Overdramatizing public transit as a right diminishes credibility

May 31, 2012

The emotional rhetoric around public transit can sometimes border on the absurd.

In this recent Seattle Times article on eliminating the ride free area in downtown Seattle, Whitney Knox, a caseworker for Catholic Housing Services testified that "the free-ride zone is not a privilege but a right, and it should be something Seattle people should be proud of having."

I’ve heard this concept before from the transit lobby and I’ve written about it a couple of times: Public transportation is not a right.

Calling public transit (or the ride free area) a right is being overdramatic about transit’s relevancy. Public transportation is not a right; no more so than driving a car or flying in an airplane is a right. The freedom for citizens to move around and go where they want is a right, but the method by which they do it is not.

Their argument confuses a right with a benefit.

A right is something all people have, like freedom to travel, and it is protected by government; a benefit is a good or service people receive, and might be provided by government, like a bus ride.