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The Mentality of Transportation/Planning Bureaucrats

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There is no more statist rag in the world than the New York Times, and the entire worship of the government and its regulatory apparatus was on display in an op-ed on transportation written by two college professors. Now, the op-ed must be read to fully comprehend the utter economic ignorance, the uncluttered belief in untrammeled state power, and just the snobbery and arrogance that seems to define the worst of New York City’s Official Religion: Worship of the State.

First, they write that the city is in danger of becoming like a “Third-World” city because there are “poorly-regulated” private transportation. They write:

If you’ve ever spent time in a city in the developing world, chances are you’ve experienced a transit system that relies almost entirely on private commuter services. Thanks to low barriers to market entry — often anyone with a working van or bus can pick up passengers — the streets are clogged with a motley assortment of vans and buses, few of them in optimal working condition. The results are, not surprisingly, higher levels of pollution and more accidents and traffic fatalities than in cities with strictly regulated public services.

Mr. Bloomberg and the Taxi and Limousine Commission have offered assurances that better regulations will keep the city from becoming an American Calcutta or Rio de Janeiro. But that’s an easy promise to make, and probably an empty one: New York’s experiences with crane and building-code regulations demonstrates that enforcement usually costs more than policymakers are willing to spend, especially in lean fiscal times.

Oh, but it gets much, much better. The solution, of course, is to make sure that government limit transportation alternatives for consumers, including the government-sponsored cartel:

Private transit service will also incur social costs. For starters, because the new vans don’t accept MetroCards, passengers who want to transfer from them to a public bus or train have to pay twice — a significant burden for residents with modest incomes who live along the affected routes.

Second, relying on private service means replacing well-paying transit employees with a lower-paid and typically untaxed labor force. Private van operators have reported working 14-hour days, seven days a week, for about $200 in daily pay — before maintenance expenses. These drivers have no health insurance, retirement or disability benefits. Adding more informal workers to the New York work force, even as the number of public employees is decreased, is no way to build a robust local economy.

Translated into English, this passage is saying that unless people receive government salaries and benefits, then they certainly should not be permitted to impede upon a government monopoly. Yes, the way to build a “robust” economy is to deny employment opportunities and force up the real price of public transportation.

They end with this missive:

Finally, increased dependence on fragmented transit service could be an obstacle to Mayor Bloomberg’s environmental agenda, PlaNYC 2030, a vision for the next 20 years that relies heavily on an expanded and well-integrated public transit system to all parts of the city. Lobbying by newly entrenched private operators would likely pressure the city to retain inefficient parts of the status quo — to their benefit and at the public’s expense.

True, the Bloomberg administration considers private transit services a temporary solution, to end as soon as the money to restart the affected routes is found. But City Hall needs to adopt a clear end date and make a meaningful investment in rigorous public regulation, including oversight and inspection, to ensure high-quality labor and vehicle standards.

On the other hand, if the operations are to continue indefinitely, then they need to be quickly integrated into the Metropolitan Transit Authority system, with MetroCard connectivity.

Above all, City Hall needs to recognize that when it comes to public programs, seemingly convenient stopgap measures can easily take on a pernicious life of their own. If it doesn’t, one of the nation’s most forward-thinking mayors will be responsible for taking his city’s transit system back into the past.

This is exactly the kind of elitist thinking that claims to be supporting “the poor” when, in fact, they see “the poor” as nothing but wogs who get in the way of the bureaucrats’ own grandiose plans for them.

Note: The views expressed on Mises.org are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.

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