Libertarians Still Don’t Understand Geometry

At least when it comes to transportation. Over at Reason, there is a pean to privatized transportation (boldface mine):

An article in last week’s New York Times joins others in asking us to sympathize with the beleaguered transit industry, whose ridership has dropped every year since Uber and Lyft arrived on the scene. The article notes that Uber and Lyft subsidized the 5.6 billion rides they carried last year to the tune of $2.7 billion, or almost 50 cents a ride.

“The risks of [transit] privatization are grave,” the Times article warns. Uber and Lyft are taking “a privileged subset of passengers away from public transit systems” which “undermines support for public transportation.”

…Instead of bemoaning the loss of transit riders to ride-hailing services, we should be celebrating the fact that a fast, convenient, and affordable service is taking away the need to subsidize slow, inconvenient, and expensive transit systems.

But Uber et alia are only fast because of those very same “slow, inconvenient, and expensive transit systems.” The issue is one of geometry:

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 cities 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…

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.

The cars argument also applies to loosely regulated iTaxis (sorry, I meant ‘ridesharing.’) In D.C., Dupont Circle is already a mess with Uber and Lyft. If everyone drove, it would be a nightmare. We know this because we have done this experiment with the shutdown of six of D.C. Metro’s 91 stations–hint, it’s not good. For a more humorous example on a smaller scale, read about the clusterfuck that ensued after Uber invited thousands of its Chicago drivers to a rally/party and told them they could bring their cars (you’ll never guess what happened next! Actually, you probably will…).

If you want density, then you need mass transit, even if it makes libertarian Baby Jesus cry.

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1 Response to Libertarians Still Don’t Understand Geometry

  1. I will never understand the love affair with cars. Never ever.

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