A lil’ lesson in economics from Professor Steve; HWR, Feb. 9

Things to read whilst transiting: “Welcome to the post-text future” in the NYT. Excerpt:

Still, we have only just begun to glimpse the deeper, more kinetic possibilities of an online culture in which text recedes to the background, and sounds and images become the universal language.

Oh goody. Can’t wait.

Cars remain popular because they are vastly superior to transit alternatives (OC Register) 

The op-ed by Pepperdine economics professor Gary Galles does not pull any punches. Excerpt:

…cars are vastly superior to alternatives for the vast majority of individuals and circumstances.

Automobiles have far greater and more flexible passenger- and cargo-carrying capacities than transit. They allow direct, point-to-point service, unlike transit. They allow self-scheduling rather than requiring advance planning. They save time, especially time spent waiting, which surveys find transit riders find far more onerous. They have far better multi-stop trip capability. They offer a safer, more comfortable, more controllable environment, from the seats to the temperature to the music to the company.

Those massive advantages explain why even substantial new restrictions on automobiles or improvements in alternatives leave driving the vastly dominant choice.

Attentive Source readers know the media has been having a field day with the recent UCLA study showing that car ownership rates — especially among lower-income residents — have soared in So Cal in recent years. Which is likely one reason transit ridership has declined, although some big steps are being taken to reverse that (rail and bus rapid transit expansion and bus restructuring are two big parts of that).

Here’s the thing: It’s hard to argue with Galles about the popularity of cars. I personally think the majority of people who own cars find them to be beneficial; I’m one of them. To put it another way: I think a lot of people like driving. It’s the traffic they hate, even though they’re contributing to it.

Here’s what Galles gets wrong: “In all, attempting to force people out of cars and onto transit recycles earlier failures and harms the vast majority of citizens,” he writes. 

Ummm, who exactly is being forced out of their car? Sure, parking fees have taken an upturn in recent years and there have been a few road diets that have received a lot of publicity. Otherwise, what policies have been put in place to get people to stop driving? I know that when I’m sitting on the Orange Line bus or Expo Line train waiting at a red light, I’m not exactly witnessing Persecution of the Motorists.

And this: so what if driving remains popular? Not everyone can drive, wants to drive and not every part of town can accommodate an unlimited number of cars. To put all our Mobility Eggs in just the driving basket strikes me as dumb, shortsighted and not smart economics.

BART partners with students to launch new courtesy posters (BART)

“We asked the students to come up with something attention grabbing, engaging, honest and playful,” said Alicia Trost, BART Spokesperson. “We also wanted to embrace ideas and campaigns that younger generations would relate to and connect with.”

Some of the results are above. The posters belong in the pantheon of transit agency campaigns to improve rider etiquette. Metro’s latest entry, as you likely know, is the Superkind campaign that launched last fall.

Quasi-related: the burritos in the first poster can be had at Taqueria El Farolito and they are every bit as good as advertised. The joint is on Mission Street, a few feet north of the station entrance.


4 replies

  1. I don’t think I understand how Mr. Galles reasons that cars are safer than transit. There seems to be no explanation for that.

    • He didn’t say they were safer he said they “offer a safer.. environment.” The distinction is one of perception. The supposed dangers of driving (others drivers maybe but really YOU, the distracted driver) are more controllable than the supposed dangers of transit (that crazy dude on the bus ). Although statistically you are probably safer on a bus or train than in your own vehicle (Steve?), those uncontrollable risks keep people away from public transit. This is perhaps why it is SO important for people to FEEL safe and for Metro to continue to make progress there.

      • Hi Evan;

        I think it’s fair to say that in the U.S. all modes of transportation are very safe statistically speaking — your chances of getting hurt or killed in a car, plane or transit are very, very small. That said, there are far fewer fatalities on transit than in driving.

        Here are the raw numbers: https://www.rita.dot.gov/bts/sites/rita.dot.gov.bts/files/publications/national_transportation_statistics/html/table_02_01.html_mfd. This Streetsblog post addresses rate of fatality, which shows that transit is many times safer than car travel: https://usa.streetsblog.org/2014/12/19/heres-how-much-safer-transit-is-compared-to-driving/.

        Again, I like to stress: all modes of travel — including walking and biking — are very safe especially when everyone uses common sense and plays by the rules.

        Steve Hymon
        Editor, The Source

      • I understand what you are saying, but I guess my interpretation of what does and does not feel feel like a safe environment is different than the author. I know driving in a car is fairly dangerous, and riding transit is fairly safe…so when I’m on a bus or train I usually feel safer than in a car. Seeing all the crazy maneuvers people make in cars without regard for other vehicles or people is terrifying. Seeing a homeless person asking for money or talking to themselves comes across as less dangerous. I could see that this could be a personal bias, however. Thank you for your explanation.