The case for Fare-Free Transit


By Dave Olsen


Dave Olsen is not shy about his advocacy for bicyclists and sustainable transportation. As one newspaper wrote about him, Olsen “carpet-bombs city bureaucrats with e-mails (and copies correspondence to media) about anything from dangerous crosswalks and potholes to fences blocking off downtown cycle paths during Canada Line construction. If a pothole wrecked your morning commute, chances are Olsen has already made some city engineer’s life hell over it.”

Olsen grew up in North Delta and has seen the region sprawl while growing ever more reliant on the automobile. He often wondered why passengers were forced to fork over handfuls of change every time they boarded a bus, or to pay escalating costs for transit passes. Other social goods, from schools to health care to the road system, are funded by the broader public through taxes, and daily use is free of charge. Why not the same for public transit, especially since charging for it tends to penalize the poorest in society, and encourage polluting behaviour?

His desire to explore the practicalities peaked in the past year for a couple of reasons. One, he received a $5,000 Tyee Fellowship for Solutions Reporting to explore the issue. And two, as he says, “there was a radical shift in North Americans’ consciousness about global warming.”

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