I believe seniors should have free subway rides because free transportation encourages senior ci t izen’s social engagement. There would be a reason why the 50 percent discount became free of charge. Free subway transpiration was a mean to make seniors more socially active while preventing social isolation. We should not only analyze the economic benefits of this policy, but also anticipate how much this will enhance our society’s welfare in the future. Therefore, other than unconditionally opposing, we should maintain and improve this policy.
I suggest two ways to improve this system. The first one is making the fares different by age. The second is collecting different fares depending on certain subway sections. This will decrease conflict between the majority population on commute and elders enjoying their active life. Both system should be elaborated by thorough study, but I believe it will alleviate current problems in some extent. I hope this system will be improved in a way that both seniors and the public will be satisfied.
The free ride policy for the elderly in Korea is not perfect. Free subway rides for senior itizens currently in effect in South Korea need to be improved or abolished. South Korea began offering a 50 percent discount on public transportation fees to senior citizens aged 70 or older on May 8, 1980, along with the enforcement of the law on welfare for senior citizens. Since 1984, the system has been expanded, allowing senior citizens aged 65 or older to use subways and city buses for free. Over time, free rides on city buses for senior citizens aged 65 or older have been abolished and only free rides remain on the subway.
There are many problems with the free subway rides. First, there is the financial problem. Shinbundang Line announced that it will eliminate free subway rides due to operating deficits. As such, several subway lines are suffering from operating deficits, and free rides for senior citizens are cited as the main reason for it. The government, who was expected to monetary aid the deficits, only provided it to Korail, a state-run company. Unbelievably, the remaining toll from free transportation is borne by each subway operator. No matter how much the intent of the free subway system is to take care of the weak and elderly, the system will not be able to be maintained if it proceeds to operate in this manner. Also, the problem of operating deficit will amplify as the country ages. Rather, instead of allowing the elderly to use the subway completely free of charge, the operating institutions should come up with measures to reduce some subway fares or abolish the free ride system.
We should also raise the question on whether the disadvantaged people are really benefiting from this policy. Free subway rides are only for senior citizens aged 65 or older. However, some of the older people over 65 who do not pay subway fares are rich and healthy. In contrast of the intention to help the disadvantaged, some cannot receive the necessary benefits because they do not meet the age standard. This case indicate that the adequate standard of the free subway system is vague. This could lead to reverse discrimination, so modifications are urgent.
Finally, we implemented a free subway ride system to increase the senior’s mobility. However, if the problem is the senior’s vulnerability on the road, then we should help them become invulnerable. Making them dependent to policies like this will only make the elders more submissive and dependent. Our society should help the elders live independently. Instead of making the subway free, we should engage in advancing the silver society, by educating and helping the elders. In this stance, support like the free ride system for senior
citizens are unnecessary.
I am against senior’s free subways rides because of the following reasons.
First, this policy only benefits senior citizens who live near the subway, and discriminates the less wealthy seniors who actually need this. To elucidate, compare the seniors living in Seoul and in Chungcheongbuk-do. The income per capita is 22 million won in Seoul and 17 million won in Chungcheongbukdo. This indicates that citizens in Seoul is wealthier than Chungcheongbuk-do, so we assume the less affluent seniors in Chungcheongbuk-do should benefit from the free subway policy. However, there is no subway in Chungcheongbuk-do.
Second, this policy is creating governmental deficit. The rides is not internally free, since the subway corporation is undergoing loss worth 109.8 billion won. If the seniors have paid at least half of the fare, our loss would have become black. We should raise the senior’s subway fare in order to make it into a surplus.
Third, some seniors use the subway to escape boredom, by resting in the cozy airconditioned environment. Not using the subway for transportation would lead to the extravagant use of our tax.
Finally, the number of senior citizens is increasing rapidly. The senior’s free ride policy started in 1984 when the seniors only took up 1 percent of our society. However, in 2019 it became 24.3 percent, and it is anticipated to increase towards 24.3 percent in 2030. If our society proceeds to age in this manner, it will burden the younger generations who will have to complement the senior’s free fares.
Because of the reasons above, I am against senior’s free subway rides. This policy should be gradually eliminated, by slowly increasing the fare so that the next generation does not have to carry the older generation’s burden.
The free ride policy for the elderly should exist, but should also be improved. This policy will help senior citizens be physically and mentally satisfied, by expanding their social, cultural, and economic activities. Also, we should focus on how this policy could reduce age-related susceptibility like car accidents. It is better to pay a dollar to our elder citizens than both being exposed to danger.
To improve this policy, we should first, complement the word free ride. The phrase free riding has a negative nuance which triggers negativity towards the policy. Free riding normally refers to people who does not fulfill their responsibilities and take benefits from what others have accomplished. However, this is not the case of the seniors. As a member of society, they have devoted their youth for us. They are the foundations of our society. We have an obligation to respect them appropriately by providing them with the adequate welfare. From us, this mindset will descend to our younger generation over time. For this reason, I believe it is necessary to change the name free ride into something more respectful like a senior transportation welfare. Also, the subway operators should receive higher incomes. The operating cost is not changing but our population is aging. When more people ride with the free fare, the subway operator’s income concession will consequence inevitably. We should improve our contemporary policy by comparing it with other countries.
By Seung Hyun Lim press.cnu.ac.kr
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