An Argument for Free Mass Transit

In my hometown of New York City, there has been increased attention lately on the issue of fare evasion—when someone seeks to avoid paying the fare required to get on a bus or subway train.

I made a tweet on social media pointing out that an easy way to get rid of fare evasion is to get rid of fares. Tweets aside though, I really think mass transit should be free, and there are some compelling arguments in favor of it.

Chief among them is the environment. If we really want to do all we can to take care of the environment, there needs to be more mass transit, better mass transit, and more incentive to take mass transit. Why? Because driving a car results in significantly more CO2 emissions per trip per mile than mass transit—either bus or rail.[1] This is another way of saying that driving a car is significantly worse for the environment than using public transportation. By making public transit free, especially in a time when driving is getting more expensive due to soaring gas prices, we are adding an incentive for people to ditch vehicles that are bad for an environment that desperately needs to be taken better care of by us as human beings.

Speaking of expensiveness, free public transport would create a means of getting around that even the poorest people in the working class can afford. This is not currently the case, which is a part of why some people are so poor that they can’t afford to get jobs.[2] After all, it costs money to drive to and from a job interview (let alone work), and currently with most public transportation, it costs money (for some, too much money) to take a bus or a train to and from a job interview or work. And then there are many others for whom the money used on a daily basis for public transit means money not spent on other basic necessities, such as food or paying off certain bills. Free public transit eliminates the potential barrier to a job for some, and the difficult choice of having to choose between paying for public transit and paying certain key bills for others.

There is a third argument in favor of public transit that should get highlighted, though: it means that government resources don’t have to be used on addressing fare evasion. There are some cities, such as mine, that are using government resources, such as more police officers in subway stations, in order to try and address fare evasion. However, if there are no fares to evade, then critical police (and government) resources can be directed in other, hopefully more productive, ways than trying to catch someone who didn’t pay $2.75 at a subway turnstile. I wasn’t joking when I said on social media that one easy way to eliminate fare evasion entirely is to eliminate fares entirely.

By this point in my post, you may be thinking the following: “Brendan, this sounds nice, but who’s going to pay for this?” Each person will have a different take, but personally, I think we should start with people who could take mass transit yet drive instead. Currently, mass transit is at least partially paid for on the backs of fares that need to be paid regardless of how wealthy or poor you are. What this means is that someone who is homeless can at least in theory find themselves needing to pay a fare to get on mass transit—something that shouldn’t sit right with anyone. After all, doesn’t that sound like knocking someone when they are down? Which, perhaps, is what having to pay a fare for mass transit in the first place does to so many of us.


[1] https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200317-climate-change-cut-carbon-emissions-from-your-commute

[2] I wrote a blog post on this issue: https://blindinjusticeblog.com/2019/11/18/some-people-are-so-poor-they-cant-afford-to-get-jobs/

Some People are So Poor, They Can’t Afford to Get Jobs

One day recently, I was reading through Facebook posts from my friends on my personal Facebook account. Usually, when I’m doing this, “blog post” is not one of the first things I have in mind.

But then, I saw a post where a friend of mine shared an image of a tweet from someone I didn’t even know…

It does sound absurd, that someone could be so poor they can’t afford to get a job. But, as ridiculous as this tweet may sound, it’s true—the expenses involved in getting and keeping a job can be prohibitively expensive.

Here are a few expenses that are required to get or keep a job, that can also be just too expensive for some people:

Money to keep your car running

Corbin’s tweet talks about “gas money,” and she’s right that gas money is one of the costs that makes someone so poor that they can’t get to a job interview or to a job. But, there’s also the cost of making sure the car remains in good shape, of getting repairs when something breaks, and of inevitably getting a new car when your old car struggles to run as it should. After all, there are many jobs that require you to have a car, so if you can’t afford to have a functional car, you can’t afford to have a job.

Or, if you don’t drive to and from work, money for mass transit

I’m blessed to live in a place where you can take mass transit to and from work. However, mass transit fares can add up over the course of a year. For example, if one were to get a monthly mass transit pass in New York City, that’s over $1,500 a year in mass transit expenses alone (at $127 a month). For someone who’s earning a lot of money, $1,500 may not sound like a ton. But for someone on the edge financially, that $1,500 may be the difference between being able to afford to get to a job—or not.

Child care

If you have a child and you are looking to work a job for 40 hours a week, your child needs to somehow be taken care of until you get home from work. Hence, the need for child care. But it costs many thousands of dollars a year, in many cases, to make sure your child is getting proper child care. In New York City, it costs, on average, over $16,000 a year for an infant to be in child care![1] Even with a $15 an hour minimum wage—something that many progressives advocate for—that’s half a year’s worth of your salary spent on child care alone.

Dress code

Corbin’s tweet also talks about people not being able to afford the money to adhere to the dress code for a job interview, let alone the multiple appropriate outfits necessary for a job. On a personal note, there was one time months ago when I ran into someone begging for money on the subway…so that he could get nice clothes for his job interview. I hope he got his money, and his clothes. In the meantime, this story exemplifies how it costs money—lots of it—to have the dress code you need for a job interview and a job. If you don’t have the money to buy professional clothing, then it puts you in a difficult situation professionally.


So, next time there’s a temptation to judge a poor person for not working hard enough to get back on their feet, I really wish that we were less judgmental, and remembered that the obstacles to “getting back on their feet” (in other words, getting a job) are, in some cases, too enormous to overcome at times. Instead, it would be best to find solutions that would allow for a poor person to not spend as much on car maintenance, for someone in economic need to get reduced-fare or free mass transit,[2] for reduced-price or free child care to exist for those who need it, and for more reduced-price or free professional clothing to exist for those who need it.[3] There are many economic barriers that lie between many people and jobs, and instead of calling someone lazy for encountering those barriers, it would be best to figure out how to remove the barriers.


[1] https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/average-cost-daycare-nyc-tops-16k-article-1.2428709

[2] New York City has a program through which low-income residents can get reduced-fare mass transit passes, so such policies can and do exist in some places: https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/home/downloads/pdf/resources/2018/Fair-Fares-FAQ-English.pdf

[3] Some individual programs, such as Dress for Success (for women) or the Men’s Wearhouse Suit Drive (for men) can help. However, individual programs like these are not enough. Click here for more information on Dress for Success and click here for more information on the Men’s Wearhouse Suit Drive.

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America’s Failure to Support Troops…Economically

“Support our troops.” People in the United States frequently hear and see this phrase in a variety of settings: on cars, from politicians, and from friends posting on social media, to name a few. We hear it especially on days like Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

And I agree. We should support our troops. While my personal opinion is that we should avoid war except in the most extreme of circumstances (example: if our own nation is attacked, like with Pearl Harbor), people who risk their own lives on behalf of the entire country should be supported. Since people in the military serve our country, our country should in return serve our military veterans. It’s the least we can do in the United States.

And yet, economically, we don’t support our troops.

There are numerous damning statistics on this fact. As of 2014, 25% of military families sought some sort of assistance with food.[1] There are nearly 38,000 homeless veterans; it’s a slight decrease from where it was, but there are still way too many homeless veterans.[2] There were nearly 1.5 million veterans in the United States living below the poverty line as of 2012.[3]

And we haven’t even gotten to wages, which are abysmal. For example, a starting salary for someone starting in the U.S. Army as an enlisted soldier, according to the Houston Chronicle, is $1,414 a month (a little over $18,000 a year). While that number goes up after several years of experience, an enlisted soldier with several years of experience can still earn under $30,000 a year.[4] Some of these salaries are below the minimum wage of some states, and they are certainly not living wages.

These are just a few statistics that show how this nation literally does not put its money where its mouth is. This nation talks a big game about supporting troops, yet fails to do so by paying living wages to troops and making sure that veterans aren’t homeless or in poverty. Shame on the United States for not giving back to people who have given so much to this country. Many of our troops have risked their lives to protect this country, and yet the government is risking the livelihoods of troops and their families through providing many of them with inadequate pay. This country does not truly support its troops.

However, we, as individuals, could raise our voices on this issue. We, as individuals, could contact our representatives in the House and Senate and ask them to make sure that all members of the military earn a living wage. Oh, and it would help if this problem gained national attention.


[1] https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/in-plain-sight/hungry-heroes-25-percent-military-families-seek-food-aid-n180236

[2] https://www.va.gov/HOMELESS/pit_count.asp

[3] https://www.va.gov/vetdata/docs/specialreports/veteran_poverty_trends.pdf

[4] http://work.chron.com/salaries-us-army-soldiers-6496.html