Today I got a call out of the blue asking me to comment, on camera, about the Free Rider movement that I wrote about on the Seattle Transit Blog, a story that also got picked up by Erica Barnett at Publicola.
I don’t like the idea of giving these guys a lot of free publicity, but I figured it would draw some positive attention to STB and I guess Metro didn’t want to talk about it.
Unfortunately I can’t embed the video, but here is a link to the KOMOTV online version of the interview.
It’s a fine story, and I don’t think it helped the Free Riders at all and it did feature a screen shot of STB. What it didn’t do is get my comments about land use in there.
It’s weird how the little sound bites one practices for these sorts of things can get picked up so quickly, but other ones fall flat. As soon as I said something about the Free Rider movement being “pointless” it was a wrap.
But I also made the point that transit doesn’t work like a taxi cab, extra long rides or routes that cost more to service don’t charge higher fares. The problem, I said, was that if we did land use right, putting lots of people in a smaller space, transit would be more efficient and economical and even cheaper.
They did pick up on the point that if fares went away, the costs just go up other places. And I think the way the numbers looked on the screen it was pretty clear to any viewer that if the Free Rider movement caught on it would just mean higher prices for everyone else when the shortfall has to get eaten by another part of the budget or service drops.
I think the We Won’t Pay movement is a good foil for those of us who are trying to explain to the everyday person what we know intuitively: there is no free ride when it comes to transit, we need to invest more, and live more compactly.