Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Archive for May 6th, 2008

I’m off

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for a few days to New York, New York.

My ability to blog will depend on a number of factors but I am assuming that I will be able to find many free wi-fi spots.

In the meantime my thanks to The Tyee for adding me to their blogroll. And to the reborn VancouverIAM which is linking to me on a regular basis.

In the inbox is an email from regular reader Brain Day who has found this post on induced traffic in The Atlantic. Since this was also the journal that published the Chris Leinberger article, it is obviously a source I need to keep up with. I also liked their choice of image

Gridlock
which is from the creative commons bit of flickr and is one of my favourite sources these days. This image is by Ethan B who is a lawyer who calls himself gmonster25

Written by Stephen Rees

May 6, 2008 at 7:58 am

Posted in Transportation

Freeconomics

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Not so long ago we were engaged in a debate about how transit could be made free to use. This article in the Guardian purports to explain how things can be given away, and by operations that make lots of money. Which I thought was good until I came across this paragraph

But even that was good news. High-street bookshops might not have space to stock those Compton-Burnett novels I so ardently crave, but some warehouse off the M1 near Daventry might supply my outre demand if I ordered online. What is more, the internet could link geographically distant secondhand booksellers into one webpage. As a result, I need not visit Hay-on-Wye to trawl secondhand book shops. I could instead buy a book online, thereby saving me travel costs, while incurring negligible postal charges. In so doing I would be making someone outside the book-retailing mega-chains a few bob. Which has to be a good thing, doesn’t it?

Yes and it already exists and has done for some years. The site is called Abe books and it was started by a secondhand bookshop in Victoria BC and has already transformed the used book business. And not just in Canada.

When I read a newspaper like the Guardian I assume it is written by people who know what they are writing about. Of course in my own specialized sphere, I do not expect them to be quite as knowledgeable. But something like this really begins to make me doubt the value of my source. And Guardian is still one I refer to a lot out of more than just nostalgia.

But there is some kernel of wisdom here. Right now tax payers pick up half the bill for transit – and here in Vancouver BC that translates into high fares and poor service for most of the region. And because it is a monopoly and under control of government, innovation is rare and sputtering, and often in bizarre areas of little concern to the people trying to get on a crowded bus. But money gets spent on things that appeal to politicians – and they seem to think they know better than we do what we ought to want.

So there could be a way to do free to user transit – but as long as the present system of (mis) governance persists, I do not see how we can break out of the mould that has trapped us in an expensive system that still only carries 11% of the trips at high cost to riders and taxpayers, and does not serve most of the geographic area very well – and some of it not at all.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 6, 2008 at 7:45 am

Posted in Economics, transit

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