As a PSU student you have it great-that is if you live near a bus stop or MAX line, and that bus-line takes less than half an hour to get you to school or back. You see, PSU covers the extra cost of a Flex Pass, normally discounted at $220/term but available to you for $175/term. Sweet deal for some of you!
As a PSU student you have it great-that is if you live near a bus stop or MAX line, and that bus-line takes less than half an hour to get you to school or back. You see, PSU covers the extra cost of a Flex Pass, normally discounted at $220/term but available to you for $175/term.
Sweet deal for some of you!
But some would like to see that $175 lowered or kissed goodbye–covered either by taxpayer or student fees. This pleasant thought, though, is unfortunately unfair, less productive and helps perpetuate a destructive student culture of entitlement.
Who pays for TriMet to operate? America does–the federal government subsidizes about 15 percent (not counting the 50 percent the United States is paying for our new WES diesel line). Employers in TriMet’s operating district, and the Oregon taxpayer pay about 64 percent.
And finally, the rider pays, a little bit. The user covers less than 21 percent of TriMet’s operating costs, based on statistics from the Pennsylvania Transit Coalition.
I know you will say that drivers benefit from people taking mass transit, with more drivers off the road. Well, this is only partially true, as mass transit is, in part, billed to be transportation for those who can’t afford the costs associated with driving.
And opposed to the less than 21 percent of operating cost TriMet riders pay, drivers covered 70 percent of the cost for maintaining the roads in 2002, according to the Oregon Department of Transportation. This cost is covered by a gas tax of 43.4 cents a gallon in Oregon and an additional 18.4 cents per gallon from the federal government. Drivers cover a substantially larger share of what they use than riders of TriMet.
But students, you may say, need even more of a discount! And so some would prefer taxpayers subsidize part, or all of, the students’ cost, otherwise they would not have the money to afford transportation to school.
Or, you might say, we are “investing in our future” by giving students the opportunity to affordably get to school.
But let’s say you make minimum wage ($7.95/hr) and work 20-hour weeks, taking home about $1,700 a term after taxes. You then pay $350 (a very inexpensive estimate) in rent and utilities, spending $1200 over a term, and have $500 left for food and a Flex Pass. A Flex Pass is $175, so you have $325 for food and necessities over three months.
That’s not much at all, and you’d have some school debt (who doesn’t), but this is a pretty minimalist situation as it is, so it is possible. And this isn’t even if you’re living near campus, where you wouldn’t need a Flex Pass because of Fairless Square!
So asking for more from TriMet (i.e. taxpayers) equates to our taking money out of their pockets, and putting it into our own. Most students pay basically nothing in taxes after exemptions and deductions (except Social Security, of course).
Of course payroll taxes on employers are passed on to employees and customers, who either don’t see much more of a raise or pay more for the same goods to cover the cost of the tax.
Instead, if you think student fees and some of PSU’s budget are going to pick up the tab for your Flex Pass at $175, it will cost you about … $175. Well, actually, it will be more like you and I give each other $175 dollars and call it a gift. If the $175 were raised from student fees and the PSU budget, how would your student fees and tuition not increase? Somebody has to find the $4.75 million dollars it would take to pay TriMet for 27,000 Flex Passes!
Also, it is cheaper, but it is not that much cheaper to buy a Flex Pass than it is to drive for a term. If you lived in Tigard, and had 24 miles to drive to school and back at 30 miles per gallon, and paid for a Monday-Wednesday-Friday parking pass, it’d be easy to only spend $250 a term on parking and gas. Only $75 more than a Flex Pass to pay for freedom!
You might say that someone who owns an old car is getting worse mileage, in which case they may not be able to afford it and we should subsidize mass transit more for them. Why? It is not the problem of the taxpayer or other students when individuals make choices they cannot afford. This penalizes those who made the choice to buy something they could afford.
Plus, those who pay for parking at PSU, just like the gas taxes, cover more of their own costs than TriMet Riders: Parking revenues were at $7.06 million for 2007-08 while parking expenses were close, at $7.08 million. Drivers at PSU are by no means freeloading anything.
Lest you think I’ve got a thing against you using mass transit, I sure don’t. I’m happy it exists as an option. And if you use it to ease your environmental conscience, then great–I applaud it. But I’m not going to spend an hour each way on the bus if I can help it.
Besides, unless you think John McCain is lying about nuclear power, and Barack Obama is lying about finding alternative energy, the possibility that driving will cause polar bear loneliness on ice floes is not much of an issue.
And I don’t think TriMet ought to raise prices to recoup costs paid by taxpayers either–that would surely affect the low-income too much. But simply consider who pays for it, and thank them, at the very least, lest we feel entitled to the low individual cost of mass transit and demand the employers, who give you jobs, pay even more for a necessary but inefficient system.