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Old 05-17-2010, 03:48 AM
 
Location: Prepperland
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One of the biggest hurdles to rail mass transit is the perception that it can't operate without subsidy, and it is prone to mismanagement and waste.

Of course, in the "golden age" of electric traction rail mass transit (1890-1915), the vast majority were privately owned and operated, for profit. One of the reasons it was profitable was the lower tax burden.

Unfortunately, they were targeted by local taxing authorities, partly because they were so profitable, and envy was used to spur public opinion against them. In 1913, the income tax was added. Then public funds were used to subsidize their competition, via road building. To compound its demise, the machinations of a cartel of linked interests in oil, automobiles and tires, helped push urban rail over the edge.

What made sense in the first half of the 20th century, when America was Queen of Oil, makes no sense now. Importing over 70% of our fuel is not sustainable.

So here we are, entrapped into a singular transportation mode, hostage to fuel scarcity and high cost, and wasteful of resources, surface area, and prone to congestion.

What can we do?

Rebuilding and restoring electric traction urban rail based mass transit is paramount. Unless some breakthrough occurs, the laws of Physics recommend steel wheel on steel rail. And electric power is far more efficient, and more beneficial, than diesel - electric. Lastly, rail can easily scale upwards in carrying capacity, within the limited confines of a high density urban setting. By some estimates, a single rail has the potential of six to nine lanes of superhighway. A four track (bidirectional, with local and express) system is the equivalent of a 36 lane superhighway.

Funding

The simplest way to fund a renaissance of electric rail is to give it ZERO public funding. That would exclude the bureaucrat, the politician, and the corruption, waste and delay that accompanies them.

Instead, any company and its personnel that build, operate, maintain, or repair electric rail mass transit should be 100% tax exempt. That should attract massive influx of investment, as well as workers seeking tax exemption. (It is far cheaper to not take taxes, than to tax taxes, and then redistribute the funds.)

In short time, American industry would be tooled up and producing fleets of train cars, laying track, and hiring a multitude of workers.

Fares

In any profitable enterprise that benefits from economies of scale, it is self evident that high occupancy cuts cost, and boosts profit. A half empty train car versus a full train car - both incur the same overhead expenses. So the key to profitability is ridership.

The typical mass transit system will set fixed fares, and give discounts to those who prepay (and to politically correct subgroups). But that does not insure increased ridership. A better way would be to set a slightly higher base fare, and as the occupancy of the car reaches set points, everyone gets a rebate on their fare. Perhaps the passenger can have a 10% rebate at three quarters full, a 25% rebate for full load, and a 50% rebate for standing room only (crush load).

If faced with an overcrowded car, at crush load, at least the passengers can receive a benefit, to offset their discomfort. And faced with the prospect of reducing their costs, stops to load more passengers would be viewed differently. It might even become a pastime, with an indicator showing current load. Once the number reaches a set point, a bell might ring, signifying that all the riders just got their rebate credited to their ticket.

"Come ride with me!" may become the new slogan for bargain hunters.

It's time for America to "Get back on Track" - GO RAIL!
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Old 05-17-2010, 03:53 AM
 
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I disagree. No mass transit system can arise without it becoming a monopoly situation, in which case, government does need to step up. The abuses of early industrialists such as Rockerfeller and Vanderbuilt ring a bell?
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Old 05-17-2010, 03:55 AM
 
Location: Prepperland
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Quote:
Originally Posted by harborlady View Post
I disagree. No mass transit system can arise without it becoming a monopoly situation, in which case, government does need to step up. The abuses of early industrialists such as Rockerfeller and Vanderbuilt ring a bell?
Your example applies to the mainline steam railroads, not urban electric mass transit. They operated under entirely different conditions.
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Old 05-17-2010, 04:10 AM
 
Location: Prepperland
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Quote:
Originally Posted by harborlady View Post
a monopoly situation, such as Rockerfeller
Interesting to note about the 'evils' of Rockerfeller's monopoly: it reduced the cost of fuel.

John D. Rockefeller - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Standard Oil gradually gained almost complete control of oil refining and marketing in the United States through horizontal integration. In the kerosene industry, Standard Oil ruthlessly replaced the old distribution system with its own vertical system. It supplied kerosene by tank cars that brought the fuel to local markets and tank wagons then delivered to retail customers, thus bypassing the existing network of wholesale jobbers. Despite improving the quality and availability of kerosene products while greatly reducing their cost to the public (the price of kerosene dropped by nearly 80% over the life of the company), Standard Oil's business practices created intense controversy. Standard’s most potent weapons against competition were underselling, differential pricing, and secret transportation rebates.The firm was attacked by journalists and politicians throughout its existence, in part for these monopolistic methods, giving momentum to the anti-trust movement. By 1880, according to the New York World, Standard Oil was "the most cruel, impudent, pitiless, and grasping monopoly that ever fastened upon a country." To the critics Rockefeller blandly replied, "In a business so large as ours…some things are likely to be done which we cannot approve. We correct them as soon as they come to our knowledge.”
Side note: When 'evil' Rockerfeller drove a competitor out of the oil business, he'd pay them with stock in his oil company - often making the "losers" even richer than before.

Higher efficiency, lower price, and better service.
You have to be a collectivist to really hate that kind of monopolized "free market"!
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Old 05-17-2010, 04:42 AM
 
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Capitalism and free market only when it's convenient. When he decided to punish those who failed to feed him by jacking prices? Come on jet, even you can't believe what you're saying. Monopolies don't belong in America if we mean to have capitalism. That's all.
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Old 05-17-2010, 12:58 PM
 
Location: Prepperland
13,750 posts, read 9,862,006 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by harborlady View Post
Capitalism and free market only when it's convenient. When he decided to punish those who failed to feed him by jacking prices? Come on jet, even you can't believe what you're saying. Monopolies don't belong in America if we mean to have capitalism. That's all.
Monopolies are all around us.
Government, itself, is a monopoly. Thou shalt not have any strange governments before them ! (Oops, that's a religious reference...)

Natural monopolies exist because it is often wasteful to duplicate infrastructure. In fact, destructive competition existed in the early expansion of the railroad system, as rivals built parallel routes, doubling expense, while halving the volume between them.

What most call "Capitalists" are not really part of capitalism.
CAPITALISM - An economic system in which the means of production, distribution and exchange are privately owned and operated for private profit.
- - - Webster's Dictionary

PRIVATE PROPERTY - "As protected from being taken for public uses, is such property as belongs absolutely to an individual, and of which he has the exclusive right of disposition. Property of a specific, fixed and tangible nature, capable of being in possession and transmitted to another, such as houses, lands, and chattels."
- - - Black's Law dictionary, sixth ed., p.1217
If you concatenate capitalism with private property, you can see the "inconvenient truth".
Capitalism is an economic system in which the means of production, distribution and exchange are absolutely owned by individuals and operated for their individual profit.
A farmer who absolutely owns his farm and the crops harvested, is enjoying capitalism.
A laborer who absolutely owns his labor and that which he trades the fruits of his labor for, is enjoying capitalism.
A shipper who absolutely owns the profit he makes from transporting and trading goods and services, is enjoying capitalism.
That's all capitalism really is.

Monopolists, public or private, often oppose the owners of private property, the real capitalists.

Corporations and any other limited liability artificial persons, that are collectively owned, are NOT private property. They do not exist except by government granted privilege, and have no "rights". And since they rely upon usury, are not really part of capitalism. Usury is mathematically impossible to pay in a finite money token system. It is ironic that usurers call themselves "capitalists", while preying upon owners of property.

Since 1935, and the institution of national socialism, there has been no private property ownership. Government routinely takes our wealth and property and does not pay just compensation. (See 5th amendment)

In short, what we have been told was capitalism, was actually part of incremental socialism, for over three generations. And that irresponsible investors, via their privileged "persons", have been reaping profits while ducking the obligations incurred by their artificial person. This explains why such "persons" are subject to voluminous regulatory oversight.

What all this means is that one should question natural monopolies but not necessarily oppose them, on ideological grounds. There is no guarantee that inequities will occur, or not occur. But you can be sure that once government gets involved, costs will rise, delays mount, and the problem worsen. The key is holding someone responsible - which is difficult with artificial persons - but it can be done.

With respect to a renaissance of electric traction rail mass transit, it would be unrealistic to expect a government instituted to secure rights, to be efficient, frugal, or innovative with building, operating or maintaining a rail network. (See: Amtrak, or the NYC subway). Swift action, forethought and decisiveness are not the hallmark of public authorities.

That leaves the private sector to tackle the job, for profit, for remuneration for labor, and a share of the profits above and beyond costs. Because their motivation is to gain the most profit, which usually means moving the most passengers and cargo, for the least cost, resulting in the most profit.
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Old 05-17-2010, 01:06 PM
 
Location: Earth
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New York City's subway system originally consisted of one publicly owned system competing with two privately owned systems. (This is one reason why the NYC subway can be confusing for non-New Yorkers)

When the city took over the privately owned systems in the 1930s, there was less construction of new subways then there had been before, and the Second Avenue El was demolished.

It is often believed that Los Angeles' Pacific Electric system was destroyed when GM bought it. This is not wholly true. While PE under GM ownership made cuts in service and maintenance to the point that breakdowns were common, the system was not dismantled until Los Angeles County took over PE and formed the MTA in the 1950s (later RTD, now MTA again). It took Los Angeles County to completely destroy the mass transit system there, not GM.
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Old 05-17-2010, 01:08 PM
 
14,253 posts, read 15,347,825 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by harborlady View Post
Capitalism and free market only when it's convenient. When he decided to punish those who failed to feed him by jacking prices? Come on jet, even you can't believe what you're saying. Monopolies don't belong in America if we mean to have capitalism. That's all.
In the area of mass transit, however, a monopolistic situation is often more efficient and of more public utility than competing private networks. New York's MTA is a very good example of a monopolistic mass transit system that works very well. However, where you have that monopoly, you need a degree of public control to ensure that the monopoly does not abuse its power.

You have the same situation with electric utilities. They generally have an effective monopoly in areas they operate in but the public interest is protected through rates commissions.

Wholly untrammeled capitalism does not work in every situation.
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Old 05-17-2010, 01:39 PM
 
Location: Prepperland
13,750 posts, read 9,862,006 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by majoun View Post
New York City's subway system originally consisted of one publicly owned system competing with two privately owned systems. (This is one reason why the NYC subway can be confusing for non-New Yorkers)

When the city took over the privately owned systems in the 1930s, there was less construction of new subways then there had been before, and the Second Avenue El was demolished.
The Third Rail - Back to the Future - page 1
The End of Innovation
New York City politics was not standing still, however. Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, who had taken office in 1933, was no friend of streetcars, of elevated lines, or of private ownership of transit. He pressed relentlessly for “Unification,” the City takeover of the BMT and IRT. The IRT was happy to go out of business but the BMT fought almost to the last.
On June 2, 1940, the BMT was in City hands. Of the fleet of 50 Bluebird cars ordered, five were under construction by the Clark Equipment Company. It was the City that took delivery. The cars ran, but theirs was a lonely existence, for the rest of the order was cancelled. The stolid Board of Transportation was in the driver’s seat.

After the Fall
After taking over the private companies, not only did the innovations of the BMT end, but the City lost its taste for subway building. The IND “Second System” of 1929 remains unbuilt. The private lines that attracted IND competition were abandoned, several immediately and more as the years went on. Major improvements have been proposed periodically and in 1950 a $500M bond issue was passed, ostensibly to build the Second Avenue Subway. But despite revived plans from time to time, including an ambitious program proposed in 1968, the Second Avenue Subway remains unbuilt and most other plans are pipedreams.
Quote:
It is often believed that Los Angeles' Pacific Electric system was destroyed when GM bought it. This is not wholly true. While PE under GM ownership made cuts in service and maintenance to the point that breakdowns were common, the system was not dismantled until Los Angeles County took over PE and formed the MTA in the 1950s (later RTD, now MTA again). It took Los Angeles County to completely destroy the mass transit system there, not GM.
I would augment that with the following points:
[] Cheap and plentiful oil of the first half of the 20th century supported the arguments for conversion from electric to oil powered transportation.
[] Public opinion was often manipulated to support the demise of rail, and the rise of oil powered vehicles.
[] Politicians were cleverly bribed by the conspirators, to "encourage" transition from "old fashioned" rail based transit. One film shown on PBS documented the curious and coincidental awards of lucrative Cadillac dealerships to retired politicians who had, while in office, supported the transition.

More details here:
The Streetcar Conspiracy - How General Motors Deliberately Destroyed Public Transit (http://saveourwetlands.org/streetcar.htm - broken link)

Taken for a Ride - How General Motors (GM) Conspired to Destroy Rail Trolley Systems

The irony of bailing out GM, with public funds, while America is in desperate need for an alternative to the automobile, should not be ignored.
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Old 05-17-2010, 01:58 PM
 
Location: Prepperland
13,750 posts, read 9,862,006 times
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In the Utopian Vision, where partisan politics, greed and corruption do not impinge, a free America might recover her former stature, but reality bites.

As it stands, right now, the "opinion bound" political system, desperate to hide their skullduggery, is impotent to address the very real issues facing America:

[] Growing population, needing
[] More transportation, limited by
[] Finite surface area, and constrained by
[] Lack of cheap and plentiful fuel.

The Electric car is not a sustainable solution, since it requires just as much investment into infrastructure, and gobbles up surface area, just as petroleum powered cars, buses and trucks do.

Flying cars might bypass the limited road situation, but the fuel situation hits them even harder.

All that remains, is to go back to the 1890's mindset, before the Age of Cheap and Plentiful Petroleum, and focus on electric powered rail for the majority of transportation needs. And simultaneously, consolidate population into clusters, for efficient service.

{Yes, this spells the end of Suburbia. Sprawl will inevitably cost more and more, and folks won't be able to support themselves under such wasteful conditions.}
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