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Old 11-05-2014, 05:08 PM
 
Location: New York NY
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Been thinking about this, lately as I've been in both NYC and San Francisco recently, and travel occasionally to DC as well. In all three cities the buses charge per ride, as far as I know, whether suburban or intra-city. But the rail systems have wildly different ways of pricing.
  • In NYC one fare lets you travel as far as you want, and if you buy and unlimited fare card, you can travel as much as you want for a month, radially lowering your cost per trip.
  • In DC, however, you're charged by the mile on the metro, i.e., the further you ride, the more it costs, BUT they have off-peak fares as well, so the cost goes down if you were, say, to commute just a bit off of normal rush hours.
  • San Fran also charges by the mile, but there are no off-hour peak fares on the BART system.

The weirdness is that for the same distance traveled you can pay radically more in DC or SF than NYC.

1) So does this maximize usage of the rail systems in each three of these cities? (And that's assuming that the powers-that-be WANT to maximize usage.)

2) Does it change how regions are developed? If it costs the same to travel two miles as ten miles, will that generate even development all along the line (all other things being equal), or does per-mile pricing push development toward the core, leaving lower-income people to pay more in transit costs because more distant housing is cheaper? And is that equitable?

3) Is there more rational pricing when the system lies entirely within one jurisdiction, like NYC's? Does the fact that metro and BART cut across several jurisdictions make any difference at all?

4) Does any of this have to do with the relative newness of the metro and BART compared to NYC's MTA? Could be, but the MTA is constantly upgrading its huge -- and old -- system, while you'd think upgrade on newer systems would be less.

JUst some random thoughts after years of subway riding. Anybody got any answers for me?
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Old 11-05-2014, 06:59 PM
nei nei won $500 in our forum's Most Engaging Poster Contest - Thirteenth Edition (Jan-Feb 2015). 

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Location: Long Island / NYC
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Quote:
Originally Posted by citylove101 View Post
4) Does any of this have to do with the relative newness of the metro and BART compared to NYC's MTA? Could be, but the MTA is constantly upgrading its huge -- and old -- system, while you'd think upgrade on newer systems would be less.
London has a zone system, doesn't have much to do with newness but just history and politics. Note the NYC subway and local bus are per ride. Take the commuter rail the same distance and it's by distance at a much higher rate. This leads to the weird result you can pay $2.50 to travel 28 miles, using a local suburb bus to subway but the same exact trip by commuter rail is $9.00. London's zoned system uses the same price for distance regardless of where you take commuter rail or the subway. (note if you go by zone 5 [outer city] on the north side of the city to zone 5 on the other side of the city it's priced the same as a zone 5 to center city trip despite being twice the distance)..
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Old 11-05-2014, 07:07 PM
nei nei won $500 in our forum's Most Engaging Poster Contest - Thirteenth Edition (Jan-Feb 2015). 

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Location: Long Island / NYC
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Paying per ride makes lots short trips expensive. I read the introduction of monthly passes gave a big boost ridership, probably from those going only short distances. This might help make it feel like you have more "freedom" without a car, as you don't have to worry that a few 1.5 mile will add up cost-wise.

Both DC's subway and BART are treated more as commuter systems with much less coverage compared to NYC subway's which connects most of the urban neighborhoods.

Last edited by nei; 11-05-2014 at 07:16 PM..
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Old 11-05-2014, 07:20 PM
 
Location: Seattle, WA
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I think it should *only* be charged for longer trips and free for short trips, but I'm in the minority. Most car trips in the city are just a couple miles, and these short trips cause the most vehicle wear and tear. Having these trips be free on public transportation would give more of an incentive to ride whenever it's feasible time and logistics wise. Some cities do have "free fare zones" downtown, but I think short trips outside of downtown should also be free.
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Old 11-06-2014, 03:37 AM
 
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When you drive somewhere you expect to pay more for longer trips. Why should rapid transit be different? Impractical on some older systems, perhaps. PATCO from Philadelphia to Lindenwold NJ, which predates BART, is another rapid transit system charging zoned fares. Yes, jurisdictions often affect fares. Often they go up as you cross a county line.

Last edited by pvande55; 11-06-2014 at 03:40 AM.. Reason: Note about jurisdictions
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Old 11-06-2014, 09:12 PM
 
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When you drive somewhere you expect to pay more for longer trips. Why should rapid transit be different?
Because people who would need to take transit for long trips will more likely just take their car. Unless they're poor and don't have a car, which means you're putting more strain on those who can't afford to be further strained.
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Old 11-06-2014, 09:32 PM
nei nei won $500 in our forum's Most Engaging Poster Contest - Thirteenth Edition (Jan-Feb 2015). 

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Location: Long Island / NYC
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Originally Posted by memememe76 View Post
Because people who would need to take transit for long trips will more likely just take their car. Unless they're poor and don't have a car, which means you're putting more strain on those who can't afford to be further strained.
why?
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Old 11-07-2014, 12:08 AM
 
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Neither, public transit should be free to the public.
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Old 11-07-2014, 12:47 AM
 
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Whether you charge riders by zone or a flat fare depends on the nature of your system. If your system is commuter oriented then zone charging seems to be the way to go. If you're trying to get city dwellers to leave their car at home - even for off peak trips - then you want it to be cheap and easy.

Quote:
Originally Posted by nei View Post
I read the introduction of monthly passes gave a big boost ridership, probably from those going only short distances. This might help make it feel like you have more "freedom" without a car, as you don't have to worry that a few 1.5 mile will add up cost-wise.
When NYC introduced free transfers and unlimited rides on the Metrocard ridership boomed . . . and most of that growth (around 70%) was off-peak. It was a lot of people switching modes because it became easier and cheaper to use transit.
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Old 11-07-2014, 06:44 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by memememe76 View Post
Because people who would need to take transit for long trips will more likely just take their car. Unless they're poor and don't have a car, which means you're putting more strain on those who can't afford to be further strained.
I don't think so, and least not for the commuter-oriented systems like BART. When my husband lived for a time at the end of the one of the BART lines into San Francisco he was happy to have BART as an option -- if anything, being able to sit on the train and read was vastly superior to sitting in horrendous traffic into the city. The fare, while not as cheap as a local bus ride, was still a significant discount over an also expensive (in terms of money AND time) car trip in, and a whole lot more easier. Faster, too.
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