Monday, March 2, 2009

Labor issues

In the past I've talked about the BRT bait-and-switch, and we just got a refresher on that, courtesy of Streetsblog, from ITDP Director Walter Hook. You can have "BRT" for a fraction of the cost of the Second Avenue Subway, and you can have "BRT" that can move passengers on roughly the same order of magnitude as a subway, but unless the subways are running with gold-plated wheels you can't move subway-like numbers of passengers for a fraction of the cost.

There's no such thing as a free lunch, and anyone who tries to give you one is suspicious. I'm very disappointed to hear this dishonest rhetoric coming from the ITDP, because I know they're telling the same thing to people in Ghana and Honduras, who may not have the same access to information that we do. Are my T.A. membership fees paying for this guy's salary?

There's a similar bait-and-switch that gets talked about with privatization. Private companies can operate transit routes for a fraction of the cost of public agencies, and private companies can provide a level of pay, benefits and support to their workers that's similar to public agencies, but unless there's a really blatant, systemic level of waste, fraud and abuse in the public sector, you can't get the same pay, benefits and support for a fraction of the cost.

There's just no such thing as a free lunch.

More on labor issues coming up.


Greg said...

I always got the impression that in the past (i.e. pre-war) some style of private transit system (or a hybrid of such like we once had in SF) was viable mostly because most people did not own a car, and so more people were likely to use a transit system , vs. after the war when more people could afford a car, could afford to move away from cities, and so on.

I know locally Bauer transit is offering some high-end bus service, but it only goes to a handful of places, and still has to fight traffic like any car does.

It would seem that if you have only a handful of places to go, making money would be easier than if you have to serve a whole population, deal with access for seniors and the disabled, and be obligated to serve the public as a whole, and not just shareholders.

But then again, I'm sure there's a way to try it some other way...I'm always curious to learn more.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the comment on this. It's a good thing Streetsblog isn't planning transit lines for the city