Robbing Driving Peter to Pay Train-Riding Paul

Facing a budget shortfall, officials of South Florida’s Tri-Rail commuter train are seeking help from the state — or rather, from drivers who rent cars in Florida. Tri-Rail, which runs between Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties, wants Tallahassee to impose a $2 surcharge on car rentals to keep the train going. Thankfully, the proposal is meeting opposition. Reports The Palm Beach Post:

But opponents, such as state Rep. Carl Domino, say the $2 fee would further depress tourism across the state.

“In an environment where tourism is weak, do you want to send the message to tourists that they’re going to have to pay even more money to come to Florida?” said Domino, R-Jupiter.

Ever since gas hit $4 a gallon, Tri-Rail ridership figures have smashed expectations, reaching levels not thought possible until 2020, Stevens said. About 4 million riders took the train last year, 23 percent more than in 2007. Ridership has more than doubled since 2005.

The numbers have dipped only slightly as gas prices have fallen – evidence, say officials, that those who try using the commuter rail tend to stick with it

That a slight fare increase spread across so many new riders would boost Tri-Rail’s finances should be obvious, but apparently not to the people who run Tri-Rail — which makes state Rep. Domino’s infusion of sanity especially welcome.

“Who uses this transit system?” asked Domino. “Shouldn’t the people who use it pay for it?”

For more on South Florida politics, see here and here. For more on public transport, see here. (Thanks to Margaret Griffis for the Palm Beach Post link.)