Oh….that Happened

Apparently Michael Dresser of the Baltimore Sun finally got around to linking to my critques of the MTA on Thursday, a few days after I called him out on Twitter about linking to an MPW column. I didn’t discover this until today, from the complete lack of traffic we got from his post, and considering that the last time we mentioned Dresser he was playing wingman to Saqib Ali’s offensive Glenn Beck joke….

The shorter version of Dresser’s criticism of my criticism of the MTA is that it was “almost entirely grounded in ideology” and that my philosophy of governance is to do things better, cheaper……pretty much like the rest of my criticism of State Government. Dresser mostly takes umbrage with my statement about trying to turn the MTA profitable; a task which, I will admit, would be very difficult given the current constraints of the system. But the point I was trying to make was that farebox recovery rates, currently at 30 cents per dollar spent, are ridiculously low and not acceptable. Apparently, to some folks such inefficiency is acceptable, at a high cost to both riders and taxpayers alike.

Here’s the money quote from Dresser’s response:

The phrase “starve the beast” is a popular one on the far right, but it does pose a question: “What good is a beast that’s been starved to death?” It won’t be able to transport many low-income workers to the subsistence-level jobs that keep them off welfare. That’s the public service aspect of transit that Griffiths misses: It’s not a profit-generating business, nor was it ever intended to be.

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The problem with this, of course, is that public transportation is not a “public service.” It is a “public commodity” which people have the option of using. They also have other options of getting from Point A to Point B. However, steps can be taken to improve quality and reduce costs. Through increases inefficiency and the use of privatization, services can be expanded (not contracted) at a cost that is either equal to possibly even lower than current existing rates.

Incidentally, the comments section of the post is actually reasonably enlightened discussion.

Regardless, it seems to me that Dresser’s criticism of my criticism is based on the philosophy that there is only one way to run a transit agency; I think it should be run efficiently, and he doesn’t. Typical Sun

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