Why can’t public transit be free?

Why can’t public transit be free?

[Ed. – For that matter, why can’t everything be free?]

About 500 subway riders in Stockholm have an ingenious scheme to avoid paying fares. The group calls itself Planka.nu (rough translation: “dodge the fare now”), and they’ve banded together because getting caught free-riding comes with a steep $120 penalty. Here’s how it works: Each member pays about $12 in monthly dues—which beats paying for a $35 weekly pass—and the resulting pool of cash more than covers any fines members incur. As an informal insurance group, Planka.nu has proven both successful and financially solvent. “We could build a Berlin Wall in the metro stations,” a spokesperson for Stockholm’s public-transit system told The New York Times. “They would still try to find ways to dodge.”

These Swedes’ strategy might seem like classic corner-cutting, but there’s a dreamy political tint to their actions. Like similar groups before them—Paris’s Métro-cheating “fraudster mutuals,” for example—they argue that public transportation should be free, just like education, parks, and libraries (and health care, in some parts of Europe). Planka.nu in particular laments the superiority of the car in what it calls “the current traffic hierarchy.” “The pure act of putting oneself behind the wheel seems, for almost everyone, to lead to egotistic behavior,” the group writes in one online manifesto. “We are confident that one is not born a motorist, but rather becomes one.”

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