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Arguments in favour of state-funded public transportEdit

Positive ExternalitiesEdit

Subsidised public transport creates benefits to the economy that outweigh the losses incurred by it:

  • Enhanced mobility and therefore better opportunities for business and employment, leading to higher economic growth. This is the same reasoning as the argument for construction of public roads, only applied to a different technology.
  • Decreased levels of congestion and pollution.
  • Areas that are economically weak due to their remoteness can be connected to the rest of the country by good transport links and be allowed to catch up.

Integrated TransportEdit

Integration of all transport modes under a single organization increases network effects, and travel becomes more convenient. Timetables can be matched and transport hubs can be designed to facilitate modal changes. Information becomes more centralised and reliable. Pricing per journey, rather than vehicle used, creates a more predictable and fair offer to the consumer.

Equality of MobilityEdit

Good public transport provides mobility to those who are not able to drive a car, such as teenagers, OAPs, blind people, and the poor.

Prisoner's DilemmaEdit

In some cases, private transport is induvidually more efficient but public transport is collectively more efficient.

For example, imagine the following scenario: In a densly populated city everyone travels by car. But because there is not enough space to accommodate all the cars, the city suffers from serious congestion problems, and journeys are very slow. If everyone decided to travel by bus, congestion would disappear, and everyone would benefit from faster journeys. But if only one person decides to travel by bus, that bus would still be stuck in traffic and that person doesn't benefit.

Because in a free market people only make individual choices, society will be stuck in the defection trap where the optimal solution of cooperation (everyone travelling by bus) is not attained. Therefore government intervention to encourage bus travel is justified.

Scale of investmentEdit

New public transport infrastructure such as metro lines and high speed rail links often requires investemts of tens of billions of dollars. Finding private investors with that amount of spare money can be a challenge, and often the government is the only body large enough to come up with such sums.

Counter-arguments to OppositionEdit

Free MarketEdit

Jitney systemEdit

As long as the road network remains public and free at the point of usage, mass transit cannot compete with automobiles on a level playing field. The jitney system described above is only attractive to users if roads are managed to avoid congestion, however this is not the case on public roads. A free market would only work efficiently after a full privatization of transport (which includes turning the entire road network into private toll roads), because then space-consuming automobiles would pay the full cost of their high land consumption, and lack of congestion would make jitneys viable. In the mean time, if a public road network is justifyable for whatever reasons, than so is public mass transit network. It fulfills exactly the same purpose, only using a different technology, and serving a different (high density) market.

Read: Perspectives ››

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