10 thoughts on “A Real “Blood for Oil” Policy”

  1. Interesting rant, but what about us people of small size. I’d prefer a subcompact regardless of the mileage issue. I can easily reach all the components on the dash. I have a better view and feel of my car’s corners in manuevering. When on business trips, I was given something larger, it always felt like operating a capital ship. Parallel parking was usually out of the picture. In other words, I’m a better driver with a smaller car. Yes, I know to ‘stay alert and stay alive’, situational awareness.

  2. chel,

    Yep, mass transit is safe. Just think of the pre-Guliania New York subway system. What is even more fun in my neck of the woods is walking the four or five blocks from your mass transit stop in the 104 degree heat or during a hail storm. Not to mention the fun of being vomited on and groped.

    Yep, its all so much more fun that going were I want, when I want in my car all the time cocooned in my own personal environment. What hell.

  3. Okay then, let me revise my statement:

    As long as you don’t try to use them in the 104 degree heat, during a hail storm, or after having traveled backward in time busses, subways, and light rails are great!

  4. chel,

    “As long as you don’t try to use them in the 104 degree heat, during a hail storm,”

    Well, its no exaggeration to say that such conditions occur at least 1/3 of the time in the area of the country I live in. Is is a good idea to base my transportation strategies that are going to be uncomfortable or even dangerous a significant chunk of the time?

    Mass transit makes sense for dense urban cores but outside of those areas it begins to rapidly breakdown. Not to say that you personally have this view but to many people have an extremely parochial view of the world wherein whatever works for their circumstances will work for everybody.

  5. Actually I read an article about the NY subway while ago and originally the subway was run as a private business. It was run perfectly and then some genius decided it should be made public and that’s when it went to hell. But still, if you want your privacy, a car is better.

  6. Oh, busses, subways, and light rails don’t work for everybody. But even a modest 10% increase in ridership in the United States would save a lot of lives and a lot of oil. I think there’s people who don’t use them who could use them more and would find it convenient and enjoyable. But it’s hard to try something new sometimes.

    And I have to say that this type of transportation can work even in areas that have extreme weather. I live in Minnesota and the winter here is no joke. But I take the bus to work all winter long (in the summer I ride my bike) because it’s a lot faster than driving my car and it’s way cheaper than parking in downtown Minneapolis. Sure, I keep it real like a good Minnesotan — I have to wear two pairs of long underwear on many mornings waiting at the bus stop and one morning when it was -25 (without windchill) my eyelashes froze. But bussing is actually still way preferable to scraping my car or getting one of those electric plug-in engine heaters that many Minnesotans use in order to be able to start their cars on cold mornings. So even here in the artic, busses, subways, and light rails can be absolutely great.

    Now you may think I’m wacky for living in the tundra, but our land of lakes is delightful!

  7. The newer state-run mass-transit systems all cost much more per ride than the nominal price of a ticket. Even if you consider only operating costs, and disregard sunk capital costs, these systems are extremely expensive to operate, which in economic terms is indistinguishable from using a lot of oil. Newly built rail systems are simply extremely expensive when you consider all costs.

    Even for mass-transit systems that are relatively efficient, such as buses, it’s difficult to get away from the “4 block walk in pouring rain to get to the stop” factor that Shannon mentions.

    The best thing to do might be to privatize govt-run rail and bus systems and let them innovate. Doing so might be the end of rail, however, unless the State eats the capital costs, but privatization would allow entrepreneurs to create relatively cost-effective van-pool alternatives to the giant, inflexible municipal buses that are now standard.

    Mass transit and govt-run mass transit are not necessarily synonymous.

  8. But here’s the thing. You “think state-run mass-transit systems all cost much more per ride than the nominal price of a ticket”? Well how much was your ticket the last time you drove down your street? Or got on an interstate? Roads and highways are extremely, insanely expensive. And very, very few have any kind of pay-per-ride system. All transit is mass transit. You might be able to argue that it’s possible to privitize subways and busses, but highways? I don’t think even a Chicagoboy would suggest that private companies could take over the road system in America. And there’s a lot more gov’t money going to the road infastructure than the rail infastructure.

    All transit is public transit. Yes, it’s all government subsidized. But busses and rail are just safer than cars and busses and rail are more efficient for people than cars in many situations.

  9. chel,

    I think the problem with the weather in my part of the country is unpredictability. I spent a winter up north and found it marvelous that I always knew what the weather would be for six months i.e. cold and snowy. It is nothing for my weather to go from 40 in the morning to 90 in the afternoon or from drought to flood in the course of a day. Deciding what to wear can be a real challenge.

    The road system in my state is paid for from fuel taxes which makes the road transportation system largely self-funding. This is rarely the case for mass-transit. It makes it easy to pile up expenses that have nothing to do with actually moving people when you can just tax everybody. My local public transit system which uses only buses at this point, gets only 10% of its budget from fares. For a time they even did away with that until the drivers complained it let to many of the homeless ride (which they did in summer to get air conditioning). As a result they have little incentive to control cost or improve service.

    Personally, I think the best option for low density cities would be to use something halfway between a bus and taxi that was freemarket based. Combined with an internet dispatch/routing system you could end up with a multitude of mini-routes all over the city. People might well pay for a system that had much of the on demand flexibility of a taxi combined with the low cost of bus.

    I think its a big mistake to rely on the solutions of the past that evolved in cities with a very different structure than those most people live in now.

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