The Extinction of Public Transit

CascadeNewLogoBy Emma Newman

Uber and Lyft have recently gained over 50 percent of the taxi market in Portland. This is especially notable as Portland was initially hostile to ridesharing companies, to the point of filing a lawsuit against Uber late last year. This industry takeover is just one example of how private market innovation has upended government-regulated transit.

At a recent Metro hearing on the SW Corridor project, one of the main arguments for pursuing a costly light rail tunnel requiring the destruction of several homes was that ten years of disruption is worth 100 years of use. But considering the speed at which the transportation industry is changing, is long-term use of public transit infrastructure likely?

Public transit is rarely anyone’s first choice due to inconvenience, time cost, and lack of reliability—problems that personal vehicles rarely face. Overcoming these factors has made ridesharing companies more popular than traditional taxicabs.

The fact that private market solutions will increasingly outcompete public transit is evident not only with companies like Uber and Lyft, but with future technologies as well. Google’s driverless car being used on a wide scale may seem to be far into the future; but if costly transit projects are being justified by decades of potential future use, transit planners need to consider what the future of transit may actually look like.

Emma Newman is a research associate at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market think tank. She is a student at George Fox University, where she is studying Economics and Computer Science.

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Posted by at 05:00 | Posted in Economy, Environment, Portland, Portland Politics, Public Transportation, Transportation | Tagged , , , , , , , | 14 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • john fairplay

    Oregon’s tremendous investment in Light Rail – only years before the transformation of the transportation industry – is likely to go down in history as the greatest waste of taxpayer money ever.

    • Eric Blair

      How is the transportation industry going to be any more transformed than it was with the invention and adoption of the automobile? Seems to me that both automobile and mass transit, including light rail systems, have coexisted for years and there is no good reason to think they won’t do so in the future.

      • guest

        Trial, cost vs. taxpayer effectiveness, ala, governmentium PERSistence .

  • Eric Blair

    I cannot imagine that Lyft or Uber will compete for very much of the mass transit population. Cost will outweigh convenience in most cases, and for daily trips, such as to work and back, I really don’t see either of those companies providing a viable alternative.

    Public transit is rarely anyone’s first choice due to inconvenience, time cost, and lack of reliability—problems that personal vehicles rarely face.”

    Do you have a study of frequent users of mass transit, or is this just an assumption. I wonder how many daily riders have a car, but choose to use mass transit instead. Do you have any statistics? I would think if you’re going to make a statement like this, that you would.

    • Eric Blair

      In fact, I wonder, if a miracle happened and all those mass transit riders suddenly started using Lyft and Uber, what traffic would look like.

      • .

        Like your knickers in a knot or ranties in a bunch at seams.

        • Eric Blair

          Think about my knickers a lot, do you?

          • .

            Your whinny horse laugh gaffes WillBlair-r-r-r …

  • CabBoy

    Uber is wrong. They don’t have the training a cab driver has. Something is fishy here if a guy can give me a ride somewhere in his car for money and he has not gotten a token from the city. Very wrong.

    Next thing you know, people will be cleaning their own teeth.

  • rider

    Hey. I just thought of something. Light Rail is the only way to get around without paying. What will the freeloaders do if it is ever scaled back. Can you call Uber to take you to a robbery in the burbs for free? I think not.

    • Blue and Yellow fallow

      Uber dub dub, your poetic jaundice ever so Redder Orange line.

  • DavidAppell

    Get real. Many people can’t afford Uber or cars/parking or, when they get here, driverless cars. Like the PCC students you wrote about Friday on the CPI’s site — private market solutions would do nothing for them.

    Gasoline is only going to get more expensive. Congestion is going to increase. Public transportation, not Uber, is necessary to deal with these issues.

    • Billy

      Tell me about it. Those Uber thieves charge me so much I usually can only use it a couple times a week. Otherwise, I am on the rail Or my bike, but I really don’t like to ride it that much as it is really hard when I go up a hill.
      Public transportation is a right. I am entitled to it. Agree on that for sure.
      Thanks David for supporting us little people who can’t afford a nice car or SUV like a lot of these crazy soccer moms.

      • E. O. Eden

        Free turnip truck rides available in Salinas Valley if you reefer, Billy Bong.

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