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a world without fares

By enelson
Saturday, June 24th, 2006 at 5:06 pm in BART, Environment, Funding, Transit vs. driving.


What a week it’s been.

When I got off BART at Richmond last night, I went up to the station’s booth, looked into the window and said, “I’ve lost my ticket.”

The attendant gave me a slightly puzzled look and said, “What you want me to do about it?”

“I’m kidding.”

Suddenly, 48 hours of pent-up stress released from for her, it seemed, as she feigned an exclamation of rage, ran out of her booth, motioned me over to the barrier and proceed to mock-choke me.

“It seems like everybody and their grandmother is coming out from under rocks for this,” she laughed.


It was, of course, the back-to-back Spare the Air Days she was talking about, an unintended experiment to show what the world might be like if there was free transit.

During my last ride, I sat next to a mumbler who repeated the names of stations to no one in particular after each announcement.

He got off at Berkeley, just as I expected.

Nearly all of the six free rides I enjoyed on BART that weekend were not on-schedule. The fact that I noticed, however, betrays how much I take their normal punctuality for granted.

BART posted record gains in ridership, although one has to wonder how many riders were just taking advantage of the free rides and not actually avoiding a car trip.

Big increases were also recorded on ACE commuter rail and light rail in San Jose, which were also among the 25 transit operators that gave free rides Thursday and Friday.

If gas prices go back up and stay up, many of those agencies may be trying to accommodate this many passengers even when the rides aren’t free.

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One Response to “a world without fares”

  1. Jennifer Says:

    Yeah, I’ve been wondering myself about how many of these riders are really riding in the “spare the air” spirit. One expects that if the free rides were working as expected, we would simply see an increase in the regular commuter crowd. Instead, I have noticed a lot more malodorous mumblers, teenagers, and one-stop riders, especially during the evening commute. It would be great to get some statistics about how many people were actually avoiding a car trip, and how many would be walking or staying home if not for the free fares. Don’t get me wrong, I think free transit would be great–I’m just not sure that environmental big-heartedness is really a factor in the recent ridership increases.

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