Welcome to the Toronto Free Public Transit Campaign
Why free transit?
Those of us advocating free transit are bound to hear a question - isn't the idea of Free Transit a bit extreme in the current context, with right wing ideas so dominant these days?
- Calls to be realistic and have more limited demands are counterproductive even to the most piecemeal reforms. This is not some kind of extreme idea but rather the basic principle of public services. The very dominance of neoliberal and right wing thinking is actually a good reason to embark on such a campaign. A campaign that calls for mere alterations in how transit is paid for – even if this is “what we end up with” – does not do enough to counter the aforementioned right wing discourse from politicians and business leaders.
- There are a number of elements in the broader transit movement in Toronto, from those affiliated with the Mayor’s office to those calling for discounts and unions bargaining for transit passes, etc. Placing the PRINCIPLE of free transit into the public discussion shifts the political terrain in which the issue is being discussed. It makes fighting privatization as such look more “mainstream” when compared with “leftist” ideas of making transit free. In turn, the forces pushing for privatization (against the threat of private companies like splitting the transit movement) will be put on the defensive.
- Many community organizations active in advocating for Transit City and against privatization are happy that there are groups advocating for free transit..
- The general public in Toronto are users and fans of transit. The broad transit movement has a great deal of mainstream support across the political spectrum. Framing the issue of transit as a “public good” akin to libraries, postal service, schools, hospitals, can help capture this constituency and lead to potential anti-capitalist insights.
- In relation to anti-capitalist insights – the PRINCIPLE of free transit is inherently anti-capitalist, it is to not merely prevent the (private) commodification of a something already somewhat commodified, but gives transit users in general a glimpse at the mechanism behind policy-making and giving a strong principled argument against commodification.
- It can be questioned whether or not right wing ideas are so dominant these days. Many people have big problems with big business and their anger is often channeled by right wing forces towards “big government” programs like the TTC – blowing examples of TTC workers “acting up” out of proportion, etc. Calling for free transit actually may have an appeal that undercuts the support that is implicitly being gleaned for privatization, and thus helping solidify worker/community alliances.
- It seems doubtful, on the other, that this type of “right wing” thinking can further be channeled into directions that a private firm would do a better job delivering such services. Thus an argument for free transit implicitly argues for the maintenance of public services generally, since it is assumed by most that private firms do not provide services free of charge.
- This is the crux of how such an idea actually can countering neoliberal hegemony in public discourse and solidifying worker/community alliances.