Friday, August 19, 2011

Randal O'Toole on Privatizing Public Transit

This has been the number most confounding issue to me: what do you do about public transportation. I don't think government granted monopolies are good for the economy, but I didn't see a clear way out of this. This video gave me some ideas.

Here's a quote:

"Most states give their transportation agencies a monopoly, Florida does not. Miami has a dozen bus private companies competing with the public bus company. The public company charges $1.50 per ride, while the private companies make a profit on $1 per ride."

The discussion of new ideas starts around minute 10.

The 380 buses operated within the city of Mazatlan are each owned by respective drivers and driven along routes established by the Alianza, a union that regulates bus operations in the city.
Also, although the Florida system seems good, even that is not really a free market.

Miami New Times
But they [the private buses] must pay jitney companies a fee to operate under, say, the Miami Mini Bus moniker. Most owner-operators must also purchase insurance and the operating license required by the county.

[...]There are large companies such as Miami Mini Bus, which boasts 58 registered jitneys, and smaller operations, like American Jitney, Inc., with only two jitneys on the road. Each company runs its buses along one authorized route. In theory jitneys exist to service areas that are neglected by other forms of transportation. But a few of the minibuses covering the downtown circuit as well as Conchita Transit Express in Hialeah vie with Miami-Dade County's bus service, or Metrobus, for some of the same passengers. Competition, however, is limited.

The passenger transportation regulatory division, part of the Miami-Dade County Consumer Services Department, sets buffer zones to curtail competition between jitneys and Metrobuses. It prohibits jitneys from duplicating Metrobus routes by more than 30 percent -- a rule with which many in the jitney industry are dissatisfied. Some protest that prescribed routes contribute to a dwindling supply of riders.

[...]The county didn't get into the bus business until 1960, when Metro-Dade bought out private operators and consolidated the city bus system. Jitneys were born about 30 years earlier, and they were monitored by the city. Back then, up until the early 1960s, jitneys were usually seven-passenger Buicks, Packards, Plymouths, and Cadillacs.

[...]Thereafter Miami-Dade began to crack down on the minibuses. The county pulled more than 170 unlicensed jitneys off the streets. [...]"Our vehicles were towed; some of our drivers were arrested; we were called outlaws," comments Rene Gil, Conchita's president. "We still haven't been able to recover from the jitney crackdown."

[...]Yet for thousands of people from Florida City to Hialeah, minibuses remain the transportation mode of choice. People from all walks of life ride jitneys: from college students and elementary school kids to elderly folks who can't drive any more and people who can't afford to.

When New Times asked a dozen jitney travelers why they chose the private shuttle over the county's Metrobuses, they all answered that it was faster.

[...]Of the approximately 600 county-owned buses, number 42 is the only one that transports weekend passengers to the flea market at hourly intervals. For the same fare of $1.25, a jitney from Conchita's fifteen-member fleet pulls over every fourteen minutes, wherever there are passengers along its zigzag course between Hialeah and Miami Lakes.
I think the Florida model is a good model to look into.

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