A few things

I got a few quotes into a University of Maryland news story on the MD-O4 Congressional race. Good times.

If anyone is interested in seeing a budget that would knock Maryland and particularly Baltimore City back to the stone age, check out Mr. Griffith's plan. I do admire him for putting the work and thought to create this document. I disagree with many of his cuts and his plans to privatize public resources, such as public transport and parks departments.

Here are some articles warning against the privatization of public transport. This article from The University of Illinois claims that many of the problems of urban public transport would not be solved by privatization. This isn't due to the efficiency of one option over the other, but instead due to the inherent nature of current urban public transport.
The industry always has been hurt by the problem of "peaking," or the concentration of use during the morning and evening commuting hours. "The more severe the peaking, the more expensive it is to provide personnel and equipment without higher costs per passenger mile," Due wrote. "Peaking produces a high percentage of empty seats, which is noted by critics of the present system as evidence of inefficiency and thus the need for a free market, when actually it is an inherent problem of urban transit."

A single transit authority is better able to manage peaking and overcrowding, the Illinois economist argued, and the rise of "reverse commuting" during peak periods has led to the more efficient use of trains and buses in Chicago, New York and other transit-dependent cities.
That isn't to say that the MTA is a model of efficiency, but it isn't right to think that conditions would improve or even stop declining should the MTA be privatized.

The next article goes into the problems faced in England after they privatized much of their public transport.

Privatization aside, the cuts Mr. Griffith proposes would disproportionately harm the citizens of Baltimore. Privatizing the MTA could indeed lead to more efficient public transport, but that is not a given. What is a given is that prices would rise and certain lines would be removed or adversely affected. When trying to make a profit off of a struggling service, these decisions would seem unavoidable. The same could be said for parks. Mr. Griffiths' elimination of the small business development office, the division of neighborhood revitalization, and the state tobacco cessation programs all directly impact those at the bottom rung of the economic ladder.

There are cuts in Mr. Griffiths' plan that warrant a closer look. It is also worth noting that as a political proposal, this plan has very little that would make it appealing to any Maryland legislator. But once again, Brian was challenged, and he followed through. Making his plan a reality in Maryland would seem to be an impossibility, and for that, I suppose progressives can breathe a sigh of relief.


Brian Griffiths said...

I don't necessarily think of transit systems privatization will disproportionately affect the residents of Baltimore in an adverse way. I look at it from the perspective that it could increase the amount of services Baltimore citizens can receive, something that I had hit on before in regards to highway transportation. Through privatization, there may be more of an additional impetus to expand Baltimore's transit network through additional metro and light rail lines built with private money.

Incidentally, I don't think any of my proposed cuts do any worse to the city of Baltimore than ineffective political leadership has...

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the problem described in the University of Illinois article couldn't be addressed through a more nuanced pricing scheme. On the face of it, transit seems to face the same problem that electricity generation does. The system is sized to peak capacity, and for much of the time, excess capacity goes untapped. One strategy has been to do "peak pricing" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/11/AR2007121102502.html). The metro already has something like this in place, but perhaps it could be more staggered and nuanced than it already is.