Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, in a recent interview with Reason.tv about his proposal to privatize the Virginia ABC stores, says:
“we can’t just do things the same old way…. Certainly there’s nothing I gleaned from the [Virginia] constitution that would have me think it’s better or required to have the government controlling distilled spirits.”
This same type of attitude should apply when it comes to Washington, DC’s Metrorail & MetroBus system.
Tonight at 5:30pm, the Metro board, NONE of whom take Metro regularly, will hear from passengers on various proposals as the Metro board tries to plug a $16 million dollar shortfall for the current fiscal year. These prpoposals range from fare increases to reductions in service. The board will then vote on Thursday morning in regards to this current shortfall.
In July, the same Metro board will have to deal with a projected $175 million dollar shortfall in next years budget. This is why the Washington Metro system is a prime example of the failure of our socialized transit model, and why transit systems should be privatized.
So how did we get here?
Up until about 1964, transit systems in general were profitable until the last time Democrats in Congress had a super majority in Congress. Why? Because they were privately owned and not subsidized. Then, in 1964, Congress passed the Urban Mass Transit Act in order to assist low-income folks from impending closings of train service in various cities around the country that were closing lines because of low ridership. Where in the Constitution does it permit Congress to subsidize and regulate transit systems? Answer, it’s not in there.
So what happened? Places like Washington, DC, behind billions of dollars in new subsidies from the Federal Government, built our current Metro system.The system is funded by the surrounding localities as well as the Federal Government. Alexandria’s Vice Mayor Kerry Donley has proposed to double the gas tax (PDF) in Virginia in order to maintain Alexandria, VA’s committment to Metro stating:
“Travelers and visitors to the region should pay more of the burden as they are the direct beneficiaries of the reduced congestion brought to us by the Metro system,”
This is bad idea by Vice Mayor Donley because residents in Northern Virginia already pay between $.30 to $.50 higher prices for gas than the rest of the Commonwealth. Raising taxes to cover Alexandria’s share for Metro, especially in a recession that is expected to get worse, will not solve the problem. Governments in general are not good at running businesses (e.g. the U.S. Post Office, Amtrak).
Did you know? Transit subsidies are vastly out of proportion to other modes of transportation and have made transit the most expensive way to travel. That’s right. In subsidies, it costs about $.15 per mile when you fly, $.24 per mile to drive and on average $.80 per mile to take rail transit. Using that figure, my commute each way between Alexandria and D.C. costs Metro $7.20 for a $2.65 fare. See the problem?
John Stossel writes about ‘The Rail Scam’:
“The average subsidy per ride on all LA rails is $10.53, according to data from transportation consultant Tom Rubin. For someone who uses the rail to go back and forth to work every day, that adds up to a subsidy of $5,369 per year — enough to lease that person a Toyota Prius for the year.”
Lastly, I would hope riders at the public hearing ask the Metro Board to NOT ‘skimp’ on safety and maintenance. Why? As the Washington Examiner points out, in December, 191 Metro trains were emptied of their passengers and taken out of service because of mechanical and door problems. That was a 56 percent increase over the previous month and does not include incidents involving ice on the tracks, sick customers or a train that was emptied Dec. 14 because of graffiti.
So, if Metro wants riders to choose from whether the transit agency should cut service, raid its capital fund (e.g. skimp on safety and maintenance), or increase fares, riders should insist that the board to privatize the system. This will allow transit companies to compete to provide innovative transit options that we ALL can enjoy. We riders will get better service,and our communities will benefit as well.
After all, haven’t local Governments thrown enough money down the Metrorail/MetroBus well?