Thursday, August 25, 2011

Traveling Back to the Future on Intercity Buses


"While the Obama administration has been desperately seeking to spend $53 billion on so-called high-speed rail lines, private businessmen have developed Chinatown and Megabus lines that provide inter-city service that has attracted legions of price-conscious travelers.

Private bus operators have effectively taken a 100-year-old technology, the bus, and adapted it seamlessly to the 21st century. Compare high-speed rail. It is tethered to enormous stations that must be built or refurbished and limited to particular routes that, once the rails are laid down, cannot be changed except at prohibitive expense.

And it is enormously costly. In just two years, the estimated cost of the Obama administration's pet project, California high-speed rail, in the Central Valley has risen from $7.1 billion to $13.9 billion. Oxford economist Bent Flyvbjerg has found that high-speed rail projects always end up costing more, usually far more, than estimates. In addition, operating costs almost always end up higher than fares. And fares always turn out to be expensive, comparable to airfare if you book a popular flight the day before your trip.

So high-speed rail is a form of transportation on which government subsidizes business travelers. You don't see backpackers anymore on the Acela or Amtrak trains from Washington to New York. They're taking the Chinatown bus or one of its competitors.
Finally, most of the high-speed rail lines the Obama administration is touting are a whole lot slower than France's TGV or Japan's bullet train. You can beat the proposed Minneapolis-Duluth line by going just slightly over the speed limit on I-35. The proposed line from the college town of Iowa City to Chicago would take longer than the currently operating bus service.

So the private sector provides cheap intercity transportation while government struggles to waste $53 billion. Please remind me which is the wave of the future."

51 Comments:

At 8/26/2011 12:25 AM, Blogger Bruce Oksol said...

I Amtrak on a regular basis; occasionally cross-country on Greyhound (no longer owned by original Greyhound).

I recently saw these $1 buses. They are awesome.

We will never have high speed rail; trains need to slow down going through urban areas; too much litigation if any accident.

I love Amtrak but it will never be high speed. I take the Empire Builder from Chicago to Seattle/Portland often, and if we get to destination on same day as scheduled arrival, we consider it "on time." Generally four to six hours late. In winter, at least 12 hours late.

 
At 8/26/2011 4:49 AM, Blogger Larry G said...

I understand that high speed rail in Asia is PROFITABLE!

but if you think intercity-rail is too expensive.. ask yourself how well a place like NYC would function if they shut down intercity-rail.

it's GOD-awful expensive..no question about it.. but is there a single city in the world that has shut down their inter-city rail and gone to non-rail transit?

 
At 8/26/2011 4:59 AM, Blogger Innovation rules said...

Barone actually has part of it wrong; Obama has offered to subsidize a number of high speed lines, including one in Chicago.

Virtually none of them meet existing bus times at much greater cost, and that is only comparing current plans on cost and service. And we all know how those plans go.

 
At 8/26/2011 6:04 AM, Blogger juandos said...

"but if you think intercity-rail is too expensive.. ask yourself how well a place like NYC would function if they shut down intercity-rail"...

Who cares? If a collection of citizens are so dumb as to elect Blomberg as mayor then maybe they should also take responsibility, total responsibility for their own inter-city rail system...

 
At 8/26/2011 6:14 AM, Blogger Larry G said...

" Who cares?"

how many cities in the world have intercity transit?

how many have done away with it?

how many mayors have run on a promise to disband intercity rail?

....reality.. trumps ... ideology... every time....

 
At 8/26/2011 8:24 AM, Blogger morganovich said...

larry-

the real issue is that asia and europe work the opposite way we do.

their highways move freight, and their rail passengers.

the US is the opposite. our rail is mostly freight.

freight and high speed passenger trains simply do not mix.

with a population as dispersed as ours, moving people by car makes more sense. trains do a poor job with suburbs.

i'm not sure about the asian trains, but the european ones lose money hand over fist. (and really are not that cheap to take for any distance)

regarding intra city rail, the answer is: it depends.

subways and el's tend to work. urban light rail is mostly a cost ineffective disaster.

the light surface rail in SF loses STACKS of money. same in pheonix, portland, and most others.

can you name an intra city surface light rail line that is profitable? i'm not sure i can.

maybe boston? (though that's not really intra city, it runs outside as well)

BART in the bay area loses cash hand over fist.

i think you may be misinterpreting "reality". just because mayors like to point at light rail as a "look what i did" accomplishment doesn't mean it makes any financial sense.

even the new york subway faces chronic deficits despite repeated price hikes.

 
At 8/26/2011 8:45 AM, Blogger juandos said...

"how many mayors have run on a promise to disband intercity rail?"...

Again, who cares? Why should someone in a rural area or a small town have people in an urban area leech off of him or her for part of their mass transit funding?

How come you liberals always someone else's money to finance your socialist ideas?

 
At 8/26/2011 8:51 AM, Blogger Larry G said...

Morg - I think ALL RAIL loses money the same way that K-12 schools and law enforcement "lose" money.

it boils down to whether or not you feel what things should be paid for with taxes and what things should be paid for with user fees.

I'm not sure about your idea about Europe/Asia/US freight, passenger modal splits...

convince me....

every major industrialized city - in the world us, Europe, Asia - has urban passenger rail.. right?

what major urban cities in the world do not?

3rd world ones... right?

 
At 8/26/2011 8:59 AM, Blogger Larry G said...

"how many mayors have run on a promise to disband intercity rail?"...

Again, who cares? Why should someone in a rural area or a small town have people in an urban area leech off of him or her for part of their mass transit funding?

about 3cents of the fed gas tax goes to transit....

but you'd be wrong if you think it goes only to urban rail.. or even urban....

a good bit of it goes to rural...

next time you see a community services van hauling the elderly to medical appointments... or others who can't afford cars to their jobs... or community colleges...

but we're probably going to find out because right now the highway trust fund is not only broke but requires subsidies form the general fund and there is sentiment in both parties to make the Fed gas tax stay within it's funding stream and if it does that.. many transit and rail will lose subsidies...

and I'm going to shock you here...

maybe they should lose them and let the locality decide if they can afford transit...

there's also sentiment from the same group that the interstate highways are in sad shape and that tolling is the way forward.

so all those urban beltways are going to end up like Washingtons... with HOT Lanes, eh?

you should like that... the highway becomes a 'market' where supply and demand determines cost.

good stuff!

 
At 8/26/2011 9:02 AM, Blogger juandos said...

" I think ALL RAIL loses money the same way that K-12 schools and law enforcement "lose" money"...

Well tax dollars extorted for public schools in this country have shown to be at best a questionable expenditure if the results are anything to go by...

 
At 8/26/2011 9:16 AM, Blogger morganovich said...

larry-

i completely disagree.

transport is a perfect example of a system that should be "user pays".

hell, it really ought to be privatized. that's how tokyo's subway runs.

it works.

why do i want to pay taxes to get you to work and subsidize systems for which there is not enough demand to actually justify them?

if your ride costs $5 and you pay $2, of course it seem like a great deal to you, but unless you are really willing to pay $5 for it, then money is being wasted.

$5 is spent to create something valued at $3.

you then raise the example of schools. i think that's a bad example. there ought to be no public schools. they are a disaster, badly run, and have regional monopolies that keep them from ever providing value for money.

to take $12,600 per student per year and provide crappy education is inexcusable. $250 per class of 20 should get you absolutely top flight education.

just as in transport, the problem is that we are paying 12.6k and getting 3k in value with no mechanism to correct the problem.

i will even go along with the idea that the education of children is a public good. kids come with money. parents decide where to spend it on school.

you'd have the US system turned around in no time.

getting you to work is NOT a public good though. that's up to you. you use, you pay. there are very few systems that ought not be "user pays".

the whole idea of creating a system that deliberately provides $3 in value for $5 in cost seems absurd to me.

 
At 8/26/2011 9:17 AM, Blogger morganovich said...

regarding us and euro rail, warren meyer is a big buff on this.

read his stuff:

http://www.google.com/search?ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&q=rail+freight+passeneger&btnG=Google+Search&sitesearch=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.CoyoteBlog.com%2F&domains=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.CoyoteBlog.com%2F#hl=en&domains=http://www.CoyoteBlog.com/&sitesearch=http://www.CoyoteBlog.com/&sa=X&ei=p6hXTqj3KpHXiALIpLyUCQ&ved=0CEsQvwUoAQ&q=rail+freight+passenger&spell=1&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.&fp=8382c5627813d148&biw=1839&bih=897

 
At 8/26/2011 9:20 AM, Blogger morganovich said...

http://www.economist.com/node/16636101

more on why high speed rial will not work here and the harm it will do to freight.

the US has the best rail freight system in the world.

europe's is a fragmented, money losing mess.

the last thing we want is to emulate it.

 
At 8/26/2011 10:06 AM, Blogger Paul said...

href="OF ALL the high-speed train services around the world, only one really makes economic sense—the 550km (340-mile) Shinkansen route that connects the 35m people in greater Tokyo to the 20m residents of the Kansai cluster of cities comprising Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto and Nara. At peak times, up to 16 bullet trains an hour travel each way along the densely populated coastal plain that is home to over half of Japan’s 128m people."

Here in Phoenix, we have a new rail system. According to Warren Meyer, "the City of Phoenix could have (instead of building this system) given a new Prius to every regular daily rider and provided him or her with enough gas to drive 10,000 miles a year, and we still would have saved two-thirds of the capital cost and half the annual operating subsidy of the system."

And the cars could have driven anywhere,carried gear,and drove exactly to the desired location.

 
At 8/26/2011 10:11 AM, Blogger Larry G said...

anyone support toll roads?

this guy does... user pays you know...

 
At 8/26/2011 10:22 AM, Blogger morganovich said...

larry-

what's the problem with toll roads/a gasoline tax to fund roads?

both are user pays systems.

this is how nearly all roads are paid for right now:

user pays.

in many cases, they ran tolls until the roads were paid for, then use gas taxes for maintenance.

what would be a better solution than that?

 
At 8/26/2011 10:30 AM, Blogger Larry G said...

what's the problem with toll roads/a gasoline tax to fund roads?

both are user pays systems.

you see what happens to the Fed gas tax - right?

but worse than that - the 17cent fed gas tax is worth 8 cents in today's dollars - and about 80% of people are opposed to increasing the gas tax.

then as more and more gas efficient cars come online - the gas tax is dead... it only really worked when gas was cheap and cars got crappy mileage.

what would be better?

TOLLS... private sector tolls...

public roads are socialism...

the best user pays is when you as a user pay per use...

the gas tax is pretty much dead... it will barely pay for maintenance and even then only because we're doing it on the cheap ...

most roads are in not good shape... these days and some are in miserable shape and a bunch of our bridges are downright scary.

With the advent of EZ-pass.. all of us can pay - per use... and not have to worry about the money being stolen and given to some city for a godawful expensive light rail system.

you know you agree .... :-)

 
At 8/26/2011 10:56 AM, Blogger morganovich said...

larry-

i don't even have the slightest idea what side of this debate you are on.

that last comment is pretty incoherent.

first off, your numbers and assumptions are bad.

the gas tax is 18.4c/gal, raised in february, so clearly, it can be raised. it's 24.4c for diesel.

your comments on roads being in bad shape is largely a non sequitor.

that is NOT true of federal roads. i just drove Rt 80 san francisco to park city.

it's in great shape with lots of new sections just paved and work going on now.

the roads that are in bad shape are mostly urban. that's because city budgets steal the money that is supposed to go to roads (auto registration, parking, parking permits, taxes on parking lots etc) and use it for other purposes.

what they need is a ring fence on the money. DOT's get stolen from more than pretty much anyone, and unlike social security, they don't even get IOU's.

i don't have any problem with private toll roads. seems like a fine solution, though it does have some challenges.

hard to say if it would be cheaper in the long run. DOT's are notoriously inefficient, but for profit businesses demand a return and would be getting monopolist status.

if they took over rt 95, they would own the only way from nyc to DC other than back roads.

no one could ever afford to build a parallel competing road. the land costs alone would be impossible.

you need to be a bit careful with that.

once owned, they could triple prices and let quality go to hell.

what else you going to use?

not all public goods are socialism.

if you have a public boat ramp that costs $25 a year to get a sticker to use and pays for itself that way, how is that socialism?

if you build a bridge and pay for it with a toll, how is that socialism?

socialism involves taking from unwilling non users to pay others.

a government toll road does not do that.

i can't tell if you are trying to be sarcastic or just really have not thought this through at all.

 
At 8/26/2011 11:06 AM, Blogger Benjamin said...

These busses could easily run on CNG, and many already do. Seems like a better way to go than trains.

 
At 8/26/2011 11:13 AM, Blogger NormanB said...

HSR. The transport reporter for the uber-Liberal SF Chronical emailed me to say that there are no valid projections for fares and ridership for Calif's HSR. Maybe they'll have one next year. So, all of the talk about HSR is qualative, oooohhhh we'll have HSR just like Europe and Asia.

About Asia, especially Japan, the govt build the thing and then when business went so bad they just gave it to a private company to run. So, without capital costs who couldn't make a buck.

For the responder that said this shouldn't make money, like the highways, etc. Maybe not. But we should have valid projections on what the subsidies will have to be. Here in Calif we do not have that number. No, we don't want to bring that up to the public. Sell us on the 'feeling' of it.

A major proponet of HSR likened it to the building of the Golden Gate Bridge which had lots of detractors and worked. But that's the wrong analogy. The right one is to the SST where $25B in current dollars was lost, lost, lost.

With regards to these MegaBusses I'd like to see a very rigorous analysis of what these would cost, even with subsidies and compare it to the HSR projections. Who knows which one would work.

But HSR like Global Warming is being obfuscated by the pols. There is lots of info they are keeping from us and the Liberal media doesn't dig in because they are all in this scam together.

(Sorry for this length for those who got this far.)

 
At 8/26/2011 1:15 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

norman-

i was living in CA when that ballot measure went through.

it was obvious smoke and mirrors.

i remember thinking that the cost projections were likely only 20% of what they would really be.

but, it's a vanity project and once you start, you just keep asking for more money. 20% of a train system is worth ZERO and it's easier to get people to throw good money after bad than to get them to pony up a huge amount up front.

it's the public policy equivalent of a check-reraise in poker.

 
At 8/26/2011 2:17 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

I was not aware the Fed gas tax went up... !!!!

how did that happen with polls showing 80% opposed?

where is the tea party when we need them?

at any rate.. even at 18+ cents.. it generates only about half what it used to due to inflation...

but as cars get more and more efficient - and a lot of driving is urban .. where sitting in congestion does not generate great amounts of fuel tax...

my assessment of the roads is one is which I just put 10K on a vehicle going from once coast to the other and back and driving other roads in between.

Some are in decent shape.

Many are not.

I support congestion tolling... because a user fee that just pays a general tax is not the same as one where you pay per use and you are charged according to the intensity of your use because congested urban roads cost a whale of a lot more to widen that rural roads.

I also support cordon tolls.... and time of day tolls...

 
At 8/26/2011 2:30 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

"at any rate.. even at 18+ cents.. it generates only about half what it used to due to inflation...

but as cars get more and more efficient - and a lot of driving is urban .. where sitting in congestion does not generate great amounts of fuel tax... "

that does not necessarily matter.

what matters is what it looks like relative to DOT costs.

also remember, state impose gasoline taxes too. it's not just federal.

they needed more money when they were building the federal highway system.

building costs more than maintaining.

so, it may be an issue, but it's not necessarily one.

my father worked in highway safety selling retro-reflective materials and later movable barriers to DOT's. his impression is that they have plenty of revenue, it's just that it all gets stolen.

i don't have any problem with experimenting with various kinds of user pays.

clearly, we now have much better technology to do so.

my only caveat there is that it needs to be simple enough that it's easy to understand.

make the pricing so hideously complex that it takes a physics phd to figure out how to drive well, and you have a new issue.

utah has an interesting program like this.

they have HOV lanes on the highways.

you can use them even driving alone, but you have to pay. the price changes depending on time of day and traffic and is posted on roadside signs.

this seems a very rational and forward looking approach to pricing.

i have no idea how much use it gets/if it generates money, but it's an interesting idea.

 
At 8/26/2011 2:44 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

what's a "cordon toll"?

you mean like london?

that gets a little trickier.

now you are managing behavior, not just getting users to pay costs.

it costs no more to drive on a downtown street than a rural one.

there is more demand and it causes congestion, sure, but i get nervous around these sorts of things.

they tend to become the thin end of wedges.

once you tell the feds it's OK to deliberately manipulate your behavior, i worry about what their next "great idea" will be.

FWIW, i feel the same way about helmet and seatbelt laws.

i support the use of both and personally use both.

but though i think its a good idea, i do not support such laws. it's a personal decision.

you're safer with a seatbelt, sure, but you'd live longer if you stopped drinking beer and ate more veggies and fewer fried foods too, how would you feel about a law about that?

governments never get a new power then don't try it out in new areas.

it's easier to stop this stuff up front than to try to roll it back later.

 
At 8/26/2011 2:57 PM, Blogger indie said...

It's never about what's most efficient. It's about how we all collectively come together and build a towering system, take a step back and marvel at our own virtue with other people's money.

 
At 8/26/2011 3:33 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

what matters is what it looks like relative to DOT costs.

well DOT costs have gone up with inflation...that's a fact...

also remember, state impose gasoline taxes too. it's not just federal.

they do.. but it's the same problem... except for the few that index the tax.

they needed more money when they were building the federal highway system.

building costs more than maintaining.

so, it may be an issue, but it's not necessarily one.

maintaining rural interstates is less than construction... but maintaining urban interstates where you cannot close them down except at night and then have to open them back up in the morning is significantly more expensive.

One lane mile of new rural interstate costs 10-20 million. One lane mile of new urban interstate starts at 50 and goes to well over 100 million.

my father worked in highway safety selling retro-reflective materials and later movable barriers to DOT's. his impression is that they have plenty of revenue, it's just that it all gets stolen.

the keep the bulk of it..

the problem is inflation has reduced the buying power and fuel efficient cars use much less fuel and pay much less tax...

i don't have any problem with experimenting with various kinds of user pays.

clearly, we now have much better technology to do so.

my only caveat there is that it needs to be simple enough that it's easy to understand.

it's super easy with EZ-Pass.

you put that little booger on the windshield in front of your rear view.. and pay your monthly bill.

make the pricing so hideously complex that it takes a physics phd to figure out how to drive well, and you have a new issue.

you mean for variable pricing...
overhead signs tell you what the current toll is.. and now cell phone apps can...

utah has an interesting program like this.

they have HOV lanes on the highways.

you can use them even driving alone, but you have to pay. the price changes depending on time of day and traffic and is posted on roadside signs.

right. they are some different variants but it's called road pricing. Some are fixed. Some vary by schedule and some vary by congestion levels.

this seems a very rational and forward looking approach to pricing.

I agree and recent polls have shown more support for tolls rather than taxes.. in part because you know what you are getting and you know the money is not be diverted...(stolen).

i have no idea how much use it gets/if it generates money, but it's an interesting idea.

The Va side of the beltway and 10 miles of I-95 south are all being converted to HOT (HOV with pay option) and it will come online in 2012.

 
At 8/26/2011 3:33 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

I'm surprised that Mr. Perry has not source a couple of Blog threads on this...

 
At 8/26/2011 3:51 PM, Blogger Seth said...

I enjoy mass transit debates.

In my locale, the idea comes up every couple of years. Supporters seems to gloss over or neglect a few things:

- In my locale, bus ridership is low. It seems like the most flexible mass transit should be able to provide evidence of high demand routes, but they don't.

- Big cities with trains also have buses. Lots of them. And people ride them.

- My city use to have street cars and trains. They were partly responsible for the growth of the suburbs in the early 1900s. They went out of business for good reasons. There were better alternatives.

The true test is asking these folks if they would invest their own money in such a project if it were a private venture. No way! It's only a good idea when its other peoples money. Of course, Milton Friedman's four ways to spend money proven yet again.

 
At 8/26/2011 4:18 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

I think the situation n Japan and Singapore is that the rail system was bult, went broke, was acquired or bailed out by government, which subsequently re-sold the assets at a fraction of what they cost to build.

NOW the rail system is profitable, but that is because the current owners did not have to actually pay for it.

 
At 8/26/2011 4:19 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

It does not matter if anyplace has dismantled intercity rail. The question is why would yu build more?

 
At 8/26/2011 4:32 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

The true test is asking these folks if they would invest their own money in such a project if it were a private venture.

==================================

I like the rail supporters who claim we need rail because autos do not pay their full social costs. Then they expect to pay for rail with additional taxes on autos.

In DC, Metro could not survive without autos, because it depends on the income from the thousands of parking spaces it provides, plus tolls from the Dullest Toll roads, and a 2% additional local gas tax.

And auto drivers are willing to pay these fees, because they hope someone else will ride the rails and make their drive that much easier.

Even so, we make a mistake pitting one mode against another. metro does some things very well, but it is not the answer to everything. Likewise with buses.

It is time to start thinking about a holistic transportation system, and at least trying to plan a best overall system. The bus operators alone, cannot do that.

What about jitneys, or passenger carrying auto transporters, like a truck version of the autotrain? How about every airport has an integrated bus (and maybe train terminal)?

And how about we let those bus drivers sleep once in a while?

 
At 8/26/2011 5:23 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"how did that happen with polls showing 80% opposed?"...

Hmmm, makes me wonder if you were paying attention to the whole ObamaCare scam was being foisted off onto a public that didn't want it Larry...

 
At 8/26/2011 5:35 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

votes have consequences but not until the next election..

some Dems did lose their seats over ObamaCare...

 
At 8/26/2011 5:36 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

and of course.. Tom DeLay and company passed a taxpayer-subsidized prescription drug give away.. and as far as I recall there were none thrown out of office for that vote, eh?

double standard?

 
At 8/27/2011 10:12 PM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

>> Please remind me which is the wave of the future.

Unless we revolt, it's the one involving far more government and far more taxation and far less individual choice.

The arrogance of the current government -- not just Obama but at all levels of the bureaucracy, as well, meaning it is cross-electoral groups -- is exponentially increasing.

>:-(

 
At 8/27/2011 10:21 PM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

>>> it's GOD-awful expensive..no question about it.. but is there a single city in the world that has shut down their inter-city rail and gone to non-rail transit?


Larry, are you misusing the term "inter-city" here?

I'd suspect you mean "intra-city".

As far as shutting it down, there are plenty of comparably sized very large cities which don't have any internal rail at all.

Actually shutting it down in many of these places where it exists is kind of like throwing your grandmother under a bus to get away from a crook. It's sufficiently frowned upon in most circles as to make it unpalatable for the political hacks in charge.

For that matter, I live in a college town with buses substantially subsidized by the 60k student population via their "taxes" paid to fund Student Government... The university/SG pay out millions of dollars to them to run extra buses in the area.

Now, I happen to know someone who works as a mechanic. They have 6 bays to work in, and that should allow them to service about 60 buses.

How many buses does the local government run? About 100 in regular service.

What's the solution to this serious maintenance issue?

Increasing the number of bus routes by about 10-15% this academic year.

They're only buying a couple more buses, mind you....

This is how it gets done. The government overpromises, then runs the machines into the ground, then demands more taxes to fix the machines their negligence has caused to fail ahead of time, rather than cutting services to match expenditures.

Central planning at its finest.

 
At 8/27/2011 10:26 PM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

>>> I also support cordon tolls.... and time of day tolls...

I support privatizing road maintenance, and then making retention of the company doing the maintenance a voter issue.

If the company doing maintenance does not get a supermajority of voter approval, then they are ineligible to bid the contract when it comes up, and so is any company led by any of their top officers, for at least 10 years.

Methinks this might do away with state road maintenance crews in which six guys are standing around watching one guy dig a hole.

 
At 8/27/2011 10:35 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

re: central planning...

same kind of planning the airlines and freight rails use... right?

my point is that even if you believe something is a failure - and many folks do believe that urban passenger rail is... not a single city.. across the surface of the earth that has it - has gotten rid of it....

Now you'd think.. that somewhere .. some govt would get rid of it if they felt doing without it was better than with it...

and believing that govt doesn't get rid of it - anywhere - is because govt is corrupt, dumb, inefficient, etc... bad breath..

then are you not essentially saying that govt itself is a failure?

....except.. what's the alternative?

govt in most places is elected by the people.. who can elect people who would promise to disband 'fail rail" but to tell you the truth - I've not seen a single person run on that ... despite all the folks who swing by here to denounce govt and rail.. and other govt-run things.

How many politicians in America would get elected to office if they promised to shut down urban rail in our cities?

truth now...

I've not seen a single one run on that.. even though..as I said ..we have a bunch of folks who say it fails..

so why is that?

I think it is because that anyone who thinks that ..knows.. the'd not get elected... and that implies to me that a majority of people actually support it...

what other explanation is there?

 
At 8/27/2011 10:50 PM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

>> same kind of planning the airlines and freight rails use... right?

No, it's not.

There are multiple companies and they compete to provide the best services, for the most part, except where someone has managed to rig the game to make them the sole provider. This almost always involves government fiat, essentially extending the government's monopoly on force into an arena of little social value.

There are rare exceptions (so-called "natural" monopolies), but even there, the best system seems to be public ownership with universal private operations over the same equipment.

Only governments can truly operate with "central" planning. Even "created monopolies" go the OPEC route, and sooner or later one or more of the monopoly members, themselves attempting to induce a government-like control over the resource in question, wind up cheating and backstabbing for a competitive edge.

It takes a real government to eph up the natural "survival of the fittest" order of the universe.

 
At 8/27/2011 10:57 PM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

>>> same kind of planning the airlines and freight rails use... right?

If you knew jack about the history of both of them, you'd already have known all that, BTW.

The deregulation of the airlines was a major boon to consumers, in terms of price. The average price of an airline ticket, in terms of constant dollars, is a fraction of what it was in the 60s, when the government handed out airline routes like lollipops to "the right" airlines.

Now it's hit a nadir as everyone cuts services to attempt to get an edge, but that will right itself in time, with different airlines diversifying, much like cars -- this airline provides more space, but the tickets cost more, that airline provides less hassle in boarding and such, by pre-vetting their clientele, and so forth. You will, eventually, have a Lexus Coupe airline, a Buick Sedan Airline, and a Ford Econobox airline, and likely a couple of each.

Freight rail is about 70 years further along, I think. Some haulers handle large bulk stuff -- ore and such. Others handle refrigerated stuff, and still others move big equipment. Each handles things in terms of the cargo containers they own, which are tracked and "pointed to" a vast array of locations using locos run by still another company.

 
At 8/27/2011 11:04 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

but EACH airline company is centrally planned.. right?

and CSX and NS are centrally planned - right?

I'm just saying....

all of them have headquarters and top down operations..

 
At 8/27/2011 11:26 PM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

>> Now you'd think.. that somewhere .. some govt would get rid of it if they felt doing without it was better than with it

Dude, inertial effects have far, far more significance in government affairs than they do in anything else.

How often does a government bureacracy get destroyed forever.

Cripes, they couldn't even get rid of Wool And Mohair Price Supports

 
At 8/27/2011 11:39 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

Dude, inertial effects have far, far more significance in government affairs than they do in anything else.

How often does a government bureacracy get destroyed forever.

but geeze... across the entire world there is not a single example of a "good" govt?

I mean guy.. what's the alternative?

govt is elected.. and even gets overthrown... so it's not like the opportunity doesn't exist to change it.

I have to believe that govt keeps city rail because people support it.

It would seem to me that if people were opposed to it that it would be easy for a candidate to promise to get rid of it and get elected.

Instead. I believe that any politician that promised to get rid of it would not get elected.

that's what I mean when I say ..no govt anywhere has gotten rid of it.

people want city rail... it's as simple as that... elected govt reflects that sentiment.

 
At 8/27/2011 11:52 PM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

>> but geeze... across the entire world there is not a single example of a "good" govt?

No, not really. There's no such thing. Government is a necessary EVIL, not a necessary GOOD.

The solution to it is to keep it as small as possible to prevent overt predation and provide a measure of predictability and reliability of services and contracts.

Most, if not every single one, of the world's significant governments are far, far beyond that.

They could do one TENTH of what they actually do, and their people would be much richer and better off.

THIS nation started falling off the wagon around 1885, by my lights -- around the time idiots were calling for "Free Silver!"

Our most under-rated PotUS was almost certainly Grover Cleveland (from his wiki entry):

==============================
Cleveland faced a Republican Senate and often resorted to using his veto powers.[89] He vetoed hundreds of private pension bills for American Civil War veterans, believing that if their pensions requests had already been rejected by the Pensions Bureau, Congress should not attempt to override that decision.[90] When Congress, pressured by the Grand Army of the Republic, passed a bill granting pensions for disabilities not caused by military service, Cleveland also vetoed that.[91] Cleveland used the veto far more often than any president up to that time.[92] In 1887, Cleveland issued his most well-known veto, that of the Texas Seed Bill.[93] After a drought had ruined crops in several Texas counties, Congress appropriated $10,000 to purchase seed grain for farmers there.[93] Cleveland vetoed the expenditure. In his veto message, he espoused a theory of limited government:

I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution, and I do not believe that the power and duty of the general government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering which is in no manner properly related to the public service or benefit. A prevalent tendency to disregard the limited mission of this power and duty should, I think, be steadfastly resisted, to the end that the lesson should be constantly enforced that, though the people support the government, the government should not support the people. The friendliness and charity of our countrymen can always be relied upon to relieve their fellow-citizens in misfortune. This has been repeatedly and quite lately demonstrated. Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character, while it prevents the indulgence among our people of that kindly sentiment and conduct which strengthens the bonds of a common brotherhood.[94]

===========================

Where the f*** are men like that nowadays???

 
At 8/28/2011 12:04 AM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

I have to believe that govt keeps city rail because people support it.

It would seem to me that if people were opposed to it that it would be easy for a candidate to promise to get rid of it and get elected.


Geez, man how clueless do you have to be?

I gave you a specific example of something almost universally derided -- by people of both parties, of both stripes (left and right), largely unsupported by anyone but its direct beneficiaries -- which actually managed, despite this, to get killed, and still, it re-arose like a freakin' ZOMBIE and came back into existence!

This is the problem with our government -- why it's getting further and further into major financial problems -- you can't freakin' cut ANYTHING permanently!!! Government is like the ephing Blob.

If there is ANYONE to support it, it will find a champion somewhere who can and will use it to get votes, and then it'll come back even if there's no damned rational reason for it to exist AT ALL.

I mean, even light rail has more utility than W&MPS, so there's no freakin' WAY you can kill it even if it had an 80% disapproval rate.

This system has a major flaw, and I suspect Robert Heinlein was right -- we need a two-body Congress -- one to pass laws, one to repeal them... with passage requiring a supermajority of two thirds and repeal requiring a "superminority" -- one third -- the reasoning being that, if one third of the people don't think it should be The Law, then it probably should not be The Law.

I dunno, but that might work for keeping down the size of government.

 
At 8/28/2011 12:32 AM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

BTW, there's an inherent flaw in your reasoning, and that's part of the problem, too.

Just because enough people vote for something does not mean it is or should be The Law.

At one point, a lot of people "voted", in the supportive sense you mean, for slavery. Was that right? Or was it an inappropriate use of franchise? This is not DUH, as anyone of that time frame would argue with you. It comes to the heart of what government is and is supposed to be for/to its peoples.

When you give the people the power to vote themselves Bread and Circuses, then, geee, what a surprise, all too many of them vote for B&C.

That doesn't make it RIGHT.

Because you have the power -- the authority -- to do something does not mean you have the RIGHT to do so -- and taking money out of MY pocket to subsidize YOUR transit needs is a rather specious use of your power of franchise.

As a voter and citizen, you have a direct RESPONSIBILITY to vote against anything you don't have an inherent right to, and that's an awful hell of a lot of what governments currently "provide". Very few exercise their Right of Franchise -- their Authority -- with the attendant Responsibility that comes with it.

Modern politics is all about goodies, never about responsibility. The government does its damned best to hide all its gimmes -- sales tax here, a fine or fee there, and even Income taxes, nowadays, are taken out in such a way that a large percentage of idiots don't grasp that just because you get money back from your tax return does NOT mean you did not "pay taxes".

"One secret to balancing the budget is to remember that all tax revenue is the result of holding a gun to somebody's head. Not paying taxes is against the law. If you don't pay your taxes, you'll be fined. If you don't pay the fine, you'll be jailed. If you try to escape from jail, you''ll be shot. Thus I -- in my role as citizen and voter -- am going to shoot you -- in your role as taxpayer and ripe suck -- if you don;t pay your share of the national tab.
Therefore, every time the government spends money on anything, you have to ask yourself, 'Would I kill my kindly, gray-haired mother for this?' In the case of defense spending, the argument is simple: 'Come on, Gramma, everybody's in this together. If those Canadian hordes come down over the border, we'll all be dead meat. Pony Up.' In the case of helping cripples, orphans, and blind people, the argument is almost as persuasive: 'Granny, I know you don't know these people from Adam, but we've got five thousand years of Judeo-Christian-Muslim-Buddhist-Hindu-Confucian-animist-jungle-God morality going here. Fork over the dough.' But Day care doesn't fly: 'You're paying for the next-door neighbor's baby-sitter, or it's curtains for you, Lady."

- P. J. O'Rourke, 'Parliament of Whores' -

 
At 8/28/2011 5:50 AM, Blogger Larry G said...

"Just because enough people vote for something does not mean it is or should be The Law"

in a representative Democracy it does....

what would you do instead?

install a dictator who is smarter than dumbass voters?

you might have noticed.. that don't work well either... eh?

but when you start saying that around the world.. every govt is a worthless CF - it's a good calibration of where you are on govt in general.

and I'd not disagree with you on a lot of it but at the end of the day... an elected govt is better than an un-elected one...

and for that matter - both elected govt and dictator govts have urban passenger rail... so what kind of govt would you want if not an elected one or a dictatorship?

"smaller" .. is a pretty nebulous term... but surely you can give me a list of the top 3 in the world that are most like what you want. right?

name the 3

 
At 8/28/2011 4:27 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"in a representative Democracy it does...."

But you don't live in a democracy. You may have missed that day in school. Perhaps you were taking a whiz, as Paul suggested.

There is a framework document that defines the US federal government, and enumerates all of its powers, and some of it's limitations. Just because something is voted into being doesn't make it legal. Surely you know all that by now.

 
At 8/28/2011 4:45 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

I caveated with the word "representative".

call it what you want.. it's an ELECTED govt...

 
At 8/28/2011 4:48 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

There is a framework document that defines the US federal government, and enumerates all of its powers, and some of it's limitations. Just because something is voted into being doesn't make it legal. Surely you know all that by now

indeed.. that's why we have SCOTUS but you'd also admit that SCOTUS itself can "interpret" in ways you don't agree with.. eh?

 
At 8/28/2011 8:38 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"call it what you want.. it's an ELECTED govt..."

Actually people are elected. The positions they are elected to are clearly defined by the Constitution, and not open to interpretation.

Although the Constitution has been pretty much ignored for the last 150 years, and government is now way beyond the limits imposed by it, there's no legitimate authority outside of it.

"indeed.. that's why we have SCOTUS but you'd also admit that SCOTUS itself can "interpret" in ways you don't agree with.. eh?"

Absolutely. That's why the SCOTUS isn't the final word on constitutionality.

 

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