7 replies

  1. “Uber’s success will lead to what’s essentially privatized mass transit. That’s not really a concern in a place like New York City where ridership is very healthy and the subways are the best way to get to many places. But when you look at any smaller American city that’s trying its darnedest to get a new transit system off the ground, ridership numbers make a difference. ”

    I think this article writer is beating the drums too harshly.

    1. There’s nothing wrong with privatization so long as competition exists. Competition is good, monopoly is bad. Competition gives consumers lower prices and better services. There is competition in the rideshare sector: Uber vs. Lyft vs. sidecar vs. taxi cabs. There is monopoly in the mass transit sector: municipally run government transit agencies. If by chance Uber, etc. starts running bus-like fixed routes on bigger vehicles like shuttle vans and buses, then it destroys the public transit monopoly and leads to competition. All the better for consumers overall as it will lead to lower prices and better services.

    2. In the event that Uber or other rideshare services lead to places like NYC, Boston and San Francisco somehow “magically” privatizing their mass transit systems, then what that means less federal grants go to them and more pieces of the federal grant pie are available to be spread out to other cities that have struggling public transit services. Just because NYC privatizes mass transit doesn’t mean LA will follow suit either. Instead, one could see that as a big plus for LA as now, they won’t be competing for federal grants against NYC, Boston or San Francisco. LA will be able to get a bigger piece of the pie that once used to go toward NYC, Boston, and San Francisco. Of course, the catch is that perhaps LA might also one day be one of the transit agencies that goes full privatization and gets no more federal grants, but that doesn’t necessarily mean public transit services in places like Fargo, ND or Juneau, AK will either.

    And now we wait for the socialists and the workers of the world unite folks (ironically, very likely to be Apple and Android product owners and Uber and Lyft users themselves) come marching in waving their red flags for their Bolshevik Revolution in three, two, one….

  2. RE: Uber is out to destroy public transit!!!!

    Much of these can be easily debunked as shoddy journalism by the sheer fact that Japan exists.

    “Alissa is sticking to public transit because to her it represents a world full of transit options, including high-speed trains, smart buses, biking, walking, kayaks and “hover-boardy things.”

    Biking, walking, kayaks and “hover-boardy things” can still be done regardless of whether public transit exists or not. We’ve have been walking ever since we weren’t even homo sapiens, we were bicycling since it was invented in the early 19th century well before the concept of “public transit” even existed. Kayaking and “hover-boardy things” are self-explanatory. I can still choose to walk, bicycle and kayak regardless whether public transit exists or not. And just because Uber comes along, doesn’t mean those options will go away either. I still will be able to bicycle, walk, and kayak if and when Uber decides to “take over the world.”

    High speed rail systems are actually quite privatized in many places around the world, i.e. the Shinkansen bullet train operated by the JR East Company (stock ticker 9020 on the Tokyo Stock Exchange).

    Many Japanese rail systems were built and operated under private enterprise since the 19th century (i.e. Odakyu Railway), many of their buses systems also (i.e. Nishitetsu bus).

    Taxi cabs exists in Japan, as does Uber (https://www.uber.com/cities/tokyo) as well as a local competitor called LINE TAXI (http://www.theverge.com/2015/1/8/7513161/line-taxi-launches-in-japan-to-battle-Uber).

    Japan still makes Toyotas, Nissans, Hondas, Mazdas, Mitsubishis and Kawasakis, Suzukis, and Yamahas.

    Many people still use bicycles to get around in Japan.

    Much of our rails we use today here in the US are actually built by Japanese corporations such as Nippon Sharyo, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, and Kawasaki Heavy Rail.

    Tokyo’s Haneda Airport is the 4th busiest airport in the world

    Japan has river boats and water taxis

    And Japan has maglevs

    All of them, are run by PRIVATE corporations, not government funded, not under public sector control.

    That being said, I don’t see choices being limited in Japan just because there’s not “public” transit.

    • While railroads in Japan were private in the 19th century, and are private now, they were wholly government-owned between the end of World War II and and 1980s, and prior to that time the government had been a key player in railroad development since the 1870s, through the JGR and the Industry Ministry. At exactly the time California was ripping out rights-of-way and allowing its private commuter rail networks to die, the Japanese government was heavily subsidizing it’s rail networks and protecting it from competition and funding significant innovations. It’s not clear that if JR were private through the middle of the 20th century, they would have stayed in business, let alone developed HRT. In the US we heavily subsidized air and auto travel after World War II; while contrarily we made private railways in the US completely fund their own infrastructure and maintenance and pay exorbitant property taxes — there were counties in places like Kansas and New Mexico that funded their entire public school programs and police departments through railroad property taxes.

      It’s difficult to make a perfect comparison to a market like, say, California. Even though JR is a private company it holds a virtual monopoly over all rail transport in Japan — commuter, subways, interurban and freight. This allows significant cross-subsidy, and in the US we generally don’t allow that level of horizontal and vertical integration, and when we do the people who run the operation always abuse it.

      Also, just by the by, it’s unclear exactly how profitable passenger rail operations are in Japan; only JR East is consistently profitable and it’s well-known that they actually make the lion’s share of their revenue from land operations, from rent on space in their stations, airspace over their underground ROWs and stations, and the large marginal land appendant to the ROWs, which were, just as in the US, mostly established by the government in the 19th century.

      • “they were wholly government-owned between the end of World War II and and 1980s…”

        Very incorrect.

        The assumption you are making is solely on JR, which was a nationalized railway system called JNR that later privatized.

        However, JR isn’t the only railway operator in Japan and there are many private railway operators since the 19th century, was never bought out by government like the US, and still continues to exist today as private corporations. And such arguments that it isn’t so will be debunked in less than five seconds of Google and Wikipedia searches:

        Private Japanese railway companies history:


        Please do your research first before making assumptions.

        • I’m hesitant to accept anything in Wikipedia, I’m sure it’s accurate I just don’t have to background to put all the information in a proper context. I’ll stipulate that private railroads exist without making any claims as to their share of the market or their level of regulatory support (which I would guess is pretty high, comparable to airlines in the U.S.)

          That said, I’m not sure this really helps the case that Uber doesn’t compete with municipal transit systems. We can’t really make comparisons with Japan because Japan’s regulatory environment, natural resources (read: lack of oil), rail infrastructure capitalization and ownership patterns are completely different.

          By iPhone/Par iPhone >

      • “That said, I’m not sure this really helps the case that Uber doesn’t compete with municipal transit systems. We can’t really make comparisons with Japan because Japan’s regulatory environment, natural resources (read: lack of oil), rail infrastructure capitalization and ownership patterns are completely different.”

        Of course, one can just as easily say the same thing that LA is totally different from Dallas, Denver, San Diego, San Francisco, New York, Boston, Paris, London, Berlin, Oslo, etc. etc. as well.

        We really can’t make comparisons with California because our state regulatory environment would be different from State of NY or the country of the UK. We can’t make comparisons with California with our own regulations regarding natural resources which requires special blends and higher cost of gasoline from say, Texas or Colorado. We can’t really compare rail infrastructure capitalization and ownership patterns as well between say the United States and Taiwan.

        But what you can’t do is also pick and choose what you like (i.e. how transit is run in US and Europe) and dislike (i.e. how transit is run in Asia) and try to make an argument solely looking at the places that you like, while disregarding everything can be said that it’s totally different from one city to another city.

  3. “You can bet that discussions about whether rideshare companies should be treated as partners or competition are taking place at many public transit agencies across the country. It appears thus far it’s the former.”

    You can start by making Uber and Lyft rides being payable with TAP cards. In other countries, transit cards have the ability to pay for cab rides and so much more, not just public transit.