Friday, February 27, 2009

Privatize Metro?

Here's a very thought provoking op/ed in the DC Examiner arguing why Metro should be privatized. Our experience in Japan would lead us to believe it's an idea with merit. Many of the commuter train lines there are, in fact, privately held, and the difference between how they're run and how Metro runs is shockingly flabbergasting. To say the Hankyu line was a Lexus compared to Metro's more Gremlinesque nature doesn't do Gremlins justice.

It's an amazingly efficient and utterly reliable train system and, you can read more about it here. We shudder to think what Japanese riders here in DC must think of Metro.

While Metro probably won't be privatized in our lifetime, it seems to us the creaky system could use some kind of radical shake up. The status quo simply doesn't work.

From the column:
For example, the 2000 census revealed that the Washington, D.C. urban area had gained more than 100,000 new jobs since 1990 and that virtually all those commuters drove to work. Moreover, more than 21,000 commuters who took transit to work in 1990 switched to driving by 2000. You won’t hear that from Washington Metro officials. Nevertheless, Congress opened the floodgates of federal funding for new rail transit lines, and the number of urban areas with expensive rail transit climbed from 10 in 1980 to nearly 40 today. To cover the high costs of rail transit, many transit agencies ended up cutting bus service, contributing to declines in per-capita transit ridership.

Photo: John Morris

In other news:
Metro issues pink slips (DC Examiner)
Metro confident it can close budget gap (WaPo)
A nice rundown of yesterday's meeting (WTOP)
There's a new Metro audiocast! YAY!


Anonymous said...

I'd be up for anything to make the damn thing reliable!!

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure that the reliability of trains in Japan has more to do with Japan than with private vs. public operation. I strongly suspect that the many publicly owned train lines in Japan are just as punctual, and have always been. It really is a matter of culture: for example, in Japan, a train driver would never re-open the doors or wait for someone who just barely failed to make the train. There's a time in the timetable, which is when the train leaves, and that's that.

Matt Fisher said...

Oh, no. Not Randal O'Toole. He refers to supposedly expensive rail.

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