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Britschgi on Mass Transit

Summary:
Reason assistant editor Christian Britschgi has posted an excellent piece critiquing another piece in the New York Times by writer Steven Hill. Britschgi makes multiple good points. Here's one:For starters, for all that he writes about Uber's low fares, Hill spills not a drop of ink on the fact that those public transportation services are themselves subsidized up to their eyeballs. Unlike Uber, whose losses are covered by shareholders voluntarily sinking cash into the company, transit subsidies come straight from taxpayers, whether they ride it or not. I am aware of no transit agency in the United States that turns a profit. Few are even able to cover half of their operating expenses with traditional

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Reason assistant editor Christian Britschgi has posted an excellent piece critiquing another piece in the New York Times by writer Steven Hill.

Britschgi makes multiple good points. Here's one:

For starters, for all that he writes about Uber's low fares, Hill spills not a drop of ink on the fact that those public transportation services are themselves subsidized up to their eyeballs. Unlike Uber, whose losses are covered by shareholders voluntarily sinking cash into the company, transit subsidies come straight from taxpayers, whether they ride it or not.

I am aware of no transit agency in the United States that turns a profit. Few are even able to cover half of their operating expenses with traditional farebox revenue.

Take New York's Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), which runs the city's buses and subway system. It's the most heavily used transit system in the country, and it services America's most densely populated major city, yet it covers only 40 percent of its operating expenses through with farebox revenue.

Hill mentions a colleague who expresses a preference for a $5 Uber ride over a $2.25 bus ride. Hill asks his friend whether he'd make the same choice if that Uber ride was an unsubsidized $10. Given that MTA's bus service covers less than a quarter of its operating expenses with ticket sales, perhaps Hill should have asked his colleague whether he would prefer a $10 Uber ride or a $10 ride on the bus.


I recommend reading the whole thing.

I've been following Britschgi's work for a number of weeks now and he hits it out of the park a lot with both factual backing and clear writing.



David Henderson
David Henderson is a British economist. He was the Head of the Economics and Statistics Department at the OECD in 1984–1992. Before that he worked as an academic economist in Britain, first at Oxford (Fellow of Lincoln College) and later at University College London (Professor of Economics, 1975–1983); as a British civil servant (first as an Economic Advisor in HM Treasury, and later as Chief Economist in the Ministry of Aviation); and as a staff member of the World Bank (1969–1975). In 1985 he gave the BBC Reith Lectures, which were published in the book Innocence and Design: The Influence of Economic Ideas on Policy (Blackwell, 1986).

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