A while back I launched an interesting conversation about the senior fare. After reading the comments and reflecting on the questions some more, here are some further thoughts:
- It’s pointless to begrudge someone getting a better deal than you. There are all kinds of fare discounts for all kinds of reasons, reasons that have little to do with any notion of justice, and to pick on seniors would be peculiar. The point of raising the senior fare is not spite.
- Several commenters correctly pointed out that imposing income verification has costs, both for administration and because it means some deserving people will go without.
- Although I think net worth is a very relevant metric, others suggest a more complicated picture. The poverty chart above shows that 75 is a much bigger dividing line than 65, but 65 is the easiest to verify. Median incomes suggest seniors are doing poorly. The OECD statistics linked to above reports that median disposable income was $27,530 for 65 and over and $33,493 for 18-64 in 2012.
- All that said, the equity case for senior fare in the presence of a low-income fare is not strong, and weaker than other claims on foregone revenue. It would be more progressive, as well as better for the environment, to purchase more service or reduce the low income fare with the money.
Equalizing Senior and low-income fares, rather than eliminating the senior fare entirely, addresses the second point. Among people who think transit should get more resources overall, whether they equalize because the low-income fare goes down or because the senior fare comes up depends on what you think of the value of marginal bus service.