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(CBS New York)   Former NYC traffic commissioner has a BRILLIANT new plan to put tolls on East River bridges that includes a first-ever toll for bicyclists. Probably one of the reasons he's a 'former' traffic commissioner   (newyork.cbslocal.com) divider line 64
    More: Dumbass, East River, fixed crossings of the East River, E-ZPass, business districts, traffic commissioner, Ed Koch, traffic  
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2460 clicks; posted to Main » on 24 Mar 2012 at 2:06 AM (2 years ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2012-03-23 09:33:35 PM  
Next up: Charging the homeless rent for living under the bridges!

/hopes I don't give this guy another idea
 
ZAZ [TotalFark]
2012-03-23 10:37:37 PM  
it is necessary to find some way to fund mass transit

How about charging fares that cover expenses?
 
2012-03-23 11:27:05 PM  

ZAZ: it is necessary to find some way to fund mass transit

How about charging fares that cover expenses?


You do know this is NYC?
Interesting tidbit: Just for the record, before 1911 there were tolls on the Ed Koch bridge - 10 cents for cars, 5 cents for push carts and 3 cents for horses.

/ I love Ed and all but she'll always be the 59th Street Bridge to me

//once ran right into the back of cab on her ... Ernest Borgnine would of laughed
 
2012-03-24 02:13:17 AM  
Hell, they should just sell it to the thruway authority, who will claim that tolls will be kept low and only go toward upkeep.
 
2012-03-24 02:13:36 AM  
What's wrong with the 1% paying their fair share?
 
2012-03-24 02:15:00 AM  
What am I missing here? This seems eminently reasonable if you're going to have a toll on the bridge.
 
2012-03-24 02:28:56 AM  
<b><a href="http://www.fark.com/comments/7012099/75767656#c75767656" target="_blank">ZAZ</a>:</b> <i>it is necessary to find some way to fund mass transit

How about charging fares that cover expenses?</i>

They do, more or less. They cover expenses minus benefit from externalities, such as less total pollution and fewer total cars on the road - you know - things that even the SUV driving morans can take advantage of but would otherwise not pay for.

externalities, knowledge of: that which separates people who know a thing or two about economics and policies from libertarian and other "free market" delusionals like ZAZ.
 
2012-03-24 02:31:35 AM  
Not a bad idea, if it's going to bridge maintenance...
 
2012-03-24 02:36:24 AM  
I would love see bike tolls in Portland just for the lulz.
 
2012-03-24 02:36:27 AM  
Honestly, I think bikers should pay tolls. Because they use roads too, and occasionally cause accidents.
 
2012-03-24 02:41:06 AM  
Leader of the anti-toll PAC.

www.dreamstime.com
 
2012-03-24 03:03:47 AM  
seattlesportsinsider.com
/obligatory
//and hotlinked
 
2012-03-24 03:04:27 AM  
Nothing will change until we bring back tar and feathering.
 
2012-03-24 03:11:52 AM  

Tempest2097: Honestly, I think bikers should pay tolls. Because they use roads too, and occasionally cause accidents.


If you don't want to the toll, walk.
 
2012-03-24 03:12:12 AM  
i don't see anything wrong with this. you want to use the roads might as well pay the toll just like the drivers.
 
2012-03-24 03:12:23 AM  
What's needed, country-wide, from New York to California, are large transparent sky tubes to be used only for bicycling.

If you'll just believe, you'll realize that this is the solution of the future, and you can easily visualize a clear matrix of bicycle "Skyways" criss-crossing the globe with bicyclists seemingly cycling through the air above us. Close your eyes and see it. Seeeeeeee it.
 
2012-03-24 03:13:49 AM  

doglover: Tempest2097: Honestly, I think bikers should pay tolls. Because they use roads too, and occasionally cause accidents.

If you don't want to the toll, walk.


There's a fee for that.
 
mjg
2012-03-24 03:26:31 AM  
Just pick up the bike while going through the toll = no charge

/so a wheelchair toll would be $1?
 
2012-03-24 03:26:35 AM  

Hector Remarkable: What's needed, country-wide, from New York to California, are large transparent sky tubes to be used only for bicycling.

If you'll just believe, you'll realize that this is the solution of the future, and you can easily visualize a clear matrix of bicycle "Skyways" criss-crossing the globe with bicyclists seemingly cycling through the air above us. Close your eyes and see it. Seeeeeeee it.


Yeah, and where's the money for this magical project going to come from during a recession? Fairy dust credit swaps? No, we're stuck with cyclists on the road for the foreseeable future, and if it were up to me I'd have an actual licensing and test system in place for that sort of thing. Plus actual enforcement of traffic laws. It's depressing how many cyclists break the law in the city I live in and nobody does a thing about it.
 
2012-03-24 03:26:48 AM  
doglover: why should pedestrians be exempt, given the self-serving "use the bridge and cause accidents too" logic of those too fat to cycle, such as mogani and tempest?

/ it couldn't be that people are basing their opinions on this matter on whatever might benefit them personally - nah, couldn't be.
 
2012-03-24 03:31:40 AM  

Tempest2097: Honestly, I think bikers should pay tolls. Because they use roads too, and occasionally cause accidents.


I would be happy to pay a toll, so long as it's based proportionally on the wear and tear on the roads when compared to other vehicles. I'm not sure how they can charge fractions of a cent though...

: )
 
2012-03-24 03:35:25 AM  

Tempest2097: Hector Remarkable: What's needed, country-wide, from New York to California, are large transparent sky tubes to be used only for bicycling.

If you'll just believe, you'll realize that this is the solution of the future, and you can easily visualize a clear matrix of bicycle "Skyways" criss-crossing the globe with bicyclists seemingly cycling through the air above us. Close your eyes and see it. Seeeeeeee it.

Yeah, and where's the money for this magical project going to come from during a recession? Fairy dust credit swaps? No, we're stuck with cyclists on the road for the foreseeable future, and if it were up to me I'd have an actual licensing and test system in place for that sort of thing. Plus actual enforcement of traffic laws. It's depressing how many cyclists break the law in the city I live in and nobody does a thing about it.


Of course money will no longer exist. We'll work to better ourselves, and humanity.
i229.photobucket.com
 
2012-03-24 04:03:00 AM  

ZAZ: it is necessary to find some way to fund mass transit

How about charging fares that cover expenses?


THAT'S RACIST
 
2012-03-24 04:21:46 AM  

TwowheelinTim: Tempest2097: Honestly, I think bikers should pay tolls. Because they use roads too, and occasionally cause accidents.

I would be happy to pay a toll, so long as it's based proportionally on the wear and tear on the roads when compared to other vehicles. I'm not sure how they can charge fractions of a cent though...

: )


All roads suffer degradation over time from weather and other natural and unnatural problems, so no, you don't get a pass strictly for weighing nothing. You still get to pay for upkeep based on the fact that you use it. When all is said and done, it usually comes out to about a quarter of wear from weather and three quarters from traffic, in hot climates, or half-and-half in Siberian tundra like Chicago and NY (snow doesn't cause many problems on its own, but the masses of salt and sand sprayed to get rid of it sure does). Ocean breezes cause some issues, but only on a very long time scale - you only see those problems on old Portland cement highways. I draw the line at pedestrians, who get virtually no more value out of a bridge than they would a barge or a pier.

So there you have it, your share is a quarter to half the motorist toll. If your property taxes cover that, as they should if you live locally, then you should be good; if not, you pay.

But that has nothing to do with the article, which goes deep into the facepalm worthy accounting of using completely unrelated things to pay for social programs. I'm not against paying for them, I and a lot of other people have benefited from social programs at some point and I know I have to contribute, but that kind of accounting is usually pandering.
 
2012-03-24 04:55:04 AM  

TwowheelinTim: Tempest2097: Honestly, I think bikers should pay tolls. Because they use roads too, and occasionally cause accidents.

I would be happy to pay a toll, so long as it's based proportionally on the wear and tear on the roads when compared to other vehicles. I'm not sure how they can charge fractions of a cent though...

: )


Because roads cost nothing to build. It is all maintenance.

/STFU and pay your share.
 
2012-03-24 06:03:55 AM  
Wait, wait, wait. If you want "as much right to the road as a car" you should pay as much as a car to be on that road.

/ and STOP AT THE #$%*@ STOPLIGHTS
 
2012-03-24 06:35:51 AM  

TwowheelinTim: Tempest2097: Honestly, I think bikers should pay tolls. Because they use roads too, and occasionally cause accidents.

I would be happy to pay a toll, so long as it's based proportionally on the wear and tear on the roads when compared to other vehicles. I'm not sure how they can charge fractions of a cent though...

: )


img403.imageshack.us

How do they smell?
 
2012-03-24 06:40:43 AM  
Hector Remarkable: Tempest2097: Hector Remarkable: What's needed, country-wide, from New York to California, are large transparent sky tubes to be used only for bicycling.

If you'll just believe, you'll realize that this is the solution of the future, and you can easily visualize a clear matrix of bicycle "Skyways" criss-crossing the globe with bicyclists seemingly cycling through the air above us. Close your eyes and see it. Seeeeeeee it.

Yeah, and where's the money for this magical project going to come from during a recession? Fairy dust credit swaps? No, we're stuck with cyclists on the road for the foreseeable future, and if it were up to me I'd have an actual licensing and test system in place for that sort of thing. Plus actual enforcement of traffic laws. It's depressing how many cyclists break the law in the city I live in and nobody does a thing about it.

Of course money will no longer exist. We'll work to better ourselves, and humanity.
[i229.photobucket.com image 186x272]


Uh. There are no such thing as SPACE DOLLARS, Sir, I believe you're referring to the Gold Pressed Latnum, the currency of the Federation in Star Trek.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pKCXHoZDYPk
 
2012-03-24 07:17:53 AM  
It should be half of what cars cost since bikes only have two wheels. Otherwise, all that money being saved on gas would be wasted on Stella, Dunhills, and iphone apps

I keed. Next week everyone will be kayaking to work to avoid tolls and because "Eskimos are pretty tight". yeah.

/Pays for creation and maintenance of bike lanes/trails that I don't use.
//Damn public coffers
 
2012-03-24 07:43:20 AM  

Bomb Head Mohammed: They cover expenses minus benefit from externalities, such as less total pollution and fewer total cars on the road - you know - things that even the SUV driving morans can take advantage of but would otherwise not pay for.


I see someone who's working mighty hard to justify confiscating someone else's money for projects of too little value to fund themselves.
 
2012-03-24 07:44:17 AM  

JosephFinn: What am I missing here? This seems eminently reasonable if you're going to have a toll on the bridge.


You are missing how 95% of cyclists are self-absorbed d-bags. (I say this as someone who doesn't own a vehicle and uses a bicycle as my primary/only form of non-walking transportation)

Cyclists feel that they deserve all of the same consideration as cars because they deserve it. But they also feel that, because they aren't cars, when it benefits them, they should be treated differently. They are also pretty darn sure they are better than anyone not on a bicycle.

For example, cyclists (the majority anyway) believe that they should be allowed to ride on roads along with cars, even if they are slower and less safe than cars (they don't meet many of the safety requirements we demand of vehicles to be street legal). However, they believe that bicycle lanes should be for cyclists only. Even if the relative speeds between car and a bicycle and a bicycle and a jogger are the same; they don't care. They really just want to have their cake and eat it to.

They want cars to treat them like cars, but they also don't see any point in stopping at stop signs or entering/exiting the sidewalk at will. The vast majority of them will not signal turns (but will biatch if a car doesn't). I've never seen a cyclist who didn't ride in between stopped traffic to get closer to the stoplight. Nor have I ever seen a cyclists who demands the same rights as drivers demand the same level of testing/licensing to legally ride on the roads.

Cyclists believe that, even though they are entitled to use (as equals) the roads designed for cars; they should be immune to the taxation that helps facilitate the creation and maintenance of the roads.

Not paying tolls is an extension of this. 'Why should I pay a toll to use the bridge? I'm NOT DRIVING! But, since I'm on my bicycle, I demand all the same rights as someone in a car; so you'd better yield to me, because I'm just like car; only I won't stop at this stop sign or use my turn signal, because I'm on a bicycle which is different, but you'd better not say that because I'll quote you the law that says I'm just like a car and you have to treat me as such, but I'm not going to pay this toll, because hey, I'm not a car!'

Cyclists believe they are equal *and better* to motorists. Equal when they want you to treat them like a motorists, better when they decide to ignore the laws required of motorists.

As a cyclist, I hate cyclists.
 
2012-03-24 08:20:05 AM  

AlwaysRightBoy: Next up: Charging the homeless rent for living under the bridges!

/hopes I don't give this guy another idea


I at first thought headline read "trolls under East River briges". That would probably work better.
 
2012-03-24 08:22:28 AM  

Mogani: i don't see anything wrong with this. you want to use the roads might as well pay the toll just like the drivers.


As long as it's a smaller fee as they obviously will cuase less wear and tear.
 
2012-03-24 09:24:36 AM  

spacelord321: Mogani: i don't see anything wrong with this. you want to use the roads might as well pay the toll just like the drivers.

As long as it's a smaller fee as they obviously will cuase less wear and tear.


If you use a full lane, pay a full toll.
 
2012-03-24 09:34:36 AM  
This is complete bullshiat. If you tax cyclists you might as well tax pedestrians. Both groups subsidize the roads they don't heavily use through taxes where car owners pay nowhere near what it actually costs for them to drive. Also as bicycles weigh next to nothing the damage they do to the road is much more comparable to a pedestrian than a car. If anything we should be encouraging more people to cycle. It's greener, healthier, and removes congestion. There's too many lazy assholes in NYC who drive a couple miles when they could easily bike or use public transport.
 
2012-03-24 09:50:37 AM  

ZAZ: it is necessary to find some way to fund mass transit

How about charging fares that cover expenses?


Not impossible, but impractical. I was actually paid to do a study on this, so for once I'm not talking out of my ass here, but from hard numbers.

One of the questions I was asked to find an answer to for the study was, "How much would [specific public transit agency] have to charge to break even?" But that was by far the easiest one of all, and required no research: "Take a taxi the same distance."

Livery rates are profit rates. Transit rates actually make no sense at all. Not because they don't make enough money to support the service, but because *they make no money at all*. For the majority of transit operators. transit fares approximately cover the cost of collecting the fares, and provide little or no net profit. It's a zero-sum game in most cases.

I spoke to at least one transit operator that runs fare-free, and knew of at least two others that I didn't have time to interview for the study. I wanted to, and even started to run hard numbers showing that the specific service they were interested in should also run fare-free, but they told me to drop that angle, as it was a political non-starter.

I pursued the question on my own, however, and though I never did find anyone in government willing to be completely forthcoming on the issue, I determined to my own satisfaction that transit fares are chiefly political, since they clearly have no practical purpose. They basically exist in order to give more powerful political constituents the comfort of knowing that 'those people' aren't getting a free ride (literally).

But of course, *no one* gets a free ride. Motorways are heavily subsidised also, in fact at orders of magnitude greater (except in the largest metros), and despite the stereotype of bums on the bus most transit riders are working taxpayers, and also subsidise the roadways they may not use ever, at orders of magnitude greater (100:1 is not uncommon) than drivers subsidize trains and buses.

When I was a taxpayer in Rhode Island, every couple years RIDOT (easily the biggest bum in the state, which is saying something) would come around begging for a handout, each time a lot bigger than the last. The last one I remember was a little over $82 million. Of that, about $1.5 million went to RIPTA -- an insultingly small sop meant only to help grease it through, because otherwise, well, "No more buses for you, punk." (From the top figure, it's not hard to figure out that they wanted a flat $80 million, tossed in the extra for buses to poison the political debate, and sucked half a million of the top to make the rest pure gravy.) This same pattern plays out at the federal level even more brutally, where 80% of *all* transportation money comes from for everything. That same fiscal year, USDOT got about $50 billion, of which about 2% went for state and municipal transit subsidies. (Typically in the form of 80/20 matching funds for capital expenditures only, such as for new rolling stock but *not* for maintenance: operators are entirely on their own for operating funds. This is part of the reason why so many transit operators find it cheaper to buy new buses rather than maintain older ones. The net excess cost to all taxpayers averages around 15% over the long haul -- but it's still a drop in the bucket compared to motorway expenditures.) At the federal level, long-term transit investment projects (e.g., new light railways) must meet a far stricter standard than road projects and even bridges, making it much harder for states to invest in railways than roadways -- even though a typical train car or bus replaces about 40 cars over the same distance, at a net taxpayer-earner savings of a factor averaging, according to the federal government's own statistics, around 8:1. That is, if people *could* ride instead of drive, those communities that maximise transit options end up netting *eight times* what they would without it, mostly in the form of saved transportation costs.

This explains why the great cities invest so heavily in transit. It's not because they're all ignorant and can't do math. It's because their economies would collapse without it. They understand -- apparently, much better than Congress does -- that if people can't get to work, they can't work, and if they can't work, then they can't earn tax money, and won't be paying taxes, and then you can't have nice things like huge sports stadiums, airports, running water, and so on.

(Congress isn't actually dumber. But the bicameral legislative structure means that reps from Kansas who can't comprehend why New York needs trains get a disproportionate say in New York not getting the trains it needs, while Nebraska still gets roads that they don't have enough people to drive on, because everyone comprehends roads.)

Now then, WHY can't transit charge livery rates? Because then it would be livery, not transit. Not only would it threaten private livery, but it would obviate transit as such. It's a no-brainer that everyone would like to take a cab to work, but the cost adds up fast. The majority of transit riders can't afford those rates. If they had to pay them, then they wouldn't be able to get where they need to go, which is usually work. (Seriously, about that stereotype: There's a reason transit systems have 'peak' periods and it happens to be the same time as motorway 'rush hour': Most riders are working stiffs, not bums. And plenty of drivers are bums, too, just bums with cars.) If they can't get to work, then a huge proportion of the service sector -- the largest in our national economy -- can't do their jobs. The cost of that would be devastating for everyone.

People need to stop thinking about public transit as a net loser, because it's not: it's a loss-leader, which is quite different. A loss-leader is a cost centre that loses money on its own books, but earns net profit in the larger picture. An example of a very effective loss-leader is McDonald's Double Cheeseburger, which sells for a dollar. Anyone who's studied small business management can tell you that the rule of thumb in over-the-counter retail is 500% of unit cost to make any money at all. I've run restaurants, and I guarantee you that that cheeseburger cost a lot more than twenty cents to make. McDonald's is making no profit on it; it's actually taking a fairly steep loss. But you'd be a fool to suggest that McDonald's is incompetent at earning money. That that dollar double cheese has been around as long as it has now proves that it's *making* money for them, and it's not hard to see how: The soft drinks are priced around 2K-3K% of unit cost. If someone buys a double cheeseburger and *any* soft drink of *any* size, McDonald's profits.

Transit has a similar role in metropolitan economies, and there have actually been hard studies on this, one of which I cited in my report. A Texas firm concluded that despite the fact that MTBA (Greater Boston's transit operator, popularly known as "The 'T'") *loses* $100 million per year on paper, the *net benefit* to the Greater Boston economy, from myriad individual savings, was around three times that much, for a solid net gain. And that study only considered working commuters, not all the many civic dollars that pour in from tourists and sports fans. (If Boston does one thing wrong here, it's shutting down the T before their bars do. If they ran like New York does, they could probably increase their transit earnings advantage by as much as 20%. New York doesn't keep their transit running all night because they're stupid: it makes a lot of money for them -- not on its own, but in greater revenue streams it enables, such as late-night bar tabs.)

Nobody ever asks why roads and bridges can't be profitable, even though they perform essentially the same function as buses and trains, for the same reason, and when used properly also perform as effective loss-leaders, by enabling greater channels of revenue than their own. The reason New York road and bridge tolls are so high is because back in the '70s, New York was the only state that refused to adopt 55 mph. Congress responded by denying them their share of roadway transportation subsidies, forcing New York to pay for these things 100% on their own. After Congress repealed 55, New York kept the tolls high, probably because from their perspective, the system ain't broke.

What changed, and what led to TFA, is that the roadway toll structure of the '70s relied heavily on people driving: If your bridge is funded by bridge tolls, then you need people to drive across your bridge and pay the toll, in order to have funding for it. In recent years, more and more Americans, especially in large metros, are starting to grasp that driving to work every day if you don't have to is actually kind of stupid, and not doing that is a great way to save money. (Never mind comparing gas and rider costs: People who give up their cars are happy to pay higher fares, since they just saved thousands of dollars in one shot. Many very successful New Yorkers have *never* driven a car.) Since New York's entirely local infrastructure funding relies so heavily on '70s-style driving patterns, they're having trouble now adjusting to more people using transit and fewer using their roads. The City gets this, but Albany does not, and Albany calls the shots. That's why the City is now in a bind.

I hope I've offered some insight towards answering your question.
 
2012-03-24 10:03:09 AM  

mjg: Just pick up the bike while going through the toll = no charge

/so a wheelchair toll would be $1?


Believe it or not, you're not the first human being to think of that, and also believe it or not, people who levy tolls have also thought of it. When I used to take my bike on ferries, I had to pay for the bike, even though I didn't ride it on the ferry.

There is, however, one exception: Folding bikes. A bike that can't be folded is as much a 'bicycle' when it's not in use as when it is, and won't escape bike tolls. But a bike that can be folded so that it's clearly not usable, and is small and light enough to carry on like luggage, will usually pass.

I haven't had a chance to test this directly, but I have taken the trouble to interview transportation operators for their views on it. Amtrak's *official* position is that a folded bike must come in under certain dimensions, or it's 'luggage' under their rules and not 'carry-on'. (Though they are much less strict about this than airlines, they still do have such rules, which they can enforce if they feel like it.) Actual conductors told me that if there was room to stow it out of the way -- in provided luggage areas -- then it would likely pass except at the highest peak periods. Unfolded bikes would never pass, however.

MBTA provided very similar answers, though they allow full bikes on some of their trains some of the time. I didn't talk to MTA (New York transit), but the evidence I've seen suggests to me that they're fairly strict about this. My main evidence is the existence and apparent widespread of use of ultra-compact folding bikes, which fold up small enough to be fairly indisputable 'carry-on' but are notably less practical as bicycles than other folding bikes. Or it could just be that New Yorkers like to be able to carry their bikes inside as well.

(In practice also, ferries often gave me a pass if ridership was low. It was only a couple bucks, so it was worth the gamble.)
 
2012-03-24 10:07:54 AM  
I am for the charge the cyclists. After all they pose a safety issue since they cannot really travel with the pedestrians or wih the flow of traffic. If possible set up a lane for them and watch them pile up behind grandma going for a leisure ride. No real argument if they have their own lane, that needs maintaining. If they carry a bike into the pedestrian lane and caught riding it, charge them the same as a car trying to avoid a toll.
 
2012-03-24 10:13:35 AM  
GOOD. fark cyclists.
 
2012-03-24 10:19:04 AM  

Bomb Head Mohammed: doglover: why should pedestrians be exempt, given the self-serving "use the bridge and cause accidents too" logic of those too fat to cycle, such as mogani and tempest?

/ it couldn't be that people are basing their opinions on this matter on whatever might benefit them personally - nah, couldn't be.


I personally feel that *no one* should pay, ever. Assuming that the numbers for driver tolls are similar to those for transit fares -- and my gut tells me that they likely are -- then road and bridge tolls probably also make no real money, but slow up the works for everyone. I strongly suspect that road and bridge tolls are similarly asinine and pointless political measures, to make others feel better. In hard math, without any sentimentality, it makes much more sense to subsidise *all* transportation at 100% through external taxation, rather than use fees, since 1) use fees apparenly mostly go to pay for the costs of collecting use fees, and 2) whether profitable or not, they indisputably greatly impact the efficiency and effectiveness of all modes of conveyance. If everyone could agree to just pay their taxes, we could all drive and ride for free all the time, at much greater efficiency, and perhaps also for lower net cost.

(Understand that eliminating bus fares doesn't increase the net costs of buses, since you get a commensurate savings in operations costs by not collecting the fares in the first place. But you *do* get an immediate and lasting improvement in efficiency and effectiveness. I haven't run the numbers, but it wouldn't surprise me a bit if the same was true for motorway tolls. I do know that at the time Connecticut eliminated tolls on its Rt. 15, those tolls were mostly only paying for the toll operations. If a state does something a particular way in one sector, it very likely does the same elsewhere.)

Put another way, even if *everyone* paid tolls, it wouldn't solve the problem. But if *no one* paid tolls, and instead submitted to costs that I strongly suspect are very close to *existing* tax-based subsidy, then everyone would benefit.

The current use fee system appears to be based on much older private use fee systems. But those private fees were much higher. If you've ever driven a road named 'Shunpike' -- there are hundreds or thousands of them around the country -- then you've seen what people were willing to go through before WW2 to avoid paying private tolls. If it made economic sense for a community to build an entire road to avoid (shun) a turnpike, then it's a fair bet those private tolls were much higher than the public tolls we're paying now. That's similar to the livery rates I compare to transit rates above: the taxi vs. the bus.

Believe me when I tell you that you don't want to have to pay the kinds of tolls and fares that would actually pay for these things. And when I also tell you that *most* of the revenue from collecting them goes to pay for the *cost of collecting them*, I hope you'll see why external subsidy is *much* better for everyone -- especially given that external subsidy must exist anyway, so its own costs can't be eliminated, but getting rid of fares and tolls actually saves money and speeds up everything at the same time.
 
2012-03-24 10:23:14 AM  

Sylvia_Bandersnatch: ZAZ: it is necessary to find some way to fund mass transit

How about charging fares that cover expenses?

Not impossible, but impractical. I was actually paid to do a study on this, so for once I'm not talking out of my ass here, but from hard numbers.

One of the questions I was asked to find an answer to for the study was, "How much would [specific public transit agency] have to charge to break even?" But that was by far the easiest one of all, and required no research: "Take a taxi the same distance."

Livery rates are profit rates. Transit rates actually make no sense at all. Not because they don't make enough money to support the service, but because *they make no money at all*. For the majority of transit operators. transit fares approximately cover the cost of collecting the fares, and provide little or no net profit. It's a zero-sum game in most cases.

I spoke to at least one transit operator that runs fare-free, and knew of at least two others that I didn't have time to interview for the study. I wanted to, and even started to run hard numbers showing that the specific service they were interested in should also run fare-free, but they told me to drop that angle, as it was a political non-starter.

I pursued the question on my own, however, and though I never did find anyone in government willing to be completely forthcoming on the issue, I determined to my own satisfaction that transit fares are chiefly political, since they clearly have no practical purpose. They basically exist in order to give more powerful political constituents the comfort of knowing that 'those people' aren't getting a free ride (literally).

But of course, *no one* gets a free ride. Motorways are heavily subsidised also, in fact at orders of magnitude greater (except in the largest metros), and despite the stereotype of bums on the bus most transit riders are working taxpayers, and also subsidise the roadways they may not use ever, at orders of magnitude greater (100:1 is not uncommon) than drivers subsidize trains and buses.

When I was a taxpayer in Rhode Island, every couple years RIDOT (easily the biggest bum in the state, which is saying something) would come around begging for a handout, each time a lot bigger than the last. The last one I remember was a little over $82 million. Of that, about $1.5 million went to RIPTA -- an insultingly small sop meant only to help grease it through, because otherwise, well, "No more buses for you, punk." (From the top figure, it's not hard to figure out that they wanted a flat $80 million, tossed in the extra for buses to poison the political debate, and sucked half a million of the top to make the rest pure gravy.) This same pattern plays out at the federal level even more brutally, where 80% of *all* transportation money comes from for everything. That same fiscal year, USDOT got about $50 billion, of which about 2% went for state and municipal transit subsidies. (Typically in the form of 80/20 matching funds for capital expenditures only, such as for new rolling stock but *not* for maintenance: operators are entirely on their own for operating funds. This is part of the reason why so many transit operators find it cheaper to buy new buses rather than maintain older ones. The net excess cost to all taxpayers averages around 15% over the long haul -- but it's still a drop in the bucket compared to motorway expenditures.) At the federal level, long-term transit investment projects (e.g., new light railways) must meet a far stricter standard than road projects and even bridges, making it much harder for states to invest in railways than roadways -- even though a typical train car or bus replaces about 40 cars over the same distance, at a net taxpayer-earner savings of a factor averaging, according to the federal government's own statistics, around 8:1. That is, if people *could* ride instead of drive, those communities that maximise transit options end up netting *eight times* what they would without it, mostly in the form of saved transportation costs.

This explains why the great cities invest so heavily in transit. It's not because they're all ignorant and can't do math. It's because their economies would collapse without it. They understand -- apparently, much better than Congress does -- that if people can't get to work, they can't work, and if they can't work, then they can't earn tax money, and won't be paying taxes, and then you can't have nice things like huge sports stadiums, airports, running water, and so on.

(Congress isn't actually dumber. But the bicameral legislative structure means that reps from Kansas who can't comprehend why New York needs trains get a disproportionate say in New York not getting the trains it needs, while Nebraska still gets roads that they don't have enough people to drive on, because everyone comprehends roads.)

Now then, WHY can't transit charge livery rates? Because then it would be livery, not transit. Not only would it threaten private livery, but it would obviate transit as such. It's a no-brainer that everyone would like to take a cab to work, but the cost adds up fast. The majority of transit riders can't afford those rates. If they had to pay them, then they wouldn't be able to get where they need to go, which is usually work. (Seriously, about that stereotype: There's a reason transit systems have 'peak' periods and it happens to be the same time as motorway 'rush hour': Most riders are working stiffs, not bums. And plenty of drivers are bums, too, just bums with cars.) If they can't get to work, then a huge proportion of the service sector -- the largest in our national economy -- can't do their jobs. The cost of that would be devastating for everyone.

People need to stop thinking about public transit as a net loser, because it's not: it's a loss-leader, which is quite different. A loss-leader is a cost centre that loses money on its own books, but earns net profit in the larger picture. An example of a very effective loss-leader is McDonald's Double Cheeseburger, which sells for a dollar. Anyone who's studied small business management can tell you that the rule of thumb in over-the-counter retail is 500% of unit cost to make any money at all. I've run restaurants, and I guarantee you that that cheeseburger cost a lot more than twenty cents to make. McDonald's is making no profit on it; it's actually taking a fairly steep loss. But you'd be a fool to suggest that McDonald's is incompetent at earning money. That that dollar double cheese has been around as long as it has now proves that it's *making* money for them, and it's not hard to see how: The soft drinks are priced around 2K-3K% of unit cost. If someone buys a double cheeseburger and *any* soft drink of *any* size, McDonald's profits.

Transit has a similar role in metropolitan economies, and there have actually been hard studies on this, one of which I cited in my report. A Texas firm concluded that despite the fact that MTBA (Greater Boston's transit operator, popularly known as "The 'T'") *loses* $100 million per year on paper, the *net benefit* to the Greater Boston economy, from myriad individual savings, was around three times that much, for a solid net gain. And that study only considered working commuters, not all the many civic dollars that pour in from tourists and sports fans. (If Boston does one thing wrong here, it's shutting down the T before their bars do. If they ran like New York does, they could probably increase their transit earnings advantage by as much as 20%. New York doesn't keep their transit running all night because they're stupid: it makes a lot of money for them -- not on its own, but in greater revenue streams it enables, such as late-night bar tabs.)

Nobody ever asks why roads and bridges can't be profitable, even though they perform essentially the same function as buses and trains, for the same reason, and when used properly also perform as effective loss-leaders, by enabling greater channels of revenue than their own. The reason New York road and bridge tolls are so high is because back in the '70s, New York was the only state that refused to adopt 55 mph. Congress responded by denying them their share of roadway transportation subsidies, forcing New York to pay for these things 100% on their own. After Congress repealed 55, New York kept the tolls high, probably because from their perspective, the system ain't broke.

What changed, and what led to TFA, is that the roadway toll structure of the '70s relied heavily on people driving: If your bridge is funded by bridge tolls, then you need people to drive across your bridge and pay the toll, in order to have funding for it. In recent years, more and more Americans, especially in large metros, are starting to grasp that driving to work every day if you don't have to is actually kind of stupid, and not doing that is a great way to save money. (Never mind comparing gas and rider costs: People who give up their cars are happy to pay higher fares, since they just saved thousands of dollars in one shot. Many very successful New Yorkers have *never* driven a car.) Since New York's entirely local infrastructure funding relies so heavily on '70s-style driving patterns, they're having trouble now adjusting to more people using transit and fewer using their roads. The City gets this, but Albany does not, and Albany calls the shots. That's why the City is now in a bind.

I hope I've offered some insight towards answering your question.


As someone who is reading this while on a bus, I'm very interested in this post. A lot of great information and it makes a lot of sense. Thanks!

/I worked at McDonald's in high school and totally am with you on the high markup of the food, though in 2000 the dbl cheeseburger on our waste disposal sheets was calculated at a value of around 18 cents.

Having a company that can buy in massive bulk = massive discounts a la Walmart
 
2012-03-24 10:32:07 AM  
Those denigrating bicycles on the roads might want to read up a bit. Bicycles are legally road vehicles, and predate cars by half a century. Except on legally limited-access highways (freeways), bicycles have as much right to the road as horses and cars, and there are century-old laws enforcing that. The fact that cars now outnumber bicycles, and are considerably heavier and faster, doesn't change any of that. If you force a cyclist off the road with your car, a judge will be very happy to explain this to you in small words, and provide some means to help you remember it. You don't have to like it, or agree with it, but it would help a lot to try to be a grown-up about it.

But this shouldn't surprise us. Drivers are just as despicable towards each other; they just find other ways to rationalise their ignorant rage.
 
2012-03-24 10:45:43 AM  

Mawson of the Antarctic: /I worked at McDonald's in high school and totally am with you on the high markup of the food, though in 2000 the dbl cheeseburger on our waste disposal sheets was calculated at a value of around 18 cents.


I'd be interested to know what the figure on that same sheet was for soft drinks.
 
2012-03-24 10:50:27 AM  

Sylvia_Bandersnatch: Mawson of the Antarctic: /I worked at McDonald's in high school and totally am with you on the high markup of the food, though in 2000 the dbl cheeseburger on our waste disposal sheets was calculated at a value of around 18 cents.

I'd be interested to know what the figure on that same sheet was for soft drinks.


About 3-5 cents, so you had a good guess. That's why they've done any size drink =$1 now
 
2012-03-24 10:56:15 AM  
They aren't already?

All the way down this end of Jersey, the county bridge system has had a bike toll system in place for decades. I *think* there's even a pedestrian toll, but I'm not sure.

/any pedestrian foolish enough to walk those old narrow bridges better be ready to pay something
//aside from salaries, I know they don't spend it on maintenance
//scary bridges
 
ZAZ [TotalFark]
2012-03-24 11:31:11 AM  
Sylvia_Bandersnatch

According to FHWA highway statistics 2009 edition table HF-10 7% of highway user fees and taxes went to transit programs. http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policyinformation/statistics/2009/hf10.cfm

I don't think transit should be a free service in general.

In densely populated places where transit is useful, like Manhattan and Boston and Cambridge, charging riders makes a lot of sense. Transit in these areas is cheaper per rider than taxi service, so transit can undercut the competition even with no street traffic. The marginal cost of a rider is significant on a crowded system. Fares can work as congestion management (move riders off overcrowded rush hour trains to empty off-peak trains). Fares also work for cost recovery (full trains and buses make money). They may also generate profit if you're so inclined (I don't like the profit motive in government programs).

The problem is trying to extend the system where or when it doesn't work.

MBTA late night service failed. It was a success in proving that Boston was not suffering due to lack of late night transit service. In Boston livery is a better model for 2 AM transportation -- it's cheaper (assuming shared cabs), gets people where they want to go, and doesn't clog streets.

The Greenbush line south of Boston is another failure. It's less cost-effective than road improvements or a no-build option. It runs through low density suburbs. Fares are negligible relative to costs.

Both of these overextensions of the MBTA could have been provided for free without changing the finances, but that's because they should never have been provided in the first place.
 
2012-03-24 11:49:19 AM  
They should just declare open season on bicyclists.
 
2012-03-24 12:15:17 PM  

ZAZ: I don't think


If you're right, then more than half of what I said before your post has to be wrong, so why not just say that instead? Why not say, "Your facts are wrong, the studies you read are wrong, your math is wrong, all those cites and governments are wrong, and anyone who disagrees with me is wrong."?

I did the study on this, and audited much deeper studies. You did not. You're expressing beliefs, feelings, and unfounded assertions. I've been expressing conclusions based on hard numbers. End of argument.
 
2012-03-24 12:34:08 PM  

Sylvia_Bandersnatch: Those denigrating bicycles on the roads might want to read up a bit. Bicycles are legally road vehicles, and predate cars by half a century. Except on legally limited-access highways (freeways), bicycles have as much right to the road as horses and cars, and there are century-old laws enforcing that. The fact that cars now outnumber bicycles, and are considerably heavier and faster, doesn't change any of that. If you force a cyclist off the road with your car, a judge will be very happy to explain this to you in small words, and provide some means to help you remember it. You don't have to like it, or agree with it, but it would help a lot to try to be a grown-up about it.

But this shouldn't surprise us. Drivers are just as despicable towards each other; they just find other ways to rationalise their ignorant rage.


LOL then stay in line at stop lights, don't touch or lean on my car, and stop at farking stop signs. Also, stay off the sidewalks and would it kill you to use a turn signal when turning left instead of cutting out of the bike lane across two lanes of traffic. Finally, ipod. It would also be very polite to not take your "fun ride" (recreational) during rush hour traffic at 5pm, yet I see all of these things on a daily basis and can't do anything about it, so I'm pretty adult about it not touching or yelling at most of these dbags. I would also like to apply you faulty logic to nature trails and sidewalks- pedestrians were here looooooooong before bikes or cars so it would be nice if bikes could stay the fark off of those or enjoy their own trails or not blast by my wife with a gruff "move bro". And since I'm letting all of this out the only vehicle accident I have EVER been in was on the Stadium bridge at UGA when some guy hot dogging his mountain bike off of a curb landed wrong and plowed into me, tacoing his tire and knocking me down. Having a roommate at the time that was heavy into mountain biking, I felt what he was gonna have to pay for that taco would be lesson enough and walked it off. I agree with you that in general, people should be nicer to each other and everyone should pay more attention to what they are doing and when. We all need to be safe out there so we can get back to internets and babbys and bacon.

/fwiw our drinks with cups were worth 5cents loss in 1998. Then again cigs were 1.85 and gas was .87 a gal iirc lol.
 
2012-03-24 12:35:43 PM  
www.ooze.com
what will that asshole think up next?
 
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