I am a huge advocate of public transit. Most of my life, in fact, has been lived in communities with fabulous public transit systems. I rode the bus all through high school, during university, and when I moved to Toronto I rode streetcars, buses, and subways on a daily basis. Public transit was fast, and it made sense in an urban centre, especially if you were travelling into or around the downtown core. One of the many facets of the current city centre revitalization plan in Fort McMurray is a strengthened public transit plan, designed to further our goals as a sustainable urban centre, and I am truly pleased to see this plan – but one thing could make it better. What is even better than fast, convenient, accessible public transit? Make it free.Yep, I used the “F” word. Free public transit is not a new idea, but I think it is an idea that may finally be achievable, and sensible. I encountered it on Twitter recently when someone posted a link to a blog that advocates for free public transit, and I found an entire world of people who believe public transit should be free. And while some might think this absurd I think the rationale behind it is very, very sound.
Currently our transit system charges $1.25 per passenger – and you would be hard pressed to prove to me that this is any way an adequate amount to cover the true costs of the system. This nominal fee likely does very little to even touch the costs of gas, maintenance, etc – so why are we charging it all? If the benefits of free public transit outweigh the costs why not explore this option?Here are the benefits as I see them:
1) Alignment with the new vision for the community, especially the focus on urban development
2) A commitment to sustainability
3) Reduced numbers of cars on the roads mean less costs for road maintenance
4) Reduced emissions
5) Increased public transit usage
Perhaps some will question the budgetary wisdom of free public transit, and wonder if we can afford to do this. My question is: can we afford not to? In a community where we find such pride in our leadership abilities, and where we seize opportunity and potential, the possibilities are endless. We pursue goals and achievements that others may consider unattainable, and we approach new ideas with a can-do attitude that defies critics and naysayers.I recognize the concept of completely free public transit, community-wide, is bold. If there is one part of this community that makes me proudest, though, it is our boldness, and our willingness to entertain new ideas and concepts that others might be too stuck in the past, or timid, to contemplate. And this is why I am an advocate for free public transit in Fort McMurray – because we are not afraid to lead, and this is truly an opportunity to show the entire world our bold, fearless, and progressive leadership as we embark on a free ride into the future.