Your Cap'n can be an arrogant sumbitch, but I'm not so arrogant that I believe I'm the first one to think of everything. And with jitneys, I'm not. It turns out that in 1983 New York's commuter vans were the subject of a study at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government by a 24-year-old master's student named Jay Walder.
Walder focused specifically on express van service on Staten Island. He summarized his findings in an article that was published two years later, when he was already working for the MTA Capital Program. He came to five conclusions, as follows:
1. "The vans are not siphoning off revenue from the NYCTA express bus system."
2. "Commuter vans do not have to sacrifice public safety."
3. "The vans were found to have a negative impact on traffic patterns... This problem may be alleviated to some extent by increased use of contra-flow express lanes on connecting highways."
4. "The city could best respond to the commuter vans in a cooperative atmosphere."
5. "The city should reexamine its role in providing express bus service."
Some of these points are no longer valid after twenty-five years, and others were based on inaccurate assumptions and never were quite valid. But the general thrust, expressed most clearly in conclusion 4 - privately owned mass transit is not a threat to be defended against at all cost - is still valid, and it's nice to see that Walder is the kind of person who's open to such ideas. When he worked at Transport for London, he dealt with the privatized system there, so he probably knows as much about private mass transit as anyone who might wind up running the MTA. It'll be interesting to see what he manages to accomplish. I sure hope he doesn't wind up getting thrown to the wolves like Lee Sander.