Press Release August 9, 2013
Citizens Taking Action for transit dependent riders
State Cuts by 50% Funding for Transit Dependent Riders
CTA Group Opposes Cuts in Funding for Low-Income Seniors, Students, and Disabled Passengers
The Illinois State Legislature Cuts recently voted to cut by 50% funding for reduced-fares for low-income senior citizens, disabled riders, and students. Citizens Taking Action, an organization comprised of transit dependent riders, fears that this might result elimination altogether of reduced fares for these passengers.
Transit officials maintained that the $34 million that IDOT has set for the reduced-fare program does not “include any expenses the transit agencies incur to provide free rides to these passengers.”
The transit groups says this is a fallacious way of thinking about these passengers on public transit. It doesn’t cost any money at all for seniors and disabled people to ride on already-existing trains and buses. The RTA doesn’t incur costs by giving people rides; it incurs costs by creating and maintaining train and bus lines. Reduced-fare passengers are a source of revenue to the RTA, not a cost. In addition, these riders generally use public transit during off-peak times, mid-day and on weekends, when buses and trains are less crowded, and vacant seats are available.
According to RTA Executive Director Joseph Costello, “this is real money we are losing.” According to Citizens Taking Action for public transit, “this is real money that you are collecting in the fare box on vehicles which you are operating anyway.”
This type of thinking is based on the mistaken belief that government should be run like a business, for profit, and if a public service must operate at a loss, then it shouldn’t exist. Complaints about “cost” then become a justification for raising fares, reducing service, or both. Finally, each reduction in service becomes a new maximum that will later be declared intolerably expensive, and will be reduced further. In this way of thinking about public transportation, the ultimate result will be to eliminate it entirely.
The raising of fares creates a vicious cycle. If fares go up, fewer people will ride, because they won’t want to pay the additional cost. If fewer people ride, buses and trains will be emptier, and sooner or later we’ll hear calls for a reduction in service to fit the smaller number of riders. Reducing service will further reduce ridership due to inconvenience to the riders, and as the number of riders shrinks, so will revenues.
Far from being a cost to the state, public transportation is an asset. Public transit is important not only as a public service for people without cars, but for environmental and national security reasons as well. If more people use public transit, it will mean less congestion for those who must drive. It will mean less pollution and less greenhouse gasses. And it will mean less dependence on oil from the turbulent Middle East.
Under no circumstance should we reduce transit or increase fares. Instead, we should be increasing transit.