How to get more people on the bus in Charlotte and Raleigh? One guess, one guess only

And if you guessed make it free, you win the prize. Yesterday’s McClatchy editorial— appearing in both the Charlotte Observer and the Raleigh News & Observer— thinks both the Queen City and the Capital City (and probably every other city) should be like Kansas City–eliminate bus fares altogether.

However:

It woudn’t be cheap. K.C. officials estimate that eliminating fares will cost the city about $8 million annually, money that will have to come from additional revenue. The same would need to be true in Raleigh and Charlotte, where transit authorities don’t have the capacity to handle that big of a blow to the budget. That cost would not just include the loss of fare revenue, transit consultant Jarrett Walker told the editorial board this week. Eliminating fares also would result in an increase in ridership and crowding, which would bring new expenses. “You can say that is a nice problem to have, but it can still be very expensive,” Walker says.

Good to see McClatchy at least acknowledge the cost (although I’m skeptical about the crowding problem)—but if you think getting more people on the bus eliminates the need for expanded light rail in Charlotte and new light rail in Raleigh, then bad on you:

Eliminating bus fares shouldn’t be a substitute for light rail plans in Charlotte, and it shouldn’t be a consolation for light rail disappointments in the Triangle. It could, however, be an effective path toward confronting equity and economic mobility issues in North Carolina’s largest urban regions. Raleigh and Charlotte officials should explore it.

I would say the logic here blows my mind, but I’m so used to the typical liberal mentality best described by the late Sen. Jesse Helms–‘everything for everybody, with you the taxpayer paying the bill.’

Sam Hieb / Contributing Editor

Sam Hieb is freelance journalist from Greensboro, North Carolina. He is a contributing editor for Carolina Journal and for Piedmont Publius, a blog that focuses on political a...

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