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UPDATED: August 11, 2008 No.33 AUG.14, 2008
Is Free Public Transportation Sustainable?
Free public transportation is a great dream, but one not so easy to achieve?

Therefore, at the present stage, if free public transportation is provided, undoubtedly it will be warmly embraced, but it seems more important for the government to realize more pressing problems.

Development benefits

Mu Yifei (hlj.rednet.cn): Local governments at various levels all provide subsidies to public transportation. The government and passengers share the cost. If public buses are free of charge, then it means the government is responsible for all the expenditures. Free public transportation is theoretically possible and also it will help to increase the efficiency of public transportation and greatly cut the number of private cars.

Free public transportation will benefit all the urban residents, especially those of low incomes. This is a specific example of making free basic public services accessible to all the public. While huge financial revenues lay the foundation for livelihood improvement, what behind the free public transportation is a concept to make economic development fruits available to all people.

Fang Yuan (Jiaxing Daily): Recent years have seen China's consumer prices continue to rise, throwing some people into a difficult living situation. At the same time, fiscal revenues of governments at various levels are booming. Against this backdrop, the call for the government to transfer some benefits to the common people is becoming louder and louder.

Free public transportation is a tangible way to transfer the development benefits to the people.

Besides, free transportation targets people of middle and low incomes-and we all know, these people need the government's subsidies most. That is to say, by providing free transportation service, the government is able to spend money where it is most needed. Maybe this policy can only do so much to improve people's livelihood, but the idea of transferring the fruits of the country's development to the people should be commended.

Wu Hangmin (hlj.rednet.cn): We always think that free public transportation is impossible. The reason is that in many places, local public transportation operates in a market economy and government subsidies are very limited.

Changning's free public transportation is certain to trigger debates and even hostile remarks. Many people will ask: Can local administrations afford this?

We are making efforts to develop a conservation culture. Isn't it necessary for the government to take a lead in this regard? And the core of conservation-oriented government is to use financial resources in a frugal way.

In the 20 years from 1986 to 2005, the rise of government expenditures has outpaced that of gross domestic product or government revenues. A free public transportation service was therefore not on the government's agenda.

If the government hopes to make it possible for the whole population to enjoy development fruits, one precondition is that the government must be frugal in its spending.

Changning has managed to boost its fiscal revenues sharply for years. This serves as a strong economic foundation. Some people doubt that Changning's model can be introduced elsewhere, but Changning's example implies that, when local governments have increasing revenues, as long as they try to use the money properly, benefiting the needy can be achieved.

Feng Xin (www.tianshannet.com.cn): Public buses take up less road space and energy, and cause less pollution than private cars. Suppose 100 passengers are to be transported. Automobiles will take up 9 times the road space, 5 times the fuel and discharge 15 times as much harmful exhaust compared with public buses.

Free public transportation will help strengthen people's environmental protection awareness, save road space and pay more attention to public transportation development.

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