Of course, our transit system is in dire funding straits, and late-night service is simply not an option for RTA at the moment, and general taxation is a hard sell in this area under even good economic times. So what's to be done?
I propose that the City impose an excise tax on drinks served in restaurants and bars- nothing excessively large, but $0.05 per serving of alcohol should do. (A serving is a pint of beer, a glass of wine, or an ounce of hard liquor.) This would add a nickel to the price of a pint or a glass of wine, 18 cents to a 60oz pitcher, and 13 cents to each martini- probably not enough of a difference that anyone would cut back on their alcohol consumption, but enough to scare up a bit of funding. This funding would be reserved for public transit service, and transit agencies could only tap into the funding if they run service past last call (2am here). The public has consistently shown support for "sin taxes"- look at the continually rising excise taxes on cigarettes, and yet another initiative raising them looks poised to pass this fall. Restaurateurs and barkeeps would be permitted to simply add the extra nickel to each drink (as if they wouldn't anyway) and send in the proceeds with their ordinary sales tax receipts. Those who pay the tax would receive direct benefits in the form of safe, reliable transportation home after a night out. Implemented properly, this policy might even increase sales at bars and restaurants- no more need for one member of the party to remain stubbornly sober, and a flood of car-free collegiate beer drinkers headed downtown to party.
Now, I'm not certain of all of the legal issues surrounding the implementation of this sort of plan, or even if such a tax would raise enough money to pay for late-night transit service. (I can't imagine a skeletal late-night network would cost that much, all things considered, but I have been wrong before.) However, in these budgetary times it's important to be creative while looking for ways to improve our transportation system and urban environment, and it's at least worth a shot.
What do you all think?