Bloomberg: Transit Should Be Free, and Drivers Should Pay More

Mayor Bloomberg talks transit in his 2007 PlaNYC speech. Photo: Sarah Goodyear

Yesterday, Mayor Bloomberg rode the Staten Island Ferry, which has the distinction of being one of the few forms of public transportation in New York that is free to its users. At the press conference to announce the world’s largest ferris wheel (plus additional parking!) near the ferry terminal in St. George, the mayor was asked for his thoughts on transportation. He replied:

If you were gonna design, keep in mind, the perfect public transportation system, you would have it be free and you would charge people to use cars, because you want the incentive to get them to do that.

This short quote provides a window into the philosophy that has guided the Bloomberg administration’s transportation policy. It’s about more than congestion pricing. Free transit is not just the dream of progressive activists, it’s also a policy goal of the billionaire mayor.

Will any among the current crop of candidates to succeed him best Bloomberg on this front? How many of them think that, in an ideal world, transit should be free? How many of them would actually work to make that happen? If the next administration doesn’t step up for transit, other cities will continue to leave us in the dust.