Thursday, October 11, 2007

Not quite the Taggart Comet

The Amtrak line that runs near my house (between Seattle and Portland) makes me really think about our views on mass transportation. It apparently broke down at least twice yesterday. In one case, they apparently paid for taxis to transport the passengers up to Seattle. In the other, a train that was scheduled to depart at 1930 hrs (I believe--it may have even been a 1900 train) didn't arrive at the station until about 2105.

The liberals would say that this means we should pump tax dollars into mass transportation. They'd point out that the trains can't be expected to run on time unless we keep them in good repair. "Think of those people who paid for a ticket and had to wait so long!" they'd cry.

I do think of those people who paid $60 for a trip from Olympia to Portland. I think that a train asking that kind of money for a ticket should be able to afford to stay in good repair. I think those people are being hosed by something that isn't held accountable. And subsidies have only made the problem worse. Any time you supply an income that isn't tied to actually providing goods or services, you have lessened the motivation to provide the highest possible quality in those goods or services. And when the solution to poor service is to increase that subsidy, you create incentive to provide only enough service to avoid being entirely shut down.

I guess I rant about this plenty, but today just made me think of the Taggart Transcontinental. I know that our monopoly lawsuits against anyone who provides the best product they can are even more like that, but the fact that my example for the day was a train really made it hit me even more profoundly. If only I had the courage and talent to attempt to be John Galt.

1 comment:

theotherryan said...

Excellent point