Auckland's leading leftwing Mayoral candidate, Efeso Collins, has as one of his key platforms making public transport "free" at the point of use, by which he means he'll force everyone else (ratepayers and he's hoping taxpayers, as well as car and truck drivers) to pay for it.
The Greens, who want everything to be free, except your property rights, speech, powers to buy and sell and contract generally, support this.
Given how much publicity has been given to this idea, it's worth giving it a review. You'll say, quite rightly, that a libertarian could never countenance forcing people to pay for others to get around, and you're right. Philosophically, the idea that if you want to travel somewhere, for whatever reason, that other people should be forced to pay for your choice of travel, is an anathema to individual liberty.
However, let me put that to one side. Does the idea that public transport should be fully taxpayer funded, has some merits? Could it actually result in less traffic, less pollution?
- It did not reach its goal of reducing car journeys
- Public transport use increased, but not significantly
- Bus network doesn't meet the need of car users
- Trips by public transport increased by 14%
- Trips by car decreased by 10%
- Trips by walking decreased by 40%
- Average distance travelled by car increased by 13%, resulting in total vehicle kms driven increased by 31%
- Public transport trips went up ten-fold
- 63% of additional public transport trips were existing users travelling more frequently
- 37% of additional public transport trips were new users, but only 16% came from car trips, the remainder were from bicycle and walking. So the majority of mode shift was from active modes.
- There was also a five-fold increase in the bus fleet, doubling in bus routes and significant increase in frequencies at the same time as abolition of fares
- There was no noticeable impact on car ownership or change in trip mode share
- Free fares were dropped in 2014 because of the cost, with fare concessions applying only to only a small minority of passengers.
- 12 fold increase in patronage, with the majority being young people and children
- 35-50% of the modal shift came from walking, 30-40% from cycling, with only 10-20% coming from car trips
- Vandalism increased attributed to the higher numbers of younger passengers.
- to encourage people who already use public transport to travel a lot more often
- Reduce walking and cycling (because people who walked and cycled found it quicker and easier to just hop on a bus)