Originally Posted by Gruff
Originally Posted by Bounder
The dirty little secret that public transport agencies don't want you to know is that the best public transportation in the world isn't public.
MTR, a publicly traded company, runs the Hong Kong Metro which is clean, efficient and convenient. HK metro cards can even be used as payment cards for all sorts of small transactions.(I think the Taipei metro has a similar deal.) The MTR is a private company that is in the business of operating metros.It also operates the Stockholm metro, which has noticeably improved since being taken over. It has been chosen to operate Crossrail in London.
NY and DC should really look into this.
Very interesting, thanks for this. How does one account for the argument that privately owned infrastructure leads to low service quality because private companies only seek profit with no real incentive to adequately maintain facilities, though? I often hear this as the main argument against privately owned roll roads, for example.
Well, I don't want to get all current eventsy here, but I guess the first question is, do public operators have all that much of an incentive to maintain and improve facilities? From country to country, some are better, some are worse. I understand the Taipei one is quite nice and it is government run. But publicly-run metros all too often end up in a nasty intersection between rent seeking and political imperative all overseen by a stultifying bureaucracy.
I think one of the things that makes the HK Metro work so well is that the MTR is very innovative. When a government bureaucracy runs a metro it's, at best, a way to move people from point A to point B. But the MTR views moving people around as an asset rather than an expense. One of the reasons they turned their metro card into a universal payment system is that they view metro stations as valuable real estate. That's also why they are so clean and, yes comfortably air conditioned, as are the trains. In effect, they treat metro stations as shopping malls. All their merchants are guaranteed massive foot traffic, which generates revenue and merchants are strongly encouraged to accept (in fact, IIRC, it's mandatory) the metro card payment system, which also generates revenue.
Private companies running public mass transit may have a set of perverse incentives. But, then again, so do government agencies running public mass transit. It's just a different set of perverse incentives. I think the evidence, such as it is, suggests that private companies are more likely to attempt to woo the public whereas the government tends to treat mass transit as a sort of take-it-or-leave-it governmental service. The people who issue driver's licenses are not really seeking to expand their customer base and, so, have little incentive to improve the quality of the experience.