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Student essay comments: free public transportation


Dr. Byrnes' Academic Discussion Course
Dr. Byrnes' Academic Discussion e-book

make sure you understand the question

Your response does not answer the professor's question. 
Don't start with a filler sentence: Contribute to the discussion!

Problems with the essay

The argument of this essay is superficial. There is no free lunch: free public transportation implies higher taxes for citizens. So,  free public transportation does not necessarily mean saving a significant amount of money.

Indeed, the essay does not respond correctly to the professor's question. 

  • professor's question:  Should public transportation be funded by tax dollars?
  • Essay's response: There are two benefits of free public transportation. 

Expected score

This essay is in general well-written with good grammar and without any spelling errors. So e-rater would give a high score as it can only check the mechanics of the essay. However, a human rater will give it a low score for the following two reasons: 

  1. The essay does not properly respond to the question asked.
  2. The essay does not contribute to the discussion. Regarding the two benefits suggested, the first benefit is not true (read Kelly’s argument). And, the second benefit repeats Pauls’ argument.  

Dr Byrne's sample responses

Question summary:

  • Professor:  Should public transportation be free to all through taxation?
  • Kelly: No, we already pay too much tax, and families need the money to purchase essentials
  • Paul: Yes, public transportation will help reduce pollution, which is bad for health 

response 1 (argument from economy)

I respectfully disagree with Kelly's assertion that families would save money by eliminating taxes for public transportation. Instead, I firmly believe that funding free public transportation through tax revenue would, in fact, lead to significant overall savings for individuals and households, despite a minor increase in tax contributions. The benefits of free public transportation are evident. It would alleviate the financial burden of gas expenses, especially considering the current high price of $5 per gallon. Additionally, the elimination of parking fees, which can be substantial in downtown areas (up to $20 per hour in my town), would further contribute to savings. Most importantly, free public transportation would eliminate the substantial expenses related to car maintenance and insurance. On average, Americans spend approximately $2,000 per month on these costs. By eliminating the need for private vehicles, individuals and households could save tens of thousands of dollars annually on fuel, parking, maintenance, and insurance. This translates into increased disposable income and improved financial well-being.

reason 2 (argument from equity)

I concur with the idea that public transportation should be made freely accessible to all through taxation, as it offers clear benefits such as the reduction of traffic congestion and pollution, timely arrivals, and cleaner air. In addition to these advantages, I would like to  emphasize another critical benefit: free public transportation promotes equity within the community. Many low-income individuals and families do not own cars and must rely on public transportation for work, school, and essential services. However, public transportation fees have significantly increased in recent years, with minimal government subsidies to offset these costs. This has created a vicious cycle in which high fees result in lower ridership, prompting transportation companies to raise the fees further to cover their operating and maintenance expenses, ultimately leading to even lower ridership. The high cost of public transportation can pose a significant financial barrier for low-income individuals, often forcing them into low-paying jobs close to home or preventing them from accessing essential services. Free public transportation eliminates this barrier, reducing inequality and fostering a more just society.

response 3 (argument based on economy and fairness)

It is true that there are some foreseeable benefits for free public transportation. Just to name a few, it can reduce air pollution, as mentioned by Paul, and can alleviate traffic congestion. However, I must respectfully disagree with Paul due to the practical challenges that implementing free public transportation raises. The cost of providing and maintaining the infrastructure required for a free public transportation system can be substantial. Funding such a system solely through taxation could strain government budgets and divert resources from other essential services. Furthermore, the question of fairness arises since those who don't use public transit might perceive it as an unfair distribution of tax funds. In my city, for example, those who use public transit for their downtown commutes tend to be well-off, while there is no public transit available from my home to the university I attend. Consequently, I would not benefit from the policy despite paying the tax. If the goal is social equality, the government should consider subsidizing only those in need.