Transit agencies: Don’t Panic (CityLab)

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Many predict that new technology will doom public transportation. They’re wrong.

A transit professional can’t open a browser these days without encountering prophets of doom. “New technology is changing everything,” we’re told. “Everything you do is obsolete!” “You represent tired, old thinking.” “You are going to be left behind.” We are bombarded by messages that transit as we know it will soon be swept away by various kinds of mobility “innovation.” Often this is coupled with the notion that the private sector will now break “transit monopolies.”…

The assumption is that transit agencies are like IBM’s PC business facing the challenge of Apple, or GM facing the challenge of Toyota. Claiming that transit agencies are monopolies deepens this impression, since everyone wants to break a monopoly, except those who profit from it.

But transit agencies are not businesses. They are not monopolizing a profitable business and preventing others from entering. They are running an unprofitable service for reasons unrelated to profit: the functioning of a dense city, the liberty of its citizens, and connecting disadvantaged people to opportunity. Nobody has proposed a way for the private sector to deliver, profitably, on all of those goals.

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Written by Long Branch Mike