How To Do Transit

If you read my blog or listen to my show, you know I’m a huge fan of Kevin Williamson, writer at National Review and author of The End Is Near (And It’s Going To Be Awesome).

One of his book’s (and body of work’s) central theses is that politics is the worst possible way to allocate resources.

Yesterday’s story about the Green Line light rail – which was built as a relatively heavy, relatively high-speed “Light Rail” line down a crowded commercial street entirely due to the desire to play the political subsidy game, and was conceived in the first place less to move people than to re-engineer the layout of the area between the Twin Downtowns – is evidence toward the thesis.

“But if the government doesn’t build things – not just trains, but roads and streets – then who will?”

If people need to go from one place to another, somebody will find a way to get them from point A to point B.

9 thoughts on “How To Do Transit

  1. Years ago, I worked for transit/travel related business. At that time (late 80’s) we had plenty of information at our disposal to determine whether or not it made sense to open (or keep open) a location based on the number of people traveling there. This really is not that hard to determine.
    Why Amtrak doesn’t charge much higher fares for their high demand Northeast Corridor shuttles (between densely packed cities) and abandon their low use Midwest and Western cross country lines is a data point in your thesis regarding allocation of resources by the political process. Honestly, if I didn’t think better of my fellow man, I’d believe all these people are on the take they do things so poorly.
    Lefty commenter noting that this criticism of Lefty transportation infrastructure mismanagement equals wanting the United States to emulate Somalia in three, two, one…

  2. I heard an interview of economics writer Robert Samulsen about Amtrak. It was absolutely jaw dropping. The waste and inefficiency is mind boggling, even in the crowded NE.

  3. Seflores: You speak of mismanagement and miss the point. If you work in government, “mismanagement” is theoretical. How can you “mismanage” something for which you have no accountability? You build it. You suck dollars out of people’s wallets for a few years, you look for a new vein to tap and repeat until it’s time to collect your pension.

    Didn’t you get the memo?

  4. Actually, this is closer to decent transit, but they’re still asking for a cool $1.6 billion in loans to make it work from the government. When any entity asks for loans from the government, it’s a pretty good bet that they were not able to get private financing, and that there are some big holes in their business plan.

    Don’t get me wrong; if in Florida, I’d love to take a train just to see a lot of those grand old hotels. Asking for government loans is a big red flag, though.

  5. BB, they’d end up being mobile coffins. A state doesn’t get the nickname ‘God’s waiting room’ for no reason.

  6. Two points. One, Twin Cities Lines charged 25 cents circa 1965 (plus suburban fare zones), made a profit, meaning those quarters paid for everything. They were in fact upgrading the fleet until the stench of government takeover filled the air.

    Two, I’ve take four weekend Green Line trips (TF to SPUD), supposedly 48 minutes. Actuals: 74, 56, 57, 64.

  7. Indeed, to many (most?) bureaucrats, their spending is that moneys highest or best use. You will not find them asking the question “would this money be better spent elsewhere?”. There is the “they will shrink my budget next year if I don’t blow through this cash now” incentive, and the “at least we do better than [horribly wasteful unit of government]” excuse (which is easy because [HWUOG]s exist all over the place). They will always strive to do more, and spend more, never less, even if what they do it relatively useless.

    Never, ever, feel bad about drastically cutting the budget of a government agency. They NEED the budgeting back-pressure to keep from duplicating functions and buying “the best solution” (read: the most expensive solution) as they grow ever more monstrous. You are doing them a favor, even though they will hate you for it.

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