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Editorial: Proposal for free bus rides may have Achilles' heel

What's to stop some from making transit system their home?

On last week, an advocate made the case for having mass-transit bus service be free to riders.

There were some perceptive points to go with a few we might quibble with. Given that bus systems (in Northern Virginia and elsewhere) tend to recoup so little of their operating costs at the farebox, and given the expense involved in collecting and accounting that limited amount of money, maybe a free-for-all policy is worth considering.

But there’s one hiccup that advocates always attempt to gloss over: In some places where this has been tried, fare-free buses have become rolling shelters for the homeless (or “unhoused,“ the term now preferred by advocates).

It’s not fair to riders and it’s not fair to drivers to allow that to happen here, so before Washington-region politicians pull out the “equity” card to push for free bus service (free for riders, though certainly not for taxpayers), could we put the cart before the horse and get a plan in place to make sure the buses won’t devolve into sanctuaries on wheels?