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.
Curious how someone could have most helped you at that time in your life if you don't mind sharing.
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.
It's hard to fix every cause of homelessness, but providing shelters is pretty easy.
* 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".
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?
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.
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.
"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.
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.
The homeless that are on the street are typically very hostile and going through drug withdrawal. It can become a public safety issue then.
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.
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.
Good luck with the former. The NIMBYs will fight it tooth and nail, every millimeter of the way.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
What would that look like to you?
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 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.
> 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).
Few people, including other guests, want to deal with these and the safety issues and so fewer come (including the volunteers).
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).
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.
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.
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.
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
Care to explain your logic around this 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?
As a society we have homeless people and as a society we need to provide options for them.
allowing encampments won't probably solve that unless they somehow provide heat?
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.
It actually ran for almost 40 years. It started in 1973, and ended in 2012.
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.
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.
(I'm also not clear on why this is an "inequality" problem rather than a "destitution" problem.)
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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 :)
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"].
wasn't it always?
Do you think humans have agency and can choose or ?
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.
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.
If you want to read more, the Chinese system of inherited internal passports is called hukou.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’ve encountered people pissing on buses. Shitting isn’t something I’d doubt happens, especially in places like Seattle and San Francisco.
Interesting take, to say the least.
It's like a USSR joke.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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 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.
Much of the U.S. and many suburbs were developed with streetcars in mind that were later removed in favor of private car ownership.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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...
Which nation has military bases in every populated corner of the Earth? Soothing platitudes such as yours have always underwritten imperialism.
It's because "fuck poor people" is happening across a broad spectrum.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 .
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.
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
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.
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.
That's not really unexpected.
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?
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?
Is this legal? From where I come, you can be booked if you intentionally refuse to pay fare.
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
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.
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.
As I mentioned, I don't know enough about the area/situation.
But I am genuinely pleased that people at least give a shit.
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.
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.
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.
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 :)
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.
I do think you are being malicious, though, and I think you know that you are just totally incorrect.
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?
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.
If you mean paying for themselves with fares, then no, as most public transportation does not cover the costs with just fares . For example, I'm in Seattle currently and the fares only cover 20-40% of costs . 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.
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).
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.
The measure was approved.
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.
> 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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
Demand predictions are pretty robust these days. Civil engineering is an entire science.
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.
No idea how that impacts the actual dollar numbers but it’s worth noting.
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.
I don’t expect it brings them to parity but I expect it’s non-trivial.
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.
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.
Making a service that isn't usable most of the day free still makes it unusable for most of the day.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
If transportation taxes were devolved to the states or the localities then there would be a lot more public transportation funding.
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.
Cars are massively subsidized.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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%.
... 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.
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
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...
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.