My Sunday Times contained this, a story about how the city of Seattle has started pricing transit fares based on riders’ income.
The move is part of Seattle Mayor Ed Murray‘s approach to inequality in general. From his first state-of-the-city address, given in February:
“We stand at a crossroads. We can follow the example of other cities and become unaffordable for all but those at the very top of the income scale, and witness increasing polarization between the very rich and very poor, or we as elected leaders can take deliberate action to address the declining of the middle class.”
This is quite intriguing. One of the big drivers of poverty is lack of access to affordable transportation. Once a public transit system is built, the incremental cost of adding a passenger is negligible.
So is it really a subsidy to let low-income people ride free or for cheap? I don’t think so, and in fact if they are NOT allowed to ride free or for cheap, they are much more likely not to ride at all, which increases their poverty and difficulty of life. On the other hand, if they have affordable transportation their income (certainly as a group if not each and every individual) will rise, and they will spend that money quickly, thus feeding the economy and increasing the demand for goods and services. That increase in demand is what drives job creation [the myth that rich people are “job creators” is just that, a myth on top of being a lie and a smoke-screen].
The fact that the details of how such a cheap-fare system would be implemented are somewhat complicated doesn’t really matter. What matters is providing transportation to people who otherwise could not afford it, and doing so really isn’t a drag on the rich. It makes sense, a lot of sense.
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