Transit Fare In Developed Countries Is Not Fair

TLOOD FLOWS THROUGH VEINS, ORGANS, and then arteries, constantly dropping off nutrients along the way at all the vital places. Public transit is literally the blood that keeps every city alive and just like a body, cities are mighty organic machines which require constant movement and distribution of the “goods.” If the flow of the blood is stopped, the whole system will shut down immediately. And the same thing happens in a city. In the Western cities (the wealthiest and most developed in the world) the cost of transit fare has gone up exponentially in the last decade.

One example is in my home city—Edmonton, Canada—where the cost per trip has gone up by more than a dollar in the last 10 years. According to a city councilor in 2007, “We’re playing catch-up in terms of our fare structure,” said Coun. Mike Nickel. “We have rising costs in terms of operating the service. We have labor and gas going up. So, you know what? You’re playing a balancing act.” Why this is such a problem is because the regular wages of the working-class people in the Western world (the ones who take transit mostly) has not gone up with the rise in transportation costs. Regular working wages have stagnated while the transit costs and taxes continue to rise.

While the cost of living goes up in Edmonton about 2% every year, which would be a rise of transit fare by about 5 cents; the cost of transit goes up about 25 cents a year.

Where are we, the workers, supposed to get this extra money every year so we can get to work? On my city’s website there are annual statistics for the ridership on public transit:

Annual ridership in 1998 was 41,909,955, in 2013 87,041,248; yet our cost per trip has doubled in the last 5 years

–City of Edmonton

You would think that the more people taking transit, the less the cost per rider, right? That’s the trend happening in Europe and Asia. They’ve received double the rides so the price has dropped almost in half. That’s what makes total sense to me and it is the reality over there. But not here, not in the West. Remember: Western countries are usually welfare states, meaning they have the highest income taxes already! Add on top of that a rising price for transportation. Why can these poorer, developing countries have better transit than us and they don’t even tax their citizens a fraction of what we’re getting taxed?

What doesn’t make sense to me is why we have to pay so much money for something that really isn’t that expensive… It’s public transit… Not a bunch of BMW’s. What are these cities wasting all this cash on? In Edmonton, the service is efficient but it needs a lot of work. It’s probably the worst Canadian transit system, at least in my opinion. The buses are beyond packed during rush hour and the trains in the morning are like you are in Tokyo or something.

If a poor country (compared to the West) like India can provide cheap alternatives to driving a car, then so can the wealthiest countries in the world too.

Our price for transit is already a little bit cost-prohibitive. To raise it even more without any change in service is really concerning for me.

–Andrew Knack, Edmonton City Coun.

Statistics show that North Americans use Public Transit the least overall. We use transit the least overall because the regular working people of North America are finding alternatives to transit because the cost is always rising. So we buy a car, join a carpool, etc… I thought public transit was supposed to take the people out of their vehicles and give them a cheaper alternative? Why is it backward here? I thought public transit was about saving the environment and cutting back on rush hour traffic? I guess I’m wrong.

Some cities are able to fund almost all of their public transit needs through taxpayer dollars, easing the burden on those who are forced to use the system. Other cities, though, including most Canadian cities, shift more than half the cost of running a public transit system on the people who use it the most… This is call the farebox recovery ratio: The percentage of operating expenses that are recovered from riders purchasing fares. Edmonton, Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa all have farebox recovery ratios over 50%. The average farebox recovery ratio in Canada is 58%, while in the United States it’s only 36%.


The evidence is all out there. The money is there too. I’ve only taken a short amount of time to compile these few facts that show that: Transit fare in Western countries has become so ridiculously overpriced that large groups of people in the West (the workers mainly,) are finding cheaper alternatives to taking the expensive public bus or LRT.

Header credit: Sam Adams / Getty Images/small>

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