Human Nature: The Real Threat To Government Subsidized Industry

Written by Michael Cummings on November 11, 2017

I’m not playing the Roy Moore game. I still support him, not because he’s a conservative but because the timing is too perfect. Next topic.

One of the greatest things about the United States is our land mass. True, countries like China and Russia have more blades of grass but they’re not as easy to traverse as those across America. Free markets plus limited government gave the American people the ability to get in their cars and travel from end to end without molestation. As Captain Borodin from the movie The Hunt for Red October remarked:

Capt. Vasili Borodin: And I will have a pickup truck… maybe even a “recreational vehicle.” And drive from state to state. Do they let you do that?
Captain Ramius: Oh, yes.
Capt. Vasili Borodin: No papers?
Captain Ramius: No papers, state to state.

Conservatives love this freedom. Leftists do for themselves, of course, but they don’t want the same for anyone else – which is why they hate cars, especially SUVs and trucks, and love mass transit. The problem with mass transit, however, is that if it weren’t for the local, state, and federal taxpayer, precious few riders could afford to use it.

Frankly, I’m surprised this article appeared in The Hill, but here you go (emphasis mine):

In 2004, Denver’s Regional Transit District (RTD) persuaded voters to pay billions of dollars in taxes to build a 19th century rail transit system for a 21st century urban area. Thirteen years later, this experiment is increasingly proving to be a failure. Ridership on Denver’s new R and W light-rail lines is so low that RTD is reducing train frequencies. After more than a year of operating a rail line to the airport, the agency still hasn’t figured out how to make its automatic crossing gates work reliably, a problem private railroads solved more than 80 years ago.

Due to overruns that nearly doubled construction costs, RTD is unlikely to finish all of the lines promised to voters in 2004 without another tax increase. Those cost overruns have also harmed bus riders, who — instead of the enhanced bus service promised by RTD — saw service decline from 39 million bus-miles in 2004 to 36 million in 2015, with more cuts expected in the near future.

This national decline appears to be due largely to a combination of low gasoline prices and ridesharing services. A recent survey found that one-third of Uber and Lyft riders would have taken transit if ridesharing were not available. If true, the rapid growth of these services explains nearly three-fourths of the 2016 decline in transit ridership. Now that hydraulic fracturing has given the United States control over energy supplies, neither low gas prices nor ridesharing are going away anytime soon.

In fact, the loss of transit riders to ridesharing services will rapidly accelerate as shared, driverless cars replace human-driving vehicles. Companies as diverse as Ford, Google, and Uber are racing to put driverless cars in our cities within five years that will be both more convenient and less costly than transit.

Why walk in the summer heat or winter cold to catch a bus or light rail when an app on your smart phone will bring a car to your door that will take you to your destination faster and for less money than a transit fare? Given the huge advantages of driverless ridesharing over transit, it is likely that, by 2030, most publicly subsidized mass transit outside of New York City will completely disappear and Denver’s multi-billion-dollar rail lines will be running empty or rusting away.

Despite these predictable trends, transit agencies in many other cities are making the same mistake as RTD by planning and building obsolete, infrastructure-heavy transit programs.

This is textbook buggy whip economics. Human nature is always on the lookout to improve the way we do things from cooking to cleaning, entertaining to transporting – and in America you will find no greater example of that nature than in the entrepreneur who yearns to make money improving the lives of others. Stop riding mass transit. And the next time you see a tax to fund mass transportation of any stripe or flavor, say no. We’ve wasted enough money already.

If a business can’t survive without taxpayer assistance, it shouldn’t survive.

photo credit: @KevinCase HDR Antique NYC Subway Car via photopin (license)

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Michael Cummings
Michael A. Cummings has a Bachelors in Business Management from St. John's University in Collegeville, MN, and a Masters in Rhetoric & Composition from Northern Arizona University. He has worked as a department store Loss Prevention Officer, bank auditor, textbook store manager, Chinese food delivery man, and technology salesman. Cummings wrote position pieces for the 2010 Trevor Drown for US Senate (AR) and 2012 Joe Coors for Congress (CO) campaigns.