Privatization Ideologues Are Harming D.C.’s Metro

Even as the District leadership still isn’t getting mass transit. But we’ll get to that in a bit. A while back, some asshole with a blog noted this about the WMATA Metro board:

But we shouldn’t discount the role ideology is playing here: McMillin belongs to a think tank headed by former Senator and arch conservative Phil “I own more shotguns than I need, but not as many as I want” Gramm. He has promoted and worked on public-private partnerships, which is to say, a kinder, gentler privatization….

If you think there’s more to mass transit than just getting there–you know, crazy shit like cleaner air, less traffic, and so on–then the ‘last mile’ stuff [subsidizing Uber and Lyft with Metro funds] is awful. To have a reasonable price for customers (i.e., not $5/ride just to get to the train), this would require a massive subsidy. If you’re a privatization fan, I suppose that’s awesome. For the rest of us, we call that looting.

Underlying all of this, these two board members (and possibly others) have a very different vision for public transit, one grounded in right wing ideology (as one would expect for appointees of either Trump administration Transportation Secretary Chao or Republican Governor Hogan of Maryland), from many of the actual users of mass transit. It is definitely not urban and not thinking about reducing miles traveled. And it is grounded, not in ‘common sense’, but in ideology.

Well, Metro seems to be moving ahead with this (boldface mine):

Metro would subsidize Uber, Lyft or other on-demand trips for late-night workers under a plan the agency is proposing to the ride-hail services.

The subsidized trips — up to $3 per ride — are meant to make up for the loss of late-night service but would be available only to workers, not to people out enjoying entertainment or events.

Metro, which has been criticized by riders and D.C. officials for wanting to extend its moratorium on late-night service another year and use the extra time to catch up on maintenance, is expected to issue a request for proposals soon that will outline its goals for the estimated $1 million program.

Metro would subsidize the fare for an Uber, Lyft or other ­on-demand trip within the transit agency’s service area, provided it took place between midnight and 4 a.m. and the passenger was traveling home or to work. The transit agency would subsidize up to 10 trips per person per week.

The program, Metro says, would target late-night workers in fields such as hospitality and health care. Riders would register for the program; the ride-hailing companies would bill Metro for the subsidized costs, and data would be used to validate the riders’ travel…

The deal would be unusual for Metro because Uber and Lyft are widely believed to be siphoning customers from the struggling transit system with their ­investor-subsidized fares — pooled rides can cost as little as $3 in the District. Such an arrangement would be viewed by many as Metro’s ceding a portion of its traditional service, and its customers, to its competitors.

So this would do nothing for business patrons who don’t want to use a car. But while they’re squabbling over this, they still are doing nothing about weekend service, which means that if District residents and those living outside the District who want to use the Metro to get around D.C. still can’t. Here’s just another typical weekend for Metro:


In other words, a typical weekend for the last four years.

City leaders can blabber on about Vision Zero and protecting the environment, but making it possible for people who live near Metro stations to use it on the weekend is critical for these efforts, otherwise car ownership becomes mandatory. Once people have a car, they tend to use it often.

Utter failure. By the way, if Trump wins in 2020, we’ll have four more years of ideologues on the board, and I don’t know if Metro can survive that. Maybe some of that Green New Deal money could target existing transit?

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