Greater Greater Washington

Can a private model build the transit we need?

Many of our transit systems are bursting at the seams, yet only provide about 2% of trips nationwide. It takes decades to build new transit projects. The existing public agency model for providing public transportation services is totally inadequate to rapidly meet the challenges we face, particularly the urgent need to deal with climate change.


Photo by Wm Jas.

We need to break our reliance on individual vehicles and fossil fuels. Public transportation needs to expand rapidly to help us do that, but is not effectively designed to do so. Could the private sector, with its profit motive, provide solutions?

Currently, public transit provides only a tiny fraction of the transportation miles taken by Americans. For 2006, transit carried 52,000,000,000 miles, while passenger cars traveled about 2,650,000,000,000 miles50 times greater. And car passenger miles are even higher, since some of these cars had more than one occupant.

In the DC area, MWCOG's State of the Commute 2007 reported 71% of all commuting trips by SOV, with another 7% by carpool/vanpool. Given that transit trips on average tend to be shorter than car trips, the passenger miles of transit commuters is considerably under 20% of the commuting miles in total.

Commuting, though, only makes up about 25% of all trips, and transit is used for an even smaller percentage of non-commuting trips. So even in the DC area, which has significant transit infrastructure and operations, it accounts for well under 10% of all the travelprobably closer to 5%.

Even so, our Metrorail and Metrobus systems are often running at or above capacity, particularly during rush hours and for certain special events. This displaces less than 20% of commuting miles/10% of VMT. Transportation is a significant contributor to greenhouse gases, and it is growing. Global climate change necessitates drastic and enormous changes in our emissions from all sources, including transportation.

That percentage needs to increase dramatically over at most a couple of decades, from less than 2% nationally to something like 20%, or 50%, or more. We can't just keep driving cars 2.6 trillion miles per year. Reducing that 2.6 trillion just a little to 2 trillion by shifting to transit would require a 12-fold increase in transit capacity. What does that mean for WMATA? Or BART? Or SEPTA? Or RTD? What would it require to make a 10- or-20-fold increase in capacity?

Transit agencies and governments work too slowly and incrementally for this kind of increase. It will take at least 16 years from the first real plans to build the Silver Line out to Dulles airport and its completionlonger, if you also count the time it was being thought about, proposed and debated. The FTA issued a decision on a short, 5-mile extension of BART in 2006 that will open 8 years later, in 2014. DART's 2030 plan includes a paltry 18 additional miles of light rail (less than 1 mile per year). And let's not even get started on the Purple Line.

How can we possibly increase the capacity of our public transport systems by an order of magnitude or more if it takes decades to complete a single project?

Lincoln said it best:

The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must risewith the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew."
The occasion is global climate change, and we must think and act anew. Somehow we need to change the model for transportation such that the private sector benefits from providing transportation with close to zero emissions.

Private streetcar companies built thousands and thousands of miles of lines in just a couple of decades around a hundred years ago. Some streetcar barons made millions of dollars in the process, but to great public benefit as well.

I don't know what the right answer is, but I know the wrong answer is just to keep doing what we're doing now, but just a little better or a little faster or a little different. Just another billion dollars here or a dedicated funding source there. How can we best engage the private sector to invest and invent and move forward?

Some ideas, for what it's worth:

  • The HOT lanes in Virginia are controversial, but they are getting built quickly. The private consortium is motivated by the profit motive to get this project done as rapidly as possible. No doubt it is not perfect, but it is an example of engaging the private sector's profit motive to expedite progress. Given that the US is a big place, experimenting with different ideas in different places across the country will help us discover the ideas that work and those that don't.
  • One could imagine a rail system in which the operators are private entities but the infrastructure is not. This is analogous to our air transportation system: the government runs air traffic control, airports are usually quasi-government entities, and the airlines are private companies. What if the Northeast Corridor, for example, were opened up to private operators. They could buy "slots" like airlines do and provide varying levels of service at varying levels of price. There would likely be Wi-Fi on some trains by now if that were the case; even the Acela trains do not have Wi-Fi today.
The trick is to make the financial incentives align with the societal goals. If the goal is to reduce miles being driven, then private companies could be paid per mile reduced. They would then strive to find solutions. One example of this is the contract Houston has with a company called NuRide (disclosure: I used to work for NuRide). NuRide is paid by VMT reduced. They offer incentives to people to rideshare and take other modes. If they are successful, they get paid; if not, they don't. So it is in their direct financial interest to find the incentives that will get people to change their behavior.

Transit agencies, as they are currently organized, do not have to worry about not getting paid if they don't perform or, conversely, make a gazillion dollars if they over-deliver.

I don't have all the answers, but rather hope to begin a discussion about rethinking the current public agency model of transit that is incapable of delivering the massive market transformation that is required. What do you think?

Steve Offutt has been working at the confluence of business and environment for almost 20 years, with experience in climate change solutions, green building, business-government partnerships, transportation demand management, and more. He lives in Arlington with his wife and two children and is a cyclist, pedestrian, transit rider and driver. 

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In the old days, when the streetcars, and subway systems were built by private owners, they did not have to face another mode of tax subsidized transportation, the automobile. The employees of those enterprises were not well paid, and often the streetcar company was also the electric power company.

by KenF on Feb 8, 2010 3:01 pm • linkreport

Another thing to consider with the speed at which those early rail systems were built: they did not have to contend with NEPA and today's requirement for environmental study.

by Froggie on Feb 8, 2010 3:07 pm • linkreport

I'll have to disagree with you on climate change (it's been proven that most of it's a hoax, and of course the Earth is warming, we're ending an ice age, it happens), but I do believe that we need to significantly reduce pollution. Public-private partnerships seem to have a mixed reception in terms of transit. While they work quite well for roads - the Katy Freeway in Houston being an extreme example - it seems that the sheer cost of transit infrastructure makes them impractical. While I want to see Metro expanded, especially with streetcars, even PPPs can't stop the environmental impact surveys that take years to complete, regardless of how the project is being financed.

But what we can do temporarily is to force drivers to pay upfront. Because so much of driving is subsidised, that is, taxpayers across the country pay for Interstates regardless of their car ownership status or residency, users don't really see how much money it costs to maintain roads. Similarly, we subsidise gas costs. Look what happened two years ago when petrol shot to $4/gal; alternative energy became a feasible goal and people switched right over to transit, many of whom still use it after seeing the benefits. So if the government is unwilling to add gas taxes, we could start by tolling our highways. At $3 per toll in both directions, we could make $187m per year on the Wilson Bridge alone. Now consider the implications of expanding that across the area; the numbers go into the billions. WMATA could self-finance for all we know. Since no one wants to pay tolls when driving, it would also switch people over to transit.

by Phil on Feb 8, 2010 3:09 pm • linkreport

I think it's hard to think about a global issue like climate change and put it properly into a local policy context - because so many of the issues key to solving the dilemma will be outside of the control of any one locality. These are issues that will need to be dealt with at a coordinated, national and international scale.

That said, I remain unconvinced that privatization is the answer. Surely, there are cases for public-private partnerships, but I have yet to see a case where there's really anything more than just privatizing profits and socializing losses.

Jarrett Walker at HumanTransit.org just had a great post up on this issue this weekend:

http://www.humantransit.org/2010/02/privatized-transit-and-or-vs-the-public-good.html

The problem with only framing the privatization debate in the framework of climate change is that transit obviously impacts many other aspects of our lives and the built environment. Similarly, the environment itself cannot be saved solely by local action alone - there needs to be coordination at a larger scale - hence, I think the advocacy for private investment needs to have a far more convincing line of reasoning.

It's not as if governments are unable to respond in times of crisis. Look at the rebuilding of the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis - look at the initial construction of Metro.

The larger issue, however, is one that Walker raises in his piece I linked to above. Walker writes:

If we are to make visible the environmental and civic goods that arise from our work, we must never let them be concealed as profits, just as we must never allow ridership to be reduced to revenue. There are plenty of roles for competitive private enterprise in our business. (As a transit planning consultant, I've spent my whole career in the private sector.) But the outcome of our work is a very public good. Governments must invest in it, so governments have every right to take credit, and much of the "profit," when it succeeds.

The problem with privatization is that it does not (and cannot) replace the need for investment in these public goods (of which the environment is a key example). Throwing out privatization as a solution to government inaction therefore is incorrect, since any solution will require government action, period.

by Alex B. on Feb 8, 2010 3:17 pm • linkreport

My gut response: No.

What it comes down to is a matter of national (and regional) priorities. A public system would work superbly if it was viewed as essential to the economic vitality of the nation (and region). It isn't, so it doesn't.

Your post assumes that our society has already accepted the notion that fewer VMT is a desirable outcome - a wildly premature claim. While that may be the case in a few areas, it is hardly the norm. In fact, it is probably counter to the norm in most areas. Our government encourages the exact opposite of this in the form of fiscal stimulus that benefits and accelerates the further decentralization of the economy. Did any car-free people out there receive anything more but a pittance in stimulus money? How about those interested in buying new, 'green' cars?

Contrast that with China. The only public-private partnerships you see there WRT to transit planning, construction, and operations is with private financiers. Banks loan money to build megaprojects, because there is a strong, reputable guarantee from the government that a) the money will be repaid; and b) the economic benefits of high speed rail and new subway and transit capacity will generate scores of new investment opportunities upon completion. Not so in the States, where our HSR package was public money handed out to politically sensitive areas (Florida, Nevada, the Rust Belt), with no real vision or national dialogue behind it. It's a shame, but is just one symptom of a larger malady that will ensure we miss out on the 21st century.

Without a large, dramatic national realignment in favor of sustainable transit and land use polices, we will not see anything in the form of a robust, growing system - publicly or privately run - emerge. That's a long way off, if it ever comes. There are simply too many people invested in the exact opposite of what you're proposing here.

by JTS on Feb 8, 2010 3:28 pm • linkreport

I think the purpose of transit is in large part to enable people to live closer to where they work, shop, etc., rather than to extend 50 miles out into the exurbs. If we're going to reduce automobile miles (which is not strictly necessary to deal with climate change, we could invest heavily in renewable energy, biofuels, and batteries), we're going to do it by changing the patterns of where people live, not by building trillions of dollars of new rail.

by David desJardins on Feb 8, 2010 4:08 pm • linkreport

Fantastic idea on selling slots for the NE Corridor. Maybe then a passenger could take a bike via train between NYC and DC.

Overall though, transit will not significantly improve as long as a limited resource, road capacity, is given away for free. A capitalist solution to pricing roads would very quickly encourage people to use transit. Further distorting the picture is the excessive subsidies given to roads creating excessive supply.

Removing excessive market distortions and allowing capitalism to work would actually serve transit.

by Huck Finne on Feb 8, 2010 4:39 pm • linkreport

Here's the post with the hidden comments.

by Michael Perkins on Feb 8, 2010 4:44 pm • linkreport

Private transportation systems generally haven't made money from operations or necessarily ever expected to do so. They typically make money from real estate. DC Transit owned real estate all along the bus/tram lines and continued that ownership after selling the bus lines to Metro. Roy Chalk died a very wealthy man,

Many streetcars were linked to property development schemes or amusement parts (think Chevy Chase). Railroads developed their rights of way and often provided services to for pay to other railroads. they also developed resorts.

All this very different from a contractor taking over an existing expressway (Chicago) or adding to existing infrastructure (Virginia). There are private rail lines in New Zealand, Switzerland, Japan, and the UK. I think all of these were privatizations of public lines, except for the Swiss lines, which are all very small adjuncts to existing national service. The UK system apparently has been a collosal failure on every level (service, price). Japan has a level of density that we don't have. New Zealand's lines are essentially for tourists on a small number of scenic trunk lines. I don't know the extent to which any of these are subsidized--I would imagine that the Japan might do this. I don't think the UK does.

Public-private partnerships are notoriously corrupt. I lived in Thailand during the construction of Bangkok's skytrain, subway and (aborted) commuter rail. I would imagine that China's partnerships are riddled with cronyism and other corruption. I say that based on people who have worked in China in different capacities.

A model for private ownership would have to figure out where money could be made and a true market would have to remove distortions of the market (the direct and indirect subsidies for roads and other existing infrastructure) and provide equal access to information, which almost never happens in practice. The organizations that lobby for "free enterprise" are the people who are least likely to practice it. A final consideration is access--once you privatize you get all kinds of rules that tend to restrict public space and its use--libertarians whine about this as a govt function, but free speech issues often are constrained by private ownership. This happens over and over again with shopping malls.

Other considerations--where would the capital come from and who would be willing to invest over the long haul? Our economy is a mess partly because of a need to satisfy short-term gains with many parts of the economy leveraged because of someone making short-term gains on acquisitions. The deterioration of mainstream media channels (radio, nespapers, etc.) is a good example. These businesses arein better shape in countries that didn't encourage unfettered ownership. The City Paper and the Blade were profitable but gravely damaged or destroyed by people who made a quick buck and sold out to Sunbelt greedheads.

So spin your market economy fantasies. Just anchor them in a real economy. Interestingly, there are alternatives to businesses not considered here. Philly has a care share that operates as a co-op and able to offer better prices than we get here. A private model doesn't have to be market based or typical corporate business, although there will still be issues of capital and having a model that can provide a predictable return on investment (if only for reinvestment in operations) in a reasonable period of time.

by Rich on Feb 8, 2010 6:43 pm • linkreport

One thing that I don't understand is the US' reluctance to practice what they preach. Most infrastructure projects abroad that have US involvement (financing, for instance) are mandated to be built out under a build, own, operate, transfer (BOOT) or build, operate, transfer (BOT) model. Private companies contract to build and operate the system as a monopoly for x number of years; in exchange, they get certain guarantees regarding revenue sharing and contracts awarded to competitors or what-have-you. The US insists on this sort of tendering out to private corporations extensively in projects financed bilaterally or multilaterally internationally, yet refuses to implement the same sort of systems domestically.

For example, the construction and operation of the Delhi Metro was contracted to the Delhi Metrorail Corporation, a majority privately held company, for 99 years, under a revenue sharing agreement and about 30% of the construction was financed via low-cost loans from the federal government; other portions of it were financed by buying up land along the path of the Metro at a low price and selling it at a higher price once the Metro route was finalized. In exchange, DMRC has committed to the construction of the Delhi Metro on behalf of the federal government and the states of Delhi, Haryana and Utter Pradesh (which jointly own the physical track, equipment, and rolling stock), to certain minimum standards of service, and maximum fare increase ceilings. DMRC is profitable without needing further government subsidies. Now you can argue all you want that the pricing structure is very different for India and the US but considering the differences in income, transit on the Delhi Metro is almost identically priced as a portion of income as transit on WMATA is.

So, shouldn't the governments of DC, VA and MD at least consider the BOOT model for further transit? Seems to work in countries around the world where neither the law nor enforcements of contracts are as well developed as in the US.

by varun on Feb 8, 2010 7:01 pm • linkreport

Japan has a level of density that we don't have

More than that, Japan's high speed lines, for the most part, subsidize the rest of the system. Moreover, the JR companies have geographic monopolies on long-distance railway service, both high speed and regular. In urban areas they compete with so-called "private railways" (though the three largest JR companies are also completely private), but there's enough traffic to go round so that they can all still make operating profits.

However, this only covers the operating side. The capital expansion side is still almost entirely public and paid for initially out of the government purse. The JRTT builds a line, then leases it to the future operating company while allowing it to commence service on the line. Once the lease is paid off, the line becomes the property of the operating company. (The four major Shinkansen routes in Japan -- Tokaido, Sanyo, Tohoku, and Joetsu -- are all paid off, but the others are still being leased to JR East and JR Kyushu by the JRTT.)

by trainsintokyo on Feb 8, 2010 7:41 pm • linkreport

"We need to break our reliance on individual vehicles and fossil fuels"

We can not break our reliance on fossil fuels because many things beside gas are made from them such as plastics, cosmetics and almost everything in a typical house besides things made of wood.

Train & Buses have plastic in them, which are made of oil plus even if there was no fossil fuel used you have to use fossil fuel to get the steel which makes the cars so whatever you do you rely on a fossil fuel and there is no way around it.

by kk on Feb 8, 2010 7:53 pm • linkreport

Very nice to see a fresh perspective, and by someone humble enough to say they don't know all the answers. My hat's off to you, Steve.

I think David, who said "the purpose of transit is in large part to enable people to live closer to where they work" shows why building more rails or roads is the wrong path. People should work closer to where they live, not live closer to where they work. So much of our local discussion seems to be about making it easier for people to commute to DC, but the real job growth happens in the suburbs, as does the absolute growth in our regional population (like it or not, families don't like inner city taxes, schools, crime, etc., so the center of gravity will continue to move away for the inner city core). Unfortunately, even though suburban workers can have shorter commutes than people who work downtown, they still live too far from their workplace. We need more flexible work patterns so people can work closer to home. At a minimum, we need to enable flexile transportation, so not all people are expected to travel to a single destination each day, as we have now with Metro funneling everyone to Metro Center.

As for privatization, I think there is ample scope to try it out. Private funds built many of the world's great transit systems, including New York's. Not every privatization scheme for transport has worked out perfectly, but other nations in Europe have 20 years of experience ahead of us that we can benefit from. It baffles me that we are one of the few countries left with a publicly owned Post Office, and we see how well that is working.

by Michael on Feb 8, 2010 9:13 pm • linkreport

Where would private enterprise even build the new transit? Look how much controversy something public like the Purple Line engenders, despite all the agencies who want it to happen. Look how much trouble Cape Wind (http://www.capewind.org) has been having, even though "clean energy" is supposed to be in the public interest. How are private enterprises going to shoehorn in new roads, rails, whatever in between existing private homes, businesses, protected parkland, etc.?

by Greenbelt Gal on Feb 8, 2010 9:58 pm • linkreport

What can't be easily accounted for in a measure of transit miles as a percentage of total miles traveled is the amount of reduction in the total miles traveled due to the amenity of the system itself. Mass transit systems encourage density where they are accessible and a mile on transit is not directly comparable to a mile driven. Other spillover effects should be accounted for like more space available for retail and residential, reduced need for large swaths of parking, less CO pollution and health effects etc.

by troy on Feb 8, 2010 10:04 pm • linkreport

@kk: We can not break our reliance on fossil fuels because many things beside gas are made from them such as plastics, cosmetics and almost everything in a typical house besides things made of wood.

Train & Buses have plastic in them, which are made of oil plus even if there was no fossil fuel used you have to use fossil fuel to get the steel which makes the cars so whatever you do you rely on a fossil fuel and there is no way around it.

Less than 8% of US petroleum use goes to producing products other than fuels and fuel oils. (source: http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/aer/pdf/pages/sec5_25.pdf)

Petroleum and Natural Gas are useful for basically four things: asphalt, burning, lubricating, and feedstock for making chemical products like plastics, pharmaceuticals and such. Of these four things, 75% goes to "burning" (source: Ibid).

I think it's a better use of these fossil resources to make long-lasting things with them as opposed to burning them.

Reducing our dependence on fossil fuel doesn't mean eliminating all uses of petroleum, but it does mean significantly decreasing the amount of fuel used for transportation.

To use an analogy, for the most part our society has broken its dependence on wood for heating, but we still make furniture out of wood.

Once we discovered oil, it was great. We had this amazing liquid, if you knew where to drill a hole, you got basically free* energy. It's too bad we then structured most everything we did in the US to be that you would have to have this nearly free energy just to go about your normal business.

*ok, it's not free, but consider this: if your job was to ride a stationary bike at 100 watts for 8 hours a day, five days for a week, I could buy the same amount of energy in a 16oz bottle (1/8 gallon) of gasoline for 37 cents.

Gasoline is cheaper than Coke, it's cheaper than milk, it's cheaper than orange juice.

by Michael Perkins on Feb 8, 2010 10:49 pm • linkreport

It's very hard to compare other transit systems worldwide to ours. As already pointed out, we have environmental impact studies, OSHA standards, ADA requirements, etc... Which drive costs up for everything. Metro has un-funded Federal mandates in place which make it mandatory for programs like Metro Access, which is a huge money loser for Metro that all of us absorb. Couple that with the WMATA Civil Rights Division, diversity awareness training classes, and classes available to employees that have no bearing on the day to day duties of the employee (i.e. MS word classes for bus operators. Then it becomes clear why there are budget defecits. Private companies have always been involved with Metro as contractors. But I'd be shocked if any private company would assume operations of the system without increasing the fare three fold at least, while still being somewhat susidized at the state, local, and Federal level.

K

by Kaleel on Feb 8, 2010 11:58 pm • linkreport

I think David, who said "the purpose of transit is in large part to enable people to live closer to where they work" shows why building more rails or roads is the wrong path. People should work closer to where they live, not live closer to where they work.

As a mathematician, "live closer to where they work" is exactly the same as "work closer to where they live". They are two different ways of saying exactly the same thing.

I live in Silicon Valley, there is plenty of job creation here, much of it happens in the "suburbs" (Palo Alto) rather than the "city" (San Francisco), but it still requires 1-hour commutes for many workers because the density is not high enough for everyone to live near to where the jobs are. So we need rail too. It is simply impossible to achieve high enough densities to reduce commuting with a dependence on single-passenger vehicles.

I did say "work, shop, etc." and presumably you admit that people need to shop and "etc." even if they work from home. But it's simply not possible to have a productive society where most people work from home.

by David desJardins on Feb 9, 2010 12:37 am • linkreport

Varun, you're misrepresenting the facts:

1. Delhi Metro is a public corporation.

2. A rs 9 fare is not the same as a $1.65 fare. Sorry.

3. DMRC gets by with the help of a 1.5 bilion dollar interet free Japanese loan.

All the rest is the same. Yes, it is profitable. Metro would be too if it didn't have buses and metro-for-cripples.

DMRC did build the airport link, then sold that to a private concession for 30 years, which would be the smart thing to do with the Silver line. Also, they built the entire system for a billion dollars.

by charlie on Feb 9, 2010 2:38 am • linkreport

Most airports are mixed public-private enterprises. Are they working well? Hmmm.

In the Netherlands, they've privatized Dutch Railways, while the rails are operated by a public unit. They are doing this (all over Europe) with many utilities. Power comes from private companies, but the distribution system is government owned and maintained. Cable is often government-owned while providers compete for your attention.

The goal is to keep the infrastructure in good shape, efficient and safe, while letting the service be provided by private industry, who are required to deliver up to certain specs. This sounds wonderful, but the results are mixed.

For instance, Dutch Railway is pretty much a monopolist. Furthermore, they "improved" their timeliness by simply increasing the amount of time they allow in their schedule for a change of trains from 3 to 7 minutes. This means that a lot of connecting trains are not officially connecting anymore, so you can't complain if you missed them. However, if you do make them, you arrive in less than the alloted time, giving timeliness a boost. Yet the average trip time didn't change much.

Overall, I think that transit is a basic infrastructural need, just like roads, airports and rails. The investment cost are generally too large for private industry to carry, while competition is unwanted and unproductive because you want one single system with good connections.

Can anyone imagine roads systems competing? Just imagine having to decide whether you take I-95 or MD-295 to Baltimore four days ahead of time, because the private companies that run those roads have decided it's most efficient if you buy a reserved time-specific driving window to access the road. It's basically how transit competition works now. You have to decide quite some time ahead if you want to take MARC, Amtrak or a bus, consider schedules and cost. It's inefficient and backwards.

by Jasper on Feb 9, 2010 6:42 am • linkreport

Let me repeat my own point in bold here. I think I struck on something I never realized.

Can anyone imagine roads systems competing? Just imagine having to decide whether you take I-95 or MD-295 to Baltimore four days ahead of time, because the private companies that run those roads have decided it's most efficient if you buy a reserved time-specific driving window to access the road.

It's basically how transit competition works now. You have to decide quite some time ahead if you want to take MARC, Amtrak or a bus, consider schedules and cost. It's inefficient and backwards.

by Jasper on Feb 9, 2010 8:37 am • linkreport

This is a great discussion. As someone who is priced out of taking Amtrak, I have been thinking for a long time about how we could increase our rail travel options, and making it easier for private operators to run trains could be a solution. This is how low-cost bus services are able to operate, since they use "free" roads. Then again, rolling stock is not easy to come by, although that could change over the long term.

One problem with a democratic government is that things take forever. A more authoritarian government is able to make things happen just like that. This can be both good and bad. I work for an employee-run company, and decisions take a long time because of that. When we were choosing a new location, we missed a lot of great opportunities because of the cumbersome democratic process.

Transit has more advantages over cars than just emissions. Land-use patterns, streetscapes, water quality, and agriculture are all affected by transit.

I also want to point out that problems with petroleum go beyond burning it. Petrochemical-based materials are a huge source of trash and pollution. They can be highly toxic, and we still don't know what long-term effects may be discovered. Let's keep the discussion going.

by Matthias on Feb 9, 2010 9:32 pm • linkreport

@ MAtthias: The problem is that most politicians simply do not want to look at the facts. Virtually every low-cost transit project is successful.

And then there's the problem that transit does not have a well-organized multiple arm lobby organization. Just think about the lobby groups that like roads and cars. Big Oil (both for petrol and asphalt), car makers, AAA, rural interests.

Most large transit organizations are constantly nearly bankrupt and some (WMATA!) have it written in their charter that they can't even advocate their own existence.

by Jasper on Feb 10, 2010 10:54 am • linkreport

@Jasper: Right on about the lobbying. Allow me to put in a plug for the National Association of Railroad Passengers. They need all the support we can give them.

by Matthias on Feb 11, 2010 10:47 pm • linkreport

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