Monday, August 30, 2010

Family-size apartments

You know, I've been told that some architects are divorced from reality, but I never knew how much until I read this Washington Post column by University of Maryland professor Roger K. Lewis, helpfully linked by Planetizen. Lewis discusses apartment living, which he rightly identifies as a key aspect of sustainable "smart growth," but argues that "few apartments built today are sufficiently commodious for traditional families."

Really? Most of the new construction here in Queens contains large numbers of two-bedroom apartments. If "cities and city-like environments are destined to be largely child-free," nobody's told the parents who live in the new apartment buildings in Long Island City. The same can be said for new construction in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and Hoboken, New Jersey.

Okay, I can hear half of you saying, but that's New York. The rest of the country does things differently. Well, Lewis did talk about "cities and city-like environments"; are Chicago, Boston and San Francisco really that different? Or is Lewis just writing a local column about the D.C. area? Whatever the reason, you would think a big expert like him would know that we're providing housing for families here, and try to figure out what we're doing differently.

I understand that newspaper columns have length limits, but it would have been nice if Lewis had found the space to give us some statistics, or even a single example of what he's talking about. Instead we have to swim through a jumble of impressionistic generalities and conflated expectations.

What's with this business about "traditional families," anyway? Does Lewis mean traditional Catholic families with six children, or the Ozzie-and-Harriet 2.5-child families, who only became traditional in the 1950s? And if he's going to talk about traditions, why not mention that millions of families have been living in city apartments for over a hundred years? Yes, maybe sometimes they had two or three kids in a two-bedroom apartment, but they made it work, just like my next-door neighbors are doing. The closest Lewis gets is to state that "Architects know how to design apartment environments suitable for families with children." Why not, you know, go to some still-thriving, hundred-year-old apartment neighborhoods and find out what works for families?

There's a bunch of weird logic going on here, too:
Even if big enough, apartments in desirable locations typically are unaffordable. ... Housing demand and the products offered by builders continue to be determined by socioeconomic and geographic pressures, not by design aspirations. Real-world behavior and reliable statistics confirm that middle-class families with kids want single-family homes in suburbs and exurbs with presumably better public schools and with more house and land for the money. Unsubsidized apartments built today are almost exclusively designed for and marketed to people without school-age children.

Well, it's not entirely true that these apartments are unaffordable. Lewis makes no mention of the transit bonus that was reported in his own paper a few months back. Basically, you can afford to spend a lot more on housing if you don't have to drive everywhere. But let's assume that even with the housing bonus, some of these neighborhoods are expensive.

Lewis makes no effort to square this idea of middle-class families wanting single-family homes with the statement that family-friendly apartments are unaffordable. If nobody wants these family-sized apartments, why are they so expensive? Or, if they're so lucrative, why don't people build more of them? I've heard this one before, and it's pretty clear that Lewis is just parroting a bunch of received wisdom here.

There are two ways out of that paradox. The first is that middle-class families may want housing that's (a) large (b) cheap (c) served by good schools (d) single-family (e) a "desirable location", but they don't necessarily want the entire package, and they may very well be willing to sacrifice one or two to get the others - or for some of the valuable features of urban living, like greater convenience, walkability or interesting neighborhoods. Walkability is the biggest - giving the kids the freedom to walk to their friends' apartments, or to the playground. We're not just raising kids in the city to save the planet.

The second is that there's something distorting the market, keeping the supply of family-size apartments lower than demand and the supply of houses higher, and that something is well-documented: the zoning codes that control housing in most of the country. New York works because our zoning allows mixed-use apartment buildings.

Another market distortion comes in the form of transportation funding. Even though commuting by transit may be cheaper, in many parts of the country it's less convenient than driving. Most governments spend many times more subsidizing sprawl-feeding highways than they do on city-nurturing transit. Here again is something that New York does better than the rest of the country.

Lewis spends a lot of time talking about schools, and in that area as well, governments tend to spend a lot more per child on suburban schools than on urban ones.

Lewis ends with a call for "financial incentives" for building family-friendly apartments. "Counties would have to subsidize development by directly or indirectly reducing the per-unit cost of land, and by providing tax breaks for developers and occupants." This is a kludge. Reduce the subsidies for sprawl, and you won't need counter-subsidies for urban living.

This column seems to be on the right side of things - encouraging relatively dense apartment living - but is muddled, ill-informed and seems to bizarrely point the finger at "smart growth advocates" for encouraging apartment living without doing something about the subsidies. If I ever become a professor emeritus, do I get to put out half-baked pontifications like this without doing any research?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Black swans over Long Island

Last week Planet Money had a great "Deep Read" with economist Nassim Taleb. Taleb's major point is that when you're vulnerable to "black swans" - rare and unpredictable, but high impact events - you need to invest in reserves and redundancy to be able to survive them.

It's an argument that all transportation providers should pay attention to, but railroads in particular are dependent on linear infrastructure. The current mess with the Long Island Railroad's switches in Jamaica show that at least one railroad isn't getting it.

The vast majority of train trips on the LIRR go through Jamaica. That's great for transfers, but it sucks for redundancy. You would think they'd have a backup plan, but apparently the MTA prefers to let the riders - and the taxpayers - bear the full brunt of any black swans that affect Jamaica.

Yup, that's the kind of perverse thinking the public authority structure encourages. If we had a sane system, Helena Williams' head would already be on a pike for giving public property to Bruce Ratner for nothing. Well, if we had a sane system, Williams would probably never have been allowed anywhere near the top post, and maybe we'd have someone competent actually running the railroad.

But now it's time to pull out a game I like to play whenever there's a major, but avoidable outage that affects millions of people: what if the people in power actually gave a shit? In this case, what if they wanted to build redundancy into the Long Island Railroad? What if the government had a giant Keynsian stimulus program, and money were no object?

Ideally, the Central Railroad of Long Island, which ran from Flushing to Floral Park along the route of what's now the Brooklyn-Queens Greenway, would never have been torn up. It could potentially be reconstructed, or a southern bypass created under Rockaway and Linden Boulevards. Even a through connection in Jamaica bypassing the main station there would prevent some events from completely disrupting service.

If we give up on a rail-based solution, then a bus-based one is the next best thing. If I were the LIRR president, on Monday I would have sat down with the heads of Long Island Bus, the MTA Bus Company and New York City Transit to get every available bus running parallel routes.

I would also have gotten on the phone with Long Island Transit, Hampton Jitney, Joel Azumah and any other licensed operators interested in providing temporary service. I would have told them to take anyone who showed them an unused LIRR ticket, and paid them by the mile. If I were the Governor, I would have ordered the State DOT to set up bus-only lanes on the LIE so that those buses wouldn't all be sitting in traffic.

A real powerful response like that would have earned back some of the LIRR's customer loyalty that's been eroded over the years, and made it more likely that Long Island's representatives will support the MTA in the future. Instead - from a Governor who grew up on Long Island - we got lame excuses, finger-pointing and stranded customers.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Sustenance: A glorious workers' enterprise

Matt Yglesias writes:
I feel certain that if Financial Times did an article about how some country’s determination to provide free bags of rice to all its citizens was leading people to spend a huge amount of time standing on line waiting for rice, that they would highlight the fact that this is what happens when you don’t price things correctly. There’s only so much rice. There are only so many hander-outers of rice. If you try to make the rice free to everyone, you’re going to get lines and shortages.

At any rate, as Clive Cookson points out in the FT a comparable problem exists on most countries’ roadways...

Oh, no: crop failure ahead, or a hijacked shipment? You've just joined a bread (or tortilla or tô) queue that stretches as far ahead as you can see. After an hour of crawling forward in a stop-start fashion, suddenly the queue starts flowing freely - with no sign of anything that could have caused the disruption.

Across the worker's paradise and beyond, the phenomenon of the phantom bread line stagnation will have disrupted many long shopping trips this month. The way this stop-go wave, which brings with it frustration for everyone from private comrades to professional queuers, can form out of nothing is becoming one main subject of investigation by the growing band of scientists and engineers who study queue dynamics in the hope of easing the way people obtain the goods they are entitled to. This research forms the basis of a courageous people's undertaking.

Edvard Vilyemovich, a professor at Bristol State University, takes as an example the distribution of bread in the west of England. "At the People's Glorious Bakery of Bristol you can track individual stop-go waves rolling down the distribution line for 50 or 60 days, at a speed of about 12 loaves per hour," he says. "The entire distribution path from the bakery to the citizen can be stop-go."

Scientists are beginning to understand the conditions governing the flow of goods that are liable to cause a phantom stagnation, also known as a "stagniton" (by analogy with soliton, a type of wave). Their work will help the authorities control distribution in a way that cuts the risk of a queue with no cause, with benefits both to citizens and to babushkas.

Research into phantom stagnation is part of a glorious worldwide effort to apply science and technology to stagnation reduction, at a time when our great leader's plans have caused small disruptions to the availability of foodstuffs, or indeed for clothing and household goods. Even where grain is plentiful, meat is less so.

Estimates of the total sacrifice of stagnating queues, including wasted time and cigarettes, are taking away from the people's enterprises in the USSR, and a similar amount in Europe. The CBI, Britain's worker's collective, says the state loses billions of hours a year through stagnation - a figure that is likely to double within 15 years on present trends.

"For too long, Britain's queues have been a cause of frustrations and delays for our babushkas and workers," says Ivan Kridlov, CBI deputy general secretary. "Now is the time for fresh thinking. We need a radical overhaul of how we distribute and mange our food system."

"Intelligent goods management becomes critical as our infrastructure becomes more heavily used," says Tomas Rabinovich of the British People's Distribution Engineering Initiative. "We must use existing queues more effectively."

The BPDEI is one of hundreds of collectives worldwide, big and small, striving for excellence in intelligent distribution systems. They range from small working groups to IBM, the USSR-based computer collective that has made "smart distribution" a priority.

Large amounts of public funding are going into intelligent distribution research too. For example, the Workers' Technology Strategy Board is spending 40m rubles over five years to develop technologies to reduce waiting, says Mikhail Kemkharpov, its senior distribution technologist. The glorious workers' enterprise is worth the heart and soul of the state.

Serious mathematical study of queue waiting times started as an offshoot of mathematical physics...

Okay, I give up. How the hell can you write 2400 words and devote just 29 to the possibility that this service may just be a tad underpriced?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Farebox data for Long Island Bus

Back in February, I discussed the farebox recovery ratios of bus routes within New York City. Now commenter George K has prepared a guest post based on the data for Long Island Bus.

New York City's relatively high farebox recovery ratios can be explained by a combination of factors. One is the higher density within the boundaries of New York City compared with the suburban-type density of Nassau County. Another factor is the abundance of autoless households within NYC that are essentially transit-dependent.

Nassau County lacks both of these features. With a population density of 4,735 people per square mile (according to City-Data) and rates of auto ownership of close to 90%, Nassau County is very auto-centric.

Since there was only one route that turned an operating surplus (the N40/N41), I have decided to group the routes into categories based on their overall farebox recovery ratios (Note: This is before the service reductions were implemented).

>100%: N40/N41

75%-100%: N6

50%-75%: N4, N15, N16, N22, N23, N24, N31/N32, N35, N43, N48/N49, N58, N70/N71/N72

25%-50%: N1, N2, N3, N17, N19, N20/N21, N25, N26, N27, N28, N33, N36, N45, N46/N47, N54/N55, N57, N62 Industrial, N65, N79, N88, N94

<25%: N8, N14, N50, N51, N53, N62, N66, N67, N73/N74, N80, N81, N87, N93, N95

I notice a pattern in each category:

>100%: The N40/N41 connect the Freeport, Hempstead, and Mineola Long Island Railroad stations, essentially providing a crosstown service. These lines run perpendicular to the Long Island Railroad, connecting 3 major transit hubs.

75%-100%: The N6 runs between the Jamaica Transit Hub in Queens and the Hempstead Long Island Railroad station. Once again, the N6 feeds into 2 major transit hubs and goes into New York City where, as mentioned earlier, there is a higher population density, and a higher proportion of autoless households.

50%-75%: These routes are generally oriented towards the western part of Nassau County. Some of these routes (the N4, N22, N24, and N31/N32) go into Queens and connect with the subway. Others, like the N15 and N16 connect minor hubs (like Rockville Center and West Hempstead), and run on corridors with enough demand to be split between bus routes (like the N70/N71/N72)

25%-50%: These routes tend to radiate out of major transit hubs into areas with less demand.

<25%: These routes are the “coverage” routes, many of which have been eliminated. These routes tend to go from sparsely populated areas into minor hubs, meaning that there isn’t a lot of demand in those corridors.

As the Cap'n stated in another post about the G train, subsidizing transit would be more efficient if competing highways weren't also subsidized. On Long Island, there are a lot of open highways, which are much more attractive than buses in Nassau County. As a result, everybody suffers. Transit users suffer because only the bare minimum of service is provided and auto users suffer because they end up having to pay taxes because the farebox revenue doesn’t cover as much of the operating costs as it should.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

More on the livery van program

In the comments to my last post, Martin Evelyn (apparently a spokesperson for the Taxi and Limousine Commission) directed me to this PDF soliciting involvement in the TLC's pilot livery van program. Thanks, Martin! There's a bunch of interesting information in there.

First, as Martin pointed out, vans intended to fill in for the former B39 route will not be restricted to shuttling across the Williamsburg Bridge. The solicitation invites vans to travel throughout "An area running from Williamsburg through the Lower East Side to Union Square, including the area served by the former B39." This does in fact allow the kind of "hipster jitneys" that I proposed - from the parts of central and south Williamsburg that are not served by the L train to the East Village and eastern Soho, for example.

Second, that language is only used for the B39, indicating that that route is particularly challenging for a private operator running non-wheelchair-accessible vans.

Third, "The TLC expects to approve no more than three participants per service area." In other words, these are not exclusive contracts, but licenses to compete in a particular area. If the Transport Workers' Union really does run vans down Union Street with laid-off MTA drivers, will they face competition from other operators?

Fourth, as Martin also took pains to point out, "Although the TLC anticipates designating certain fixed stopping points within the service areas, drivers can arrange other drop-off locations individually with passengers on each trip." The wording is vague as to whether the other drop-off locations have to be within the service areas. For example, if someone on a van in "the area served by the former B71 (Park Slope, Carroll Gardens, Prospect Heights)" asks the driver to go through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel and drop her off at the World Financial Center, would it be allowed? What if someone asks for that every day (hint, hint)?

These aspects of the program are encouraging, but I would prefer if the TLC were more explicit about allowing applicants to propose alternate routes that would serve the same populations but bring in more money for the operators. Some of these routes are more than a hundred years old, and they could use more than minor tweaking.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Setting the "livery vans" up for failure?

We've now got details (PDF) about the City's plan to allow legal "livery vans" to run on routes that have been cut by the MTA. As long as public transit options are being reduced, any expansion of private transit is welcome. I've long argued that privately operated buses can make a profit in some areas where the MTA can't. But as van line owner Winston Williams told the Brooklyn Paper, it may be impossible for anyone to make a profit in this pilot program.

The reasons are as follows: the routes selected for the pilot are already routes that the MTA abandoned. The city has let those routes sit abandoned for a month now, giving the riders ample time to get used to alternatives. There is apparently no flexibility for van operators to propose modifications to the routes. The van owners will not be able to offer a free or discounted transfer to or from MTA service. And although many of the routes are popular with passengers in wheelchairs, the city is restricting the pilot to vans with six to twenty passengers, which are too small to hold a wheelchair and more than a handful of other passengers. Finally, there is no provision to improve travel times to help the van operators make it.

For example, the B39 is a simple shuttle across the Williamsburg Bridge. There aren't that many people who are going from Delancey Street to Bridge Plaza; I'm guessing that most of the passengers were transferring to other buses in Williamsburg. Under the current proposal, the livery vans will not take Metrocard, so anyone transferring will have to pay two dollars in addition to the MTA bus fare.

A slightly different route might attract enough riders to make a profit. For example, if the van went up Bedford Avenue, it might pick up hipsters going to shops and clubs on the Lower East Side. If it went a bit further south it could connect with the Chinatown buses and vans, or even bring people directly to their jobs in the Financial District. A little further west and it could provide connections to the Seventh and Eighth Avenue subways.

There are profitable bus routes that take the Williamsburg Bridge, including the vans that certain Maspeth residents complain about. There are all kinds of possibilities, some of which have the potential to be much more popular than the old B39. But apparently Bloomberg thinks that we should stick with the existing routes, some of which were established more than a hundred years ago.

Of all the possible routes over this bridge, an end-to-end shuttle is probably the least useful. The MTA might have been able to continue service across the bridge by extending one of the existing routes west from Bridge Plaza.

On the other hand, maybe not. The bridge traffic might be too congested to allow for reliable local service. This is where the DOT comes in. Right now, any bus that crosses the Williamsburg Bridge has to take a regular lane with private cars. A bus with twenty passengers has to sit behind a car with one person in it, or a taxi with two. If the DOT set aside an HOV lane in each direction on the bridge, buss could compete with private cars based on time, but there are no plans to do this.

Similarly, the B71 would probably be very lucrative if it went through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to Lower Manhattan. The Q74 if it had a better connection to the subway. The Q79 if it stopped at the Bellerose or Floral Park LIRR stations. But I can't think of anything that would make the B23 more successful. Maybe it's hopeless!

The frustrating thing is that I think that Yassky does want to make this pilot project work for New Yorkers, and so do Goldsmith and Bloomberg. But if it's too constrained, it will be doomed to failure.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Frequency is relative

Jarrett has been pushing the idea of frequent bus network maps for some time now. I think they're definitely worth trying. In his latest post, he invited transit planners to comment on the idea. One concern was that if you choose an arbitrary headway like twelve or fifteen minutes, in some systems you have almost nothing on the map, and in others it's still too crowded.

The thing to do, I think, is to keep in mind that you're just trying to present the most frequent routes, and "most frequent" is relative to your system. I would suggest just starting with the ten most frequent routes. If the map is still too crowded, then drop a few routes; if it's too sparse, add a few, until you get the right information density. Conduct a few interviews with your target demographic, or throw a draft at a focus group, to see if you've got it right.

A challenge I see, that I don't recall anyone else raising, is how to represent corridors where multiple less-frequent routes work together to provide frequent service, for example on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. On corridors like this, you often find people who take advantage of the frequent service but do not use the less-frequent branches. This could be handled with line thickness, so that the frequent corridor is thicker than the branches. That's the best thing I could think of; I'd be interested to know if anyone else has a better idea.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Funding common-pool resources

If you have a project that provides a public good that benefits everyone, it makes sense to pay for it by having the government tax everyone. If you have a project that only benefits a single person (a private good) or a group (a club good), then it can be paid for directly by the beneficiaries.

Transportation is a challenge, because it's a common-pool resource, that benefits everyone but can be hogged by a subgroup. You could fund it from general taxes or conscription, as sidewalks are funded here in New York. But some who don't walk much object to funding sidewalks; for example, in North Carolina property owners are not required to provide or maintain them, so in many places they are nonexistent. The problem is even clearer if we imagine making all air travel free of charge: we would get people flying from New Jersey to Tahiti every week and using up all the oil.

If you fund transportation as a private good, where the user pays every aspect of transportation including energy, operations, capital construction, capital maintenance and security, then only the very rich will be able to afford it all. The closest example we have to this is in the Dark Ages, when the only people who could safely travel long distances were knights and those under their protection.

If you fund transportation as a club good, then you necessarily exclude the poor from enjoying its benefits, and the members of the club also pay for the economic benefits that are shared by everyone.

Obviously, the solution is some kind of hybrid funding system. You could have transportation security funded out of general taxes, but the construction of highways paid for by vehicle registration fees (club-type funding), and the purchase of vehicles and compensation of operators funded by individuals. The part that's funded out of general taxes is often controlled by the government, but the parts funded by club taxes or individual resources can either be collected by the government and used to benefit the club or individual. Alternatively, it can be left up to independent organizations to collect the club and individual fees and spend them on transportation.

One problem is that it's really hard to get the mix right. Should the users pay a single fee, or a fee per unit consumed? If it's a single fee, that does nothing to encourage conservation. If it's a fee per unit, that doesn't take into account the fact that a dollar means a lot less to a rich person than it does to a poor person. This is the classic "regressive" argument against the gas tax or a per-mile tax: why should the government charge a poor person a much larger percentage of their income per unit of energy or road consumed? And why charge a percentage of what someone paid for gas, rather than a fee per unit?

If you ever do get the mix right, it's not likely to stay right. As cars are becoming more fuel-efficient, people can travel more per gallon of gas, which means that they put more wear and tear on the road than they're paying for. The cost of asphalt, steel and labor have all varied significantly over the years, not to mention fuel.

Sometimes governments allocate funding sources, seemingly at random. Why do lottery proceeds typically fund education? It's not to teach children enough about probability that they don't buy lottery tickets when they grow up. Apparently it was just because education needed money, and the people who wanted a lottery used the lure of lottery money to get education proponents on their side.

Transit funding is full of these things. The New York MTA is funded by a gazillion little taxes, very few of which have anything to do with transit. Fares and general fund subsidies are easy to understand, but then there are things like the mortgage recording tax. Why does the mortgage recording tax fund transit? Because someone saw the revenue stream from mortgages and the need from train riders and decided to match them up. A kludge, in other words.

As I wrote last week, these kinds of kludges are prone to causing resentment among those who rarely use the service that's being funded. Consensus can only be established if people understand what's going on, and all these funding mismatches arouse suspicion and preempt consensus.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Good for all and good for some

In my last post I said that large projects could be divided into things that benefit everyone and things that benefit only some people. Things that benefit everyone should ideally be paid for and controlled by everyone, but things that only benefit some should be paid for by those who benefit.

There are at least two exceptions to that ideal. Social programs are paid for by all but only provide direct benefits to some, based on the idea that helping the neediest benefits everyone. Pigovian taxes are funded by some but benefit all, based on the principle that some activities impose an indirect cost on everyone, and aiming to either compensate for that cost or discourage the activity. These subtleties are lost on many.

What makes things difficult with transportation (and a number of other fields, like medicine) is that in some ways it benefits everyone, and in some ways it only benefits some. For example, having good transportation links improves the economy, which benefits everyone indirectly. But funding for roads and parking primarily benefits car drivers, and funding for transit primarily benefits transit riders. Going further, since transportation is a common-pool resource, it can be overused by some, leaving less for others.

Many modes of transportation also have significant externalities, inviting the imposition of Pigovian taxes and fees on a group to compensate everyone. For example, congestion pricing aims to discourage congestion and fund its mitigation by taxing those who drive. It is also the subject of many social programs, where a transportation facility (such as a bus service in a car-oriented city) is subsidized by everyone for the benefit of a few.

Of course, transportation funding can also be misappropriated in a variety of ways, from the unions getting cost-of-living wage increases when the cost of living is not increasing, to the legislature using "dedicated" taxes to fund things other than transit. This is the source of much of the mistrust that surrounds Pigovian taxes and social programs. How do we know that our tax money will actually be spent on transit?

It is important to remember that consensus principles still apply to Pigovian taxes and social programs. If you're going to spend everyone's money on transit for the poor, you need to get them to empathize with the poor, and realize that they could be poor someday, and see the value of low-cost transportation. If you're going to tax people for driving you need to show everyone why that's necessary. Sadly, that's a tough challenge in this poisoned media atmosphere, and it's made even more difficult with various entities running off with chunks of transportation funding.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Bigger than one person

Long before humans walked the earth, when our ancestors were some other kind of primate, we figured out that there are some things that one creature can't do by itself. I'm guessing the first of these tasks was something like hunting a large animal; since dogs figured this out, presumably our primate ancestors also did. There are some things that are so big that they require pooled resources.

If you've got a task to do, and it's too big for one person, there's one major question: is it something that everybody does, or just something that some people do? Subsidiary questions are: if there's a task that some people do, but not everyone, does that give those people the right to control this task, and to derive all the benefits from it? Who is responsible for it, and (once we invented money) who pays for it?

These kinds of questions about collective action are at the root of almost all disagreements about politics. Communism, capitalism, libertarianism, socialism, fascism - you can plot where they stand on different tasks with respect to whether everyone does them, pays for them, controls them or benefits from them.

This brings us back to the notion of consensus. It requires consensus to take on a task as a universal responsibility, to decide to pay for it. Where there is no consensus the task may succeed in the short run, but in the long term it will fail.

There have been several methods of group action without universal consensus over the years. In Europe it began with guilds, and moved on to corporations, trusts, partnerships, cooperatives, nonprofit organizations and trade unions. These are all organizations that exist in between the individual and the state. They represent the collective will of a group, but not of "everyone."

A problem arises when any of these groups attain some kind of universal status, such as a monopoly or a government contract. Standard Oil received benefits from everyone's oil use, but was controlled by a small group. Halliburton and other defense contractors receive everyone's money, but do not share the benefits or control.

What does this have to do with transit? I'm getting there. For now, consider this to be background.