There some days when you learn things. I have been looking at transit data and saying that transit only covers 15% to 30% of operating expense from their fare boxes except in top 5 markets where it can up to 30% to 48%. Well after reading Sam Staley’s blog at the Reason Foundation, I now have to rethink this since it now appears that there has been some fare box stuffing. It turns out “Some 120,000 federal workers in the Washington region receive up to $230 a month for transit, which amounts to taxpayer-funded free rides or at least a hefty bite out of even the most expensive trips.” according to the Washington Examiner. Amazingly that could add up to $331 million a year for a transit agency that collects $683 million a year in fares with a $1.9 billion operating budget.
The examiner later states that “For years, federal employees received free and subsidized parking. Taking away the perk hasn't been a viable option: When President Carter tried it in 1979, federal employees protested and started a boycott of U.S. savings bonds”.
So what can be done? May be the Feds can apply a little Ricardian comparative advantage. Find the price point that Federal employees think the dough that they will get is equal to the transit or parking and get out of the “Green Washing” with the transit and the diametrically opposed “Brown” parking subsidy at the same time. There are markets in everything and I for one would be happier to be paid in dollars than in subway tokens or parking passes. I think it would be worth seeing if federal employees felt the same way.
Nor is it gloom and doom for the transit agency. There are plenty of consumers who would be willing to pay to avoid DC traffic. Now, they just would be a little more like choice riders.