drive to work in 20-30 minutes. The same trip by bus took 90 minutes if I made a successful connection midway. If I missed that connection, which I did once, it became a 2 hour trip home.

I only made the trip by bus two days, when the city was literally out of gas in 2003. The city could have paid me to take the bus and I still would have driven. I have to think the same would be true for pretty much everyone there who wasn't already stuck taking the bus.


Kansas City buses are like that. Outside parts of a handful of routes they're only tempting if you have way more time than money. Making them free does help the people already using them but I can't imagine it'll do much to increase use of it for actually getting from place to place (increasing its use as a place for the homeless to get out of the heat/cold, as mentioned elsewhere in the thread, might happen, and isn't exactly a bad thing, though I agree that if it becomes common it might actually reduce total ridership)


Better and more frequent service is the number one ridership driver. Free transit is a nice perk but there's some convincing argument and survey data indicating that most people aren't avoiding transit because of the price, but because of perceived lack of utility or reliability.

(And yes, obviously continue to use tax revenue as well, just like we charge tolls for some roads but that doesn't pay for all their upkeep.)


The thing about eliminating fares and having more frequent service is that they're complementary. To have more frequent service you need enough riders to justify it; eliminating fares gives you at least some increased ridership.

Suppose you have an existing A line with 1500 riders and you're considering building a B line, but you need 1000 riders to justify it and you predict there will only be 900, so you don't build it. However, if you eliminated fares then you might expect 1100 riders for the B line. Then the lack of fares also gives you another 300 riders for the A line, and the existence of the B line gives you another 600 riders for the A line since then people can then go from A to B. So eliminating fares allows you to build the B line and add 2000 riders across the two lines, even though only 500 of them were directly from the elimination of fares.

And you get a much better incentive for ridership when you go from something like $1 to zero than you would from, say, $2 to $1, because it increases convenience. You don't have to worry about tickets or exact change or anything, you just go through the door and you're on your way.


You would never want to build a B line that doesn't have any ridership. The move here would not be to make it free, but to reconsider the project and re-align it with a route that would actually attract riders.


Public transit follows the law of utility. Shitty transport cheap or free is used less than expensive but good.

Tfl could hike the fare wuite a bit and after the riots have died down people will use it the same.

And you could make Emirates Air Line free and I doubt it will bump ridership substantially.


Past experience shows generally that things like tolling or road pricing only become politically palatable if an alternative with existing capacity already exists. But funding such alternatives is hard and usually road pricing is proposed in part for the funding. So it's a very chicken vs egg situation.


It's not a hard chicken/egg situation though - put money into making transit a viable alternative for these roads, then start charging for the roads when there's another option. We don't think twice about spending billions eternally digging up and reconfiguring our highways, so we could do the same to transit, for much more bang for the buck.


The main issue is that historically in the US, transit operational funding is a strictly state and below matter, but the feds are happy to stump much of the bill for highways. And states and cities generally have fewer resources.

With such a strong urban-rural political divide these days, and suburban views of transit ranging from apathetic to hostile, federal support for transit operations is unlikely. Personally, I would be a fan of devolving transport funding entirely to solve this issue.


The reason for the distinction is that federal highways are interstate. Neither New York nor San Francisco is going to be willing to pay for highways to connect the two cities, but we all benefit from being able to get from one side of the country to the other.

But arguing that states and cities have fewer resources is ridiculous. Cities have more resources than anybody -- they're where the highest income people live.

It's the rural areas that have no money, but mass transit is useless there anyway, because it's too spread out and there is no need for it there because those areas have no traffic congestion.

The cities are where mass transit works as the cities are where the money is. It's only a matter of popular will.


Cities give a lot more in federal taxes than they get, hence the "less available resources." Things like eliminating the state and local tax deduction have also hurt urban areas.

If transportation taxes were devolved to the states or the localities then there would be a lot more public transportation funding.


Cities give a lot more in federal taxes than they get, but the percentage of what they give that goes to transportation funding is negligible. >75% of the federal budget is social security, medicare/healthcare and the military, and the next biggest category after that is interest on the debt. Transportation is only ~2%, and almost half of that is things like aviation, railroads and funding for local public transit.

If you want more local money in the cities then there's a lot more to be had by e.g. raising the retirement age than by eliminating federal highway funding, which we still kind of need unless you want to stop maintaining the interstate highways.

Or if you really want to restore state fiscal control, transfer social security and medicare entirely to the states, and make the National Guard constitute more of the military.


Being free makes it a hell of a lot more attractive to a lot of people.


Another example SFO adds an additional ~$5 fee to leave or enter on BART, but drivers can arrive and drop off for free.

Cars are massively subsidized.


it's true that public transportation has a net societal benefit, and that portion of the benefit should be paid for by all (through taxes or whatnot). however, fares shouldn't be zero.

riders should pay too, not just because we should bear our portion of the direct benefit (we should), but also because it gives us a sense of ownership for the system. those fare revenues give transit agencies funds to improve service, and riders legitimacy in demanding better service. public transit needs to get better in every dimension: frequency, timeliness, coverage, capacity, cleanliness, etc.


> but nobody asks the same of huge highways in the middle of nowhere.

Building roads should move from government to fully private entities for the same reason. California has built roads from nowhere to nowhere for no reason other than local assemblyman was focused on getting them done. On other hand critical roads that would have helped commute distance, improved public transporation systems are in a bad state.


Well, marginal dollar on road yields greater than marginal dollar to economy. Current political structures in the US means that marginal dollar on passenger rail is absorbed by the agents in charge of ensuring the rail existence. i.e. the $500 million railway and the $1 billion version of (say) the Central Subway will both yield probably the same economic benefit. Rent-seekers know that they can extract a large amount of economic rent because of government propensity to spend and political reasons that require governments to chase sunk costs.

Because of the large amount of roadway in America, the number of parties you can call to get more road built is pretty big (as Thiel says, competition is the enemy of profit). And the primary place you put more road is out where there's nothing. Because of the existence of a large network of roads, you could build roads where there is nothing and it's easy to get to where there's something.

Personally far prefer public transit so I'm pretty interested in ideas that change the structure of the interactions to pursue efficient construction.


Do you have any sources for this info?


I have not kept them handy.


Are you really willing to give up affordable transport (outside of your metropolis, anyway) and commercial goods? I know cars are Not Very Utopian or whatever, but public infrastructure has to have one of the better returns on investment with respect to tax dollars.


I'd rather see nothing being subsidized.

If you want to help the poor afford public transit, lower their taxes. Maybe not taking a substantial their working capital and giving it back to them when their old isn't such a bright idea either.


More than half of Americans end up not paying taxes, because their income is too low. If you're saying make it negative, sure, I'm all for that, but I think you are underestimating the poverty situation in America.


I'm pretty sure it's not true that more than half of Americans avoid paying FICA because their income is too low. It would have to be $0.


Also sales, property, and so on.


Sure, but FICA is an income tax.


Everyone pays tax; you’re likely referring to income tax. Don’t forget sales tax, etc.


Low wage earners pay very little in taxes. I honestly thought that was common knowledge. Reducing their tax burned would have a negligible impact on their net income. It solves absolutely nothing.


One could cease to provide social security as it is structured if one replaced it with an alternative. We already know from US history that it is unwise (in a humanitarian sense) to trust the public to just save enough to retire comfortably (including having the foresight to keep their savings in assets that don't diminish in value before they are needed to offset continued life without labor into the system).


I thought postwar America was known for investing in real estate to great wealth-building effect? I’m not sure how worthwhile other time periods are for comparison as our economy is so much different.


Singapore has a better system. They force you to save, but it's your money. You can use it to buy a home.

So you don't start getting it back when you're old. It can serve you much earlier.

I think the rate of home ownership there is over 90%.


Approximately 65% of Americans own their home.


I’m not sure what point you’re making, if any. Care to elaborate?


If the up-thread reference to American real-estate investment implied Americans use real-estate ownership as a retirement nest-egg, the numbers do not bear out that hypothesis---or at least, do not show it's a solution much of America avails itself of.

... and that's ignoring that shocks like the mortgage crisis can happen, which indicates that home ownership isn't as stable a store of value as, say, the US dollar.


Lower... what taxes, exactly? Income? Property?


Regressive sales and vice taxes.

j/k Seriously though, this year is the first I've ever made over median income and I'm happy to pay taxes if they can actually improve QOL rather than be used to subsidize and oil company or two


Nobody needs to consume alcohol or tobacco to survive. Tax it to what the market will bear.


Nobody needs kale or skateboards either. There are other vegetables and personal transportation available. Why not tax them to "what the market will bear"? What does that even mean? If kale consumption drops by 5% is the market "bearing"? 50%? 98%? Why don't we just tax everything except your favorite things to buy?


> Nobody needs kale or skateboards either... Why not tax them to "what the market will bear"?

Because alcohol and tobacco have "negative externalities" to society. These would be mainly health related but I guess the discussion on this post is also around behavioural issues.

By adding a tax to a product, you can make the consumers and manufacturers together share the burden of paying off the externality, (e.g. care for lung cancer patients) and/or the tax will often discourage consumption in the first place. (The second being more applicable in the US where there is limited/no universal healthcare)

The reason you probably wouldn't tax kale, is because it's good for you, and if anything; you could say it has a "positive externality" in that consuming it makes you healthier, and thus benefits society. So it might make sense to actual SUBSIDISE kale production... although this may have very different effects from taxing unhealthy food.

As an example, Scotland has introduced a tax on alcohol called "minimum unit pricing" and there's a study here: https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/7/5/e013497

The UK as a whole also has a "sugar tax" https://www.lshtm.ac.uk/research/research-action/features/uk...


It always worries me when people propose not to tax the poor, because government officials care incredibly much about maximizing tax revenue. It gives them an outright incentive to transfer wealth from the poor to the rich, because then they get a bigger cut of the money.

Wouldn't it be better to tax everybody the same and then help the poor by giving them money directly via a UBI, or direct programs like free mass transit? It would also make taxes a whole lot simpler (you buy a thing, you pay a flat percentage in VAT; no individual tax returns whatsoever) and thereby eliminate a lot of these shell games corporations and billionaires use to avoid paying their share.


Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: