Thursday, 9 June 2005

Govt spending can't even get public transport right

Chris Trotter's 'Independent' column, posted yesterday morning at DPF's blog, makes the point among things that "Six years of unprecedented spending on health and education have not produced the anticipated results."

This should be no surprise however, and seems to be a rule with government spending: the more that's spent, the more that needs to be spent. The more that's spent on welfare for example, the more problems are created and the more that still needs to be spent to fix those problems, and so on. As public choice theorists explain, Government spending has very different outcomes and incentives to those that exist in free markets, and the results are often counter-intuitive.

A good example is the spending that takes place with public transport -- the more that is spent on a system of public transport, the better for everyone, right? We just have to pump in a little money up front to get the right system so thatwe can get the bums of taxpayers and ratepayers on public transport seats and then hey-ho a merry-o, right?

Wrong. As 'Reason' magazine points out today, Washington DC Metro is a $10 billion lavishly subsidised world-beating public transport system that is so all-powerfully successful it needs more money. That's right. Says 'Reason':
Metro officials lament that their system is beset by too many riders and that funding must increase to cope with them all. And this is a $10 billion modern system, the oldest parts of which are only a few decades old, one that has been lavished with federal subsidies since its inception, one that has benefited from a good design and the necessary development density to make light rail function. And yet Metro wants its own dedicated regional sales tax to keep the system running.

Cities contemplating pumping tens or hundreds of millions into light rail systems need to ask themselves how they would avoid the problems Metro now grapples with. Absent a good answer, maybe the best idea is to pass on the projects and avoid the whole too few/too many dilemma.

The Washington Post analysis is here. Send it to an ARC councillor.

1 comment:

  1. I'm not sure you need to send the WP piece. It's summary is: Better management and more money will fix everything.

    Sounds just like my house hold...


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