The Washington Examiner Editorial Board Doesn’t Understand Mass Transit Or Geometry

Over the weekend, the rightwing rag, The Washington Examiner, revealed that it doesn’t understand either mass transit or geometry (boldface mine):

What would you do if you controlled an unpopular, unreliable public service that was being displaced by the private sector? It would make sense to restructure your service to make it more popular and accountable. You might stop wasting money on propaganda against your rival. You might even ask those who use your service to pay more for it.

Instead, the D.C. City Council has decided to punish Uber and Lyft for selling a better service than the antiquated Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority can provide.

Uber and Lyft are part of the transit system here, and so they should help pay to fix Metro because they’re benefiting from Metro’s demise,” said council member and Metro board chairman Jack Evans.

The city raised its tax on ride-hailing services from 1 percent of gross receipts to 6 percent. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said of the 500 percent tax increase, “We’re talking about a fraction of pennies here.” (It actually adds 60 cents to a $10 ride).

It also continues enabling Metro’s failures by inflicting extra costs on competitors to sluice more money into the failing system. Metro doesn’t have to improve or attract customers to get this extra lucre.

If the council’s stupidity drives you to drink, that will cost you more too. The tax on alcohol bought at liquor stores will rise by 0.25 percentage points, along with a general sales tax increase from 5.75 percent to 6 percent. Plus, commercial properties worth more than $5 million are getting a 15 percent property tax hike.

All that to prop up an increasingly irrelevant transit system that in 2017 had its lowest average weekday ridership since 2000.

Will Metrorail riders actually get any better service from their extra tax liability? Don’t hold your breath, because the trains are either delayed or not coming. Metro’s operating hours are the shortest of a major subway system in the country, and to accommodate sports fans, the city relies on the generosity of a foreign government to keep the trains running.

Nevermind that most commercial properties worth more than $5 million benefit from Metro, or that the Uber/Lyft tax increase, which is small, hurts those companies by making taxis a better option. But what is really stupid is how the local paper doesn’t even understand the importance of Metro for the city’s basic functioning.

If you remember back to when SafeTrack started (and, as far as I’m concerned, it’s still going on), there were discussions about shutting down entire lines for months to do construction. As I noted, that meant the city wouldn’t work:

Metro is just too critical for weekday commutes.

Between 5am and 9:30am, the two Farragut Square stations alone have 30,000 people arriving, with the bulk (~70%) arriving between 7am and 9am. If we add McPherson Square and Metro Center to the mix, that’s another 26,000. If we assume that’s around 40,000 people every weekday morning between 7 – 9 am, it would be impossible to get that many people in by buses–even if we cleared all car traffic from the roads. It would be, if we assume fifty riders per bus, 400 buses in an hour in a very small area. The people who pulled off the Berlin airlift couldn’t make that work.

This also ignore that the Metro serves, during the weekday, as a commuter rail–if people without cars lose the Metro, many don’t have other options; the bus might not provide a realistic alternative*. Shutting down the Metro on the weekends might help, but it simply won’t work in terms of traffic.

And I was talking about replacing trains with buses. The august solons at the Washington Examiner want to replace trains with cars. The geometry simply doesn’t work–you can’t fit an additional 40,000 cars in that space–or on the roads traveling to that space. And then there’s the parking.

I have criticized Metro many, many times here, but that’s because the city needs a good, functional mass transit system. It’s not 1985 (or 1995) anymore. The city’s population has rebounded, and the D.C Metro area’s population has exploded. But the road surface area in D.C. is a fixed quantity. We need mass transit–and “we” includes drivers, even if the Washington Examiner editorial board is too stupid to figure that out.

If you want to live in a car-dependent place, D.C. has a lot of nice suburbs

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One Response to The Washington Examiner Editorial Board Doesn’t Understand Mass Transit Or Geometry

  1. Bern says:

    Yup. And other cities (San Francisco for instance) have already shown that the Uber/Lyft flood-the-streets-with-cars effect is degrading downtown for everyone, and ruining bus schedules as well. We SHOULD be charging them a lot more for infesting our streets with all those extra (unnecessary) cars.

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