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Is Rapid Transit a Train Wreck Waiting to Happen?

I’m in receipt of an article from the New York City Journal that chronicles the disaster that is the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority, the entity that runs New York City buses, trains and subway. By any measure it is a disaster. Read all about it here.

In a nutshell, the story is that the management of the transit system is dysfunctional. It is  $41 billion in debt, nearly three times its annual budget, so much so that it cannot borrow to meet its obligations and update its equipment. NYC isn’t alone. The DC subway system is in a state of disrepair. Los Angeles is spending billions a mile to build an underground that will probably have similar funding problems downstream. Its hard to imagine that other systems aren’t in similar trouble, perhaps not as severe.

Why do we care? We are in the parking business, the car business.

Our betters tell us that the goal has to be to get people out of cars and into rapid transit. Fair enough. But how are we going to do that if the systems we are putting in place have reached a point where they are falling in on themselves. Remember 85% of all commuters take private vehicles to work. And that number hasn’t changed for decades.

The article in the City Journal notes that the desire of different levels of government, city and state, to acquire and retain power has led to the disaster that NYC finds itself in today. Are the leaders of New York so much different than those in DC, Los Angeles or other major cities?

One could say that the problems is mismanagement, but in reality, is it? Could it be that these systems are simply too expensive and that the riders are not willing to pay the cost of their construction and upkeep?

Air travel has flourished and the ticket price has gone down. It seems that the private sector has been able to make that happen. Is it possible that the way to make these huge enterprises that move millions of people daily succeed is the flexibility and focus of the profit motive?

In the meantime we will keep parking cars, and hopefully finding better ways to do it.

JVH

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