Falling transit ridership will not dissuade the social engineers

By Steven Greenhut : ocregistrer – excerpt (opinion)

SACRAMENTO – It has been about 15 years since Orange County tried to build a $1-billion light-rail system that would have gone from one suburban parking lot to another. It would have moved around half of 1 percent of the county’s commuters. What I remember most about that incredibly shrinking Centerline was that while it was supposed to reduce congestion overall, it would actually have increased congestion along main thoroughfares.

That was my first up-close encounter with the Cult of Transit. There is nothing wrong with expanding bus service and building new rail lines — provided they actually enable people to get where they are going. However, urban planners’ fixation on transit stems more from social engineering than transportation engineering. The latter develops projects that enable people to get from Point A to Point B. The former builds projects designed to change the public’s behavior, i.e., prodding them into getting around in ways the planners believe is best…

Opening up the marketplace could result in myriad, small-scale alternatives, similar to the way that Uber and Lyft have disrupted the taxi industry. Government planners only understand taxing and regulating and do not understand markets, so they promote overly pricey projects that fail to meet our real-world transportation needs. Until planners figure that out, expect those transit ridership numbers to keep falling.

Steven Greenhut is Western region director for the R Street Institute. He was a Register editorial writer from 1998 to 2009. Write to him at sgreenhut@rstreet.org. rstreet.org.
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