Wednesday 19 June 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Wednesday. 19/6/2024

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

Image: Andrew Bleecher

Mobility / Gregory Scruggs

To keep public transport moving, US cities need to get tougher on fare dodging

Short of a few yen in Kyoto last year, I pleaded with a bus driver but to no avail: correct fare or no ride. Luckily, I found some loose change in my pocket. Japan’s firm approach stands in stark contrast to North America’s. People routinely jump turnstiles, rush through behind paying passengers, dash past bus drivers and ignore honour systems. Last year a blue-ribbon panel commissioned by New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority found that fare evasion cost the system nearly $644m (€600m) in 2022. As recently as the 2010s, some 95 per cent of riders in Seattle paid their fare but that figure has since plummeted to 55 per cent. This free-for-all atmosphere has turned riding big-city public transport in the US into an unnerving experience.

Hoping to win back paying passengers, many cities are taking a harder line. Last year, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Washington began installing tougher fare gates. Other cities are having second thoughts about operating open-access systems. More than 10 years after Vancouver installed fare gates, St Louis has become the first city to do so this decade – an effort that Calgary and Seattle are considering too.

Across Europe, it’s common for fare collectors to check proof of payment and issue fines to non-ticketed passengers. But unwillingness in the US to enforce rules consistently is sabotaging the country’s transit systems. Cities have shirked fare enforcement over concerns that some demographics would be disproportionately affected. Transit leaders need to stand firm behind a basic fairness principle: when enforcement is conducted even-handedly – everyone is checked and everyone is fined or denied boarding if they don’t pay – there are no grounds for alleging bias.

US transit is facing a harsh reality. Today there are still between 20 and 25 per cent fewer riders on public transport than there were five years ago and the last pandemic-related emergency-relief funds expire this year. To keep the trains and buses running on time, transit systems must insist that passengers pay their fair share by paying the fare.

Gregory Scruggs is Monocle’s Seattle correspondent. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

The Briefings

All tapped out: Kirin Holdings expected to take full ownership of Fancl

Image: Getty Images

Business / Japan

Beer giant Kirin Holdings taps health and beauty sector

As demand for booze decreases in bars, pubs and izakayas across the developed world, one of Japan’s oldest beer giants is making a pivot into health and beauty. Kirin Holdings is expected to take full ownership of Fancl, a major Japanese cosmetics brand known across East Asia for its skincare label and shops.

Today the company holds a 33 per cent stake in Fancl; hoping to reduce its reliance on alcoholic drinks for revenue, Kirin will acquire the remaining shares this year for a total of ¥220bn (€1.3bn). The Tokyo-based beverage company acquired Australian vitamins and supplements company Blackmores for ¥165.9bn (€977m) last year but still has a long way to go before it can turn off the taps entirely. More than 30 per cent of its annual revenue comes from its lucrative beer and spirits business, while its comparatively small health-sciences business is currently in the red.

Image: Port of Portland

Aviation / USA

Waiting in the wings: Portland International Airport seeks volunteers to test out its new terminal

Portland International Airport (PDX) has invited thousands of volunteers to a dress-rehearsal day ahead of the reopening of its main terminal. On 3 August it will hold a live simulation to test the redesigned space’s new features and identify any areas that still need improving. The volunteers will act out scenarios including checking in, going through security and waiting to embark on flights. They will get to preview multiple new features: upgraded check-in counters, a streamlined security process, improved security stations, art exhibits close to eating areas and more.

“The terminal redesign is a very welcome improvement for Portland but, for those of us who have passed through the airport over the years, the best news is the return of its signature teal carpet,” Gabriel Leigh, Monocle’s transport correspondent, tells The Monocle Minute. “It’s an odd detail but it’s also iconic and really defined PDX in years past.” The airport’s decision to run such a simulation is a smart move: other transport hubs across the globe making similar large-scale improvements should take note.

Design / Belgium

Why Ghent’s major art museum revamp will revitalise more than its cultural life

London studio David Kohn Architects has won a bid to redesign the Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (Smak) in Ghent. The €90m redevelopment will reconfigure and extend the complex to create 20,000 sq m of exhibition and public space. The work will be undertaken in collaboration with noAarchitecten, a studio based in Brussels and Bruges, and architect Asli Çiçek. The project includes repurposing the Floraliënhal, a glass and steel structure on the site that was originally built for the 1913 world’s fair.

New display areas will be created, using material taken from the original structure. They will be built at either end of the hall and overlook the forecourt below. Smak was established in 1999 and its refurbishment is a major opportunity for the city to broaden the scope of its cultural offering. Citadelpark, which Smak sits within, is Ghent’s largest green space; as part of the redesign, its footway will be renovated, providing a vital pedestrian route through the centre of the city. The investment programme will provide more democratised spaces where residents can feel part of public life.

Beyond the Headlines

The List / French journals

Parisian print to look out for this month

With the first round of France’s snap legislative elections looming, the country’s daily media is hard at work, providing minute-by-minute updates on the campaigns and polls. Paris’s printed revue publications offer deeper, often philosophical, political analysis. Monocle picks three titles to consult before – and after – this month’s vote.

‘Le Grand Continent’
This journal emerged from the lecture halls of Paris’s prestigious École normale supérieure. Founded by three then-students, Le Grand Continent is digitally focused but releases a print annual in collaboration with Gallimard. It rose to continental fame when Emmanuel Macron granted the journal a major interview in November 2020 focused on the post-pandemic world. Today the journal publishes its content in French, Spanish and Italian, and will introduce German and Polish versions later this year.

‘Revue des deux Mondes’
France’s oldest magazine has been published monthly in Paris since 1829. Its title refers to an attempt to form a transatlantic exchange of ideas between the Old and New Worlds but today it is widely viewed as a right-wing journal that’s critical of issues such as mass immigration and European integration. Recent specials include a focus on French-Jewish history and identity, as well as a celebration of the enduring soft power of bordeaux wine.

This quarterly magazine was founded in 1978 by two intellectual titans: philosopher Raymond Aron and economist Jean-Claude Casanova. Today, Commentaire is a liberal publication headquartered on rue des Saints-Pères, a stone’s throw from the rive gauche. Its motto is from Thucydides: “There can be neither happiness without liberty, nor liberty without courage.”

To learn more about the French capital’s print culture, pick up a copy of the ‘Monocle Paris Newspaper’, which is out now.

Monocle Radio / Monocle on Design

3 Days of Design 2024

The Monocle team reflects on Copenhagen’s 3 Days of Design festival. We visit the Danish capital’s showrooms, galleries and exhibitions, where a host of leading designers and brands are presenting their latest and greatest wares. We hear from the likes of Kasper Simonsen, Maria Bruun, Bill Amberg and Paula Day.


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