Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Paging Dr. Walter Block

I am not sure that Professor Block, the king of free market transportation theory, has written any articles on returning the New York City subway system to the private sector, but the timing couldn't be better to write something along those lines, or repost any paper already written.

Here's the, can't think outside the central planning box, view on the current situation:
The New York City subway system, which maintains 468 stations and more than 600 miles of track, has an average weekday ridership of about 5 million people. Not a one of them has been on the trains since Sunday evening. Very limited service is set to resume tomorrow, thanks in part to the efforts of an un-watering SWAT team.

But it is likely to be many more days before all those millions can get back on the trains. “The New York City subway system is 108 years old,” Joseph Lhota, the chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said the day after Hurricane Sandy flooded the tracks. “It has never faced a disaster as devastating as what we experienced last night.”

That’s true. It’s also true that a report for New York state predicted just such a disaster. The researchers, led by Dr. Klaus Jacob, of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, estimated that after a 100-year storm (which seems to describe Sandy) it could take about 21 days to get the subway system working at 90 percent capacity. If all potential damage is considered, Jacob and colleagues warned that “permanent restoration of the system to the full revenue service that was previously available could take more than two years.”

In the report, the authors estimated that the economic losses, due to the failure of infrastructure systems in the entire New York City metropolitan region, could range from range from $48 billion to $68 billion.

They also offer suggestions for re-designing and shoring up vulnerable infrastructure in New York. That would cost billions. Doing nothing would cost billions more. The authors concluded that for every one dollar we spend today, we would be saving four dollars in costs later. “We missed it [the flooding of the subways] by one foot last August during Irene,” Jacob wrote in an email to me before his phone battery ran out. “NYC should not be in the business of playing Russian roulette.”


  1. It would be most helpful to read not only about the transit system but any other public boondoggle returning to the private sector. Everything else is just theory so to speak.

    Why not start a competition ala Murphy's debate challenge with Krugman to privatize some government entity or function?

  2. Mr Block should run for Mayor in NYC. Privatize subway, roads, taxi's, buses, parks, buildings, you name it. Introduce real competition.

  3. John Semmens in arizona's ADOT department has written on free market roads for 25+ years.