Sunday, September 14, 2008

"If you don't pay up, I'll take away your busline!"

The NYT has an article about the state of public transportation in Rochester, NY, and it turns out they're doing pretty well for themselves. The article cites two reasons: increased private sector support, and increased state government support. The latter isn't very revolutionary, but the private sector money is – at least, for a public transportation company. The transit agency convinced private businesses and quasi-private institutions (University of Rochester and RIT) to pay more for guaranteed service. One apartment complex owner paid $1200 per year to ensure continued bus service.

This is something that a private sector entrepreneur would have figured out long ago, but to transit bureaucrats obsessed with fairness and equal service mandates clearly haven't. Residential and commercial property developers benefit from access to mass transit lines, and asking for money from property owners along service routes (or outright owning the property) was and is a viable way of financing transportation projects.

The article also compares Rochester's public transit agency to the New York area's MTA, and asks MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin about the success of the Rochester network. He replies that he is "not familiar with the arrangements in Rochester," and that "the authority in New York had not pursued similar arrangements with private companies." It sure is pathetic that a city like Rochester, where very few people are probably dependent on public transportation, would think of externalizing costs to adjacent property owners, while a transit-dependent city like New York wouldn't.

1 comment:

Paul -V- said...

Asking for money from property owners along service routes is not, and never has been, a viable long-term way of financing intra-city transportation projects.

If it was, you'd expect to see nations that depended on private financing of public transit to have the best systems. In fact, the opposite is true.

This isn't to say that private investment doesn't have it's place. But let's not give too much credit to free enterprise for RGRTA's success.

RGRTA gets 58% of it's operating budget from govt subsidies. Without them, no amount of private investment would keep it running.

This isn't to say some private monies aren't helpful. But RGRTA's success is due to proper long-term investment in its infrastructure - not the short-term investments by colleges and developers.

In other words: Because RGRTA was properly funded in the past, when ridership surged they were ready to take advantage of opportunities - while other systems buckled from the strain.