Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Overcroded, Malfunctioning Trains Help Fox Blogger Make Case for Transit

Fox Business News blogger Brian Sullivan provides an interesting look at a calamitous day commuting to New York from Morristown, NJ, aboard NJ Transit. In a manner that can be considered truly Foxian, he says his woes make the case for increased investment in transit: "Consider rail improvements an investment … something we can’t say about much of the other parts of the “stimulus.” However, I disagree with his suggestion to privatize. I'm sure patrons of the MBTA commuter lines serving Boston and Metrolink in Los Angeles, while rely on privatized operators feel the same way.


  1. Well, as a regular user of the MBTA Commuter Rail service, what I can tell you is that that privatization of public transit would probably work just fine, but in order for it to work, it would have to be able to compete on the same playing field with other modes of transportation. Because a regional transit system is mainly competing with cars, this means that either drivers must pay a gas tax that covers 100 percent of *all* road-based transportation costs, or that the government must fund *all* of the infrastructure maintenance costs for the transit systems.

    It's a little bit like asking Amtrak to pay to maintain its tracks while providing government funded airport operations to the airlines.

  2. Amtrak maintains its ROW in the Northeast Corridor, but can not generate adequate income to cover its costs despite hefty fares on its Acela Express and hefty trackage rights fees paid by commuter carriers.

    I can envision privatization of trains operation in markets where there is adequate demand, provided that the infrastructure is maintained as a public utility. I fear private ROW would lead to deferred maintenance, capacity reduction, safety problems, etc. on routes that do not generate sufficient traffic. The greed motive would lead railroad owners to skimp so they could lavish dividends on their shareholders and huge bonuses for their CEOs.