Very few things in life are all or nothing. Not all car drivers never use public transportation, and not all public transportation users never drive cars. Most people do a combination of the two. But I think that everybody can agree that when more people voluntarily use public transportation (for forced, but voluntary), it means fewer cars on the road, which provides a better transportation experience for everybody.
Some people, if they win big taking a few free spins on an online casino website will use the money to buy their dream car or dream house, while others might choose to pay for college or pay off college loans or save for retirement.
But just as how somebody chooses to spend with jackpot winnings is a personal choice, how people choose to be mobile is also a personal choice.
Here are some programs that different countries are doing to help encourage/promote/help people who use public transportation.
Cost of bus and train fair is non taxed to employees
In the United States, an employer is allowed to provide as a benefit to their employee the ability to pay for a train or bus pass using pre-tax dollars. In some locations, an employee is just given a bus and/or train pass and the dollar value of that benefit is not even recorded on their tax return. The employer just records it as a business expense, like buying pens and paper.
Free ride shares
In some areas, especially when workers have to work non “business hours”, employers are providing free transportation to and from work via a ride share and/or van sharing program.
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For some workers, this may be a door-to-door service, while for others, it may be free transportation from a major transportation hub (aka, train stop and major bus stop) to the place of employment. The end result is that the workers can get safely to and from work.
Getting paid to ride your bike to work
A company called ByCycling has an app that is able to detect when a person is using a bike to get to work. That information is sent to the employer and some employers are rewarding their employees who bike to work with extra vacation time or other perks.
Do you not have a bike? Some cities are installing rental bikes that have bikes at major transportation locations. You check out a bike at one location and then return the like near your destination. You can get your choice of traditional bikes, electric bikes, and even electric scooters.
The only option that I have not seen is tricycle bikes with big baskets that would allow you to transport things.
Free public transportation for seniors
This is one of those no-brainer benefits every country should be provided to seniors. Seniors still have to get a bus pass and they still have to scan it, so unless a person is actually using the services the taxpayer is not paying for public transportation that seniors are not using.
But think about it in other ways, seniors can have slower response times. hearing loss, and vision loss. Driving becomes more dangerous, but these seniors still want to be independent. They do not want to have to call a neighbor or a relative when they need to go somewhere or want to go somewhere. Plus, it may not be an all-or-nothing thing.
A senior may choose to drive to their favorite church on Sunday, but for everything else (when traffic is heavier), just hop on the local bus or train.
A Senior should never have to choose between paying for a bus to get home and paying for food. Providing free public transportation to seniors may not seem like a big benefit, but the freedom you are giving to that senior is priceless.
Monthly bus passes and 50% discount for anybody on public assistance (food stamps, etc.)
If a person is on food stamps, they are tight on money. Should that person really be spending their money on the cost of a car (car payments, maintenance costs, and gas)? The costs add up while having a fixed monthly public transportation fee is a fixed cost.
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There will never be, “I could not go to the job interview, because I did not have a buck fifty to pay for the bus”. You pay your monthly fee (at a 50% discount), and you can ride the bus/train as many times you want (within a certain mile radius).
Free monthly bus pass for people under 22 in Scotland
In Scotland, anybody below the age of 22 is provided free public transportation. Children under 5 years of age do not need any card. Children between 5 and 21 need to have a card, but it is still free. But a bus pass is not considered proof of identity.
Free monthly bus pass for people under 18 in San Diego, CA, and Washington State
In San Diego, children under the age of 18 can ride public transportation for free. Washington State also provides free public transportation to kids under 18.
Free monthly pass in British Columbia for kids under 12
In British Columbia, public transportation is free for kids under 12.
Israel, Nationwide bus pass
Israel is starting a new program that is nationwide. Israel offers several different monthly contracts:
- up to 40 km including train, $65
- up to 75 km including train, $118
- up to 225 km excluding train, $65
- over 75 km including train, $175
Israel is around the size of NJ, so how would something like this be implemented in a huge country like the United States?
The distance from NYC to Philadelphia in a straight line is 375 km. But the part that is different than what currently exists in the United States is that we have regional bus passes for NYC. We have regional bus passes for Philadelphia. And we have trains that go from NYC to Philadelphia. But if you buy a monthly pass for NYC, and then you travel to Philadelphia, you can’t use your monthly pass from NYC in Philadelphia.
In Israel, you buy a monthly pass to travel within Jerusalem. You take the train to Tel Aviv (even if you have to pay extra for city-to-city travel). But when you get to Tel Aviv, you can use your Jerusalem monthly pass for city travel within Tel Aviv.
Could the United States implement a nationwide bus pass similar to Israel?
I think that they could. You buy a radius monthly pass. This covers travel within a regional area: Chicago, NYC, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, etc. But if you want to travel from one city to another city, you have to pay extra for that travel. But then, when you get to your destination city, you can still use your “home monthly bus pass” in the city you traveled to.
It becomes recipriocal. People live in CA and they travel to NYC. People live in NYC and they travel to CA. For local travel, their monthly pass is covered in both locations. But for city-to-city travel, they would still need to pay.
This is something that is not currently being implemented in the United States. It is just an idea I am proposing and how the United States could implement such a plan.
What about encouraging people to use public transportation?
If a person buys a monthly bus pass for 12 straight months, they can get a round trip voucher for bus travel to any place in the continental United States.
If a person buys a monthly train pass for 12 straight months, they can get a round trip voucher for train travel to anywhere in the continental United States.
Isn’t that what airlines due for their frequent travelers? So why not offer the same type of deal for frequent bus and train travelers?