Even the Washington Post Has Noticed that Metro Is Failing

redlinecrashby James A. Bacon

How bad is the Washington Metro rail system? So bad that only 84% of its trains ran on time, mainly due to poor maintenance. So bad that ridership declined 5% since 2010, even as transit ridership nationally was up. So bad that the system needs an extra $1.3 billion every year to invest in capital projects, and no one knows where the money will come from. The Metro rail system is so bad that even the Washington Post has perked up and taken notice.

The Metro rail system is arguably the most essential piece of transportation infrastructure in the Washington region, and it is engaged in a slow-motion train wreck. If the metro fails, the metropolitan transportation system seizes up and fails.

The Washington Post has detailed the Metro’s failings in a lengthy, front-page article, which shows that shows how deep-rooted the problems are. The original design flaw, write Robert McCartney and Paul Duggan, was the dysfunctional governance system that shares board appointments between Washington, D.C., Virginia, Maryland and the federal government. Responsibility is so divided that no one is held accountable, and nothing important gets done unless the District’s mayor and the governors in Annapolis an Richmond reach a consensus and push an issue forward.

Add to that the political bias toward expanding the Metro over properly maintaining it.

Board members … kept pushing for Metro to grow. The politicians who held the purse strings seemed happy to invest in laying new tracks and opening new stations, where they could tout development at opening ceremonies. But they cared less about spending for maintenance to prevent breakdowns years later, when they might no longer be in office.

In 2006 then-interim general manager Dan Tangherlini urged cost-reduction measures such as replacing short escalators with stairs, selling Metro’s headquarters building, and buying rail cars made from older designs. The board wasn’t interested. After nine months as a fill-in, Tangherlini did not get the top spot, the article says, “because Virginia representatives on the Metro board were worried that his interest in revitalizing existing subway lines would threaten the agency’s commitment to building the Silver Line.”

So, Virginia got its Silver Line to Tysons, but the quality of service is held captive to a dysfunctional organization. Astonishingly, the Silver Line, the newest in the system, is showing the second worst on-time performance of the six lines. According to data cited by the Post, Silver Line on-time performance in 2015 ran under 75%, dropping below 60% in October 2015.

Another original design flaw was a decision to build lines with two tracks, not four as in New York, with the result that crews sometimes must shut down lines to perform routine maintenance. Also consider the dysfunctional unionized workforce which adds to costs. The Post authors glide past union issues with relatively little comment in this article, but the Washington Times produced a devastating series of articles on the topic several years ago.

Bacon’s bottom line: The Metro is so critical to the functioning of the Washington region, including much of Northern Virginia, that it effectively holds the economy hostage. It is the transportation analogue to “Too Big to Fail.”

But no solution is in the offing. Raising the price of Metro tickets, which don’t come close to covering the cost of the service, is not a viable revenue-raising option when riders are already hacked off and inclined to abandon the system. Asking more money from state and local governments is sure to be contentious, especially in Virginia, if bailing out the commuter-rail system means short-changing other regions of funding for their own projects. Taxpayers are not likely to approve dumping more than $500 million a year extra into Metro, especially with no guarantee that the money won’t disappear into a black hole.

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34 responses to “Even the Washington Post Has Noticed that Metro Is Failing

  1. “Even The Washington Post?” They’ve been doing a ton of coverage about Metro for years. WHere do you get off with these snide, inaccurate headlines? You really need a copy editor.

  2. well, golly gee – Metro is the … transportation version of ObamaCare or K-12 Public Education.. GADZOOKS!

    Holy Steaming Cow Pies!

    Where have I heard this before!

    I know. I know.. We do need to hear the gory details from time to time just to remind us what a disaster these liberal do-gooder institutions really are and it’s been a while so time to remind us – again.

    I think we should turn METRO over to Uber or Transurban.. and see what happens!

  3. Why is it that I can count on Peter and Larry to be only capable of snarky counter attacks that don’t challenge the essence of what Jim is saying? Sure, I can do snarky attacks as well. Re: Uber running it. They’d probably do a damn sight better job than the government pukes who now run it.

  4. @Crazy – pukes? lord! Hey – how about naming the best run privately operated transit system – in the world… surely there must be one , right?

    or are all of them run by “pukes” ?

    • Actually, Larry. There are some, but I will limit comment to the one I have some experience with.

      The Paris Metro was run well for years, in spite of the CGT, which browbeats the government every chance it gets. (The government, because it is always spending Other People’s Money, dutifully caves and gives the CGT what it wants). More recently, the system has started falling into disrepair, but nothing on the level of Washington, DC; the French government for years succeeded in hiding the real costs involved and now has to pay the piper.

      Other than the maintenance issue, the system was well designed and redesigned. As is typically French, Parisiens howled at the Metro the way they howled at the Eiffel Tower and the I.M. Pei pyramid at the Louvre; then they loved it. Stations in the center city were never further apart than about 500 yards, which Parisiens loved. Later on, this element was considered a design flaw inhibiting upgrades and improvements and impacting flow, but the trains still ran. Some stations were closed during WWII but there was no particular feeling that they HAD to be reopened if they were unprofitable. It wasn’t until the 1968 that several stations I used were reopened (Rennes, Liege). Croix Rouge on the Left Bank has never reopened since 1939 and is considered a ghost station.

      In other words, the French were able more or less to make a system that worked as designed, even though they later had to scramble to make changes as demographics and Paris changed. They were not afraid to close, remake and repurpose their system. By comparison, Washington is a complete disaster, and it’s barely 45 years old; the Paris Metro was started in the late 1890’s and more or less complete in the 20’s, with renovations and upgrades ever since. Note that Paris and Washington, DC are both capitals of their respective countries.

      • Thanks, CJD, for pointing out this important contrast between comparables. It really isn’t fair to compare the long-range planning and execution necessary to run a heavy-rail system like DC’s Metro to bus-based public transit systems that can reconfigure without moving infrastructure. But heavy rail systems do work, amazingly well, when they are run by knowledgeable people with adequate funding and political support.

        Concerning design flaws, you mention one of them: “Another original design flaw was a decision to build lines with two tracks, not four as in New York, with the result that crews sometimes must shut down lines to perform routine maintenance.” A second flaw, perhaps equally limiting, is the lack of sufficient river crossings to the west of downtown — from the inadequate pair of tunnels between Georgetown and Rosslyn, to the complete absence of even planned connections between Maryland and Virginia west of the Beltway. Jim mentions the poor on-time performance on the Silver Line but, it should be noted, a lot of that is deliberate delay imposed by WMATA in order to keep the congested Blue and Orange Lines from backing up. The critical tunnels under the River are operating at maximum capacity today and can meet the schedule only when things work perfectly; the slightest extra congestion delay or equipment failure trickles down catastrophically.

        Jim also completely avoids discussing the other deficiency stressed in the Washington Post articles: the absence of dedicated funding to defray operating revenue shortfalls. This is what makes the lack of political accountability so devastating: any time there’s an unexpected problem, Metro execs have to come to their highly politicized board to get a one-time appropriation to fix it, and every such request becomes yet another bargaining chip in a grand “I’ll scratch your back only if you scratch mine” horsetrading game between jurisdictions with radically different transit constituencies and goals. There has got to be a dedicated regional tax source for this, agreed to and enacted by the four jurisdictions involved. Indeed, good economics says it should be a regional gas tax, but we all know how likely that is. And there are people out there like Jim who don’t even want to discuss tax subsidies for rail transit, even if the obvious tax subsidies already in place for automobile transit far exceed what rail requires.

        Yes, the labor situation at WMATA is horrendous, not only as to pay but also rigid work rules and poor work culture. But that could be overcome, as it has been in, say, Boston or New York, if we could get WMATA past its perennial funding crisis, rebuild and stabilize senior management, start to chip away at the poor maintenance, and plan realistic solutions for those structural limitations built into the present system configuration.

        • Well, I don’t want to make too strong a case for the Paris Metro. Any government run/subsidized system is just another transfer payment from those who have money to those who don’t in economic terms. It’s just a question of degree. It worked more or less under the Third Republic between 1870 and 1945, when most of the Metro was built out. The Third Republic was relatively stable, though they weren’t too good at fighting wars. The French had unstable governments starting with WWII, first Vichy then the Fourth Republic produced a new government on average every 18 months (some lasted four), until De Gaulle created the Fifth Republic in 1958. Things improved some because DeGaulle, having been a war hero, got away with being more or less a dictator. (Even that went up for grabs during the unpleasantness of 1968.) The French did not fully embrace socialism until later, but in the election of 1965, Mitterand, a communist, made it past seven other presidential candidates to the runoff election against DeGaulle. The French have been going down the socialist road since WWII, just like we have, albeit more slowly. Since then it’s been Socialists and avowed Communists, who cannot get France going again because everything has to be free for everybody. France, along with Argentina and Venezuela, is textbook on why more government is affirmatively destructive. The more government and free stuff, the worse shape the system becomes. Just gander at the number of governmental elements already spoken about in this blog post. Crony capitalism, the dogleg to Tyson’s because of politics, reliance on federal money, federal requirements to get the money, Fairfax politics. On and on.

          Finally, remember that the New York subway system in its hey-day started out being operated as two private companies, the BMT (Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit Company) and the IRT (Interborough Rapid Transit Compan). The City of New York did not get into the business of operating the subway until about 1940, and it’s been all downhill since then. (Are we starting to see a pattern here? The French, the New Yorkers? the War? Hmm?) It forever puzzles me why Larry G and Peter, in light of this history, continue to think that we should always default to the government solution.

        • WMATA is unresponsive to the community when it has to ask for money from D.C., MD and VA every year. If it had its own source of money, we’d see the modern version of Marie Antoinette telling us all to eat cake. Let’s see improvement first before we give a totally flawed public entity a route to our wallets.

  5. Conservatives have a real problem with transit systems like Metro. Unlike health care and K-12 education – I don’t think I’ve ever heard them say the cure for their ailments is to turn them over to the private sector to operate.

    And they also won’t come out and advocate just shutting them down and letting things evolve without them.

    They actually use words and phrase like “too big to fail” without ever really articulating a better alternative – but they sure love to detail from pillory to post – their “flaws” and “failures”.

    For the record – I wince every time I hear of yet another “mess” with Metro. It does seem to be rife with all manner of incompetent and costly problems but again – what is the alternative other than “do better”!

    Seriously?

    If folks like Jim and Crazy would be King – what would they do? Would they just METRO down ? Would they put it out for PPTA bid?

    So – we know the good, bad and ugly but what is the principled Conservative alternative to urban transit systems like METRO?

    Do they have a list of the best run systems in the world – and compare the metrics of the best run to the metrics of METRO and advocate for reform?

    So – other than Jim… from time to time – recycling the same old “horrors” of urban transit -what would be a Conservative alternative?

    Crazy – how about it? Got some thoughts?

  6. Big part of the problem is that politicians want to run the metro. For example, when it was decided to complete the Silver Line to Dulles the Fairfax County Board decided to not run the line directly ldown the middle of the Dulles Toll Road but rather to dogleg it through Tysons to promote economic development in the dying Tysons Corner. Bob Simon was the one who coined the phrase “dogleg” at that time. It cost more than a billion dollars to build the “dogleg” and the federal government loand the Metro some $2 billion dollars for the project. Some property owners in Tysons made a lot of money (100s of millions) on the deal but now there are 4 extra stops in Tysons where there is not sufficient development to justify a billion dollar metro line even if it slowed the train down increasing the time to get from Dulles to DC by more than a half hour.
    And the Metro has had similar political decisions that over rode transportation needs and that is the mess it is in.
    I was educated about the by the founder of Reston Robert E. Simon three years ago over lunch.

    • jwgilley Everything you say is true. The plans for Dulles Rail presumed rail down the DTR median with two stops at each end of Tysons. But mix in crony capitalism and the awe of new urbanism, seasoned with campaign contributions, and the preferred option doglegs through Tysons. Add Gerry Connolly, who was both a BoS Chairman and an SAIC vp at the same time, and a fourth station is added in front of the SAIC campus on Route 7.

      Next the FTA informally opines the project does not produce sufficient benefit to receive federal funding (cannot do 50 pushups), and we see Senator John Warner get the project grandfathered under the old standard (25 pushups). But the project still cannot passed the old standard. Damn those 25 pushups are tough. So all the pols from both parties lobby, lobby, lobby and, bingo, the GW Bush administration caves and funding occurs. Heck, just forget about the pushups altogether. You are now an Army Ranger.

      Meanwhile, there still isn’t enough money to build the line. Both the federal and local shares (read Tysons landowners) are fixed. Enter Governor Kaine, who gives the DTR to MWAA in exchange for building Phase 1 and the ability to gouge the users of the DTR.

      But now, new urbanism will save the planet and everyone will be riding the Silver Line. But the truth of the matter is SOVs will continue to be the main mode of travel to and from Tysons (as well those passing through). Fairfax County’s 527 study (that’s one where I give Kaine lots of credit) shows at 84 MSF Tysons and surrounding communities face total gridlock. What’s a few billion dollars to achieve even worse traffic in the name of urbanism? But the County decides that Tysons cannot grown beyond 84 MSF without restarting the planning process.

      So now what is happening? Fairfax County is proposing to remove the 84 MSF trigger/limit from the Comp Plan. If I close my eyes I won’t fall off the cliff. Only the Greater Tysons Citizens Coalition is fighting this change. Stay tuned for more Crony Capitalism Dressed in New Urbanism and Transit.

    • Way back in the dark ages of the 1960s, the earliest maps for the planned Metro system had a line out Columbia Pike through Baileys to Annandale. But that got dropped from the original plan (even though they did build the tunnel into the Pentagon for the eventual connection there!).

      Way back in the 1990s, along came Arlington County with a planned street car out Columbia Pike as far as Baileys, plus a Crystal City leg and other embellishments. But that got dropped from the County’s plan, for reasons still fresh in mind.

      Meanwhile, the Silver Line races ahead to Dulles and Ashburn. Despite that half-hour detour from Dulles through the Dogleg. Despite the inability to tie it into the rest of the Metro system adequately through those tunnels out of Rosslyn.

      Who has the greater need for mass transit now: the residents and the economy of South Arlington and Baileys and Annandale, or the real estate developers of the Dulles Corridor?

      Politics; politics.

  7. CrazyJD, TooManyTaxes, Jwgilley – thank you for the excellent comments.

    Thank you Washington Post also for getting serious about good local news coverage of real problems. We can now add the names of Robert McCartney and Paul Duggan to those of Rees Shapiro, and Antonio Oliva, who are now are working hard and here successfully to raise the the startling drop of journalistic standards at the Washington Post over the past two decades.

    Hopefully the Post will reinforce this trend in the future. This story has still has many unexplored and yet to be fully explored aspects.

    For example, NO SUBWAY SYSTEM SHOULD BE BUILT IN THE FIRST PLACE OR THEREAFTER ENLARGED WITHOUT A TRIPLE A ASSURANCE THAT THE FUNDS WILL BE AVAILABLE TO MAINTAIN THAT SYSTEM AS BUILT.

    There are a number of ways to create these assurances. By far the best way is to build the subway along a route where the transit fares are, or almost surely will be, sufficient to pay the cost of the subways maintenance once built. To the degree that traffic demand is not then in place at any given location, the local jurisdictions should guarantee those future projections of usage along those stops. This should include, without limitation, those locales putting in place UP FRONT the zoning and land use along that route, and around those stops along the way, to assure all users throughout the system that private developers can build the densities necessary to pay for all maintenance cost of the subway first before any debt service, thus subordinating debt service to maintenance, and thereafter serve debt too.

    In addition no expansion should be allowed until these mechanisms are in place and operating successfully.

    The central driving failure of the DC subway was the failure demand these assurances from the local jurisdictions before construction, and the abject failure in many cases of the local jurisdictions to build densities along the route of the subway in their areas as necessary to support the subway.

    Instead, the local jurisdictions were in many cases cowed by local residents who took and still take full advantage of subways stops in their neighborhoods yet refuse to allow others to move near to and/or commute to those stops as necessary to support the subways cost and maintenance.

    Two of the most grievous examples of such irresponsible governance are the DC subway stops at Tenleytown and Friendship Heights both just inside the DC line. These stops are grossly underutilized simply because “the not in my back yard crowd” refuse to allow sufficient multi family and commericial over and around these two otherwise urban locations to support the subway they otherwise take full and selfish advantage of for themselves daily.

    In addition the oversight, responsibility and accountability for the operation and maintenance of the existing subway system should be taken out of the hands of the Boards of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Boards whose members are both incompetent, and lack the power, to fulfill their duties, given their gross lack of experience to do their jobs, and their own overwhelming political agendas that thwarts of the public interests.

    For example, Washington Post, ask your owner Jeff Bezos if he would ever allow his company Amazon to operated by these people on the WMATA board. And allow them to do so under the system they use to operate and manage the Washington subway. As the Post article points out, this system running DC Metro as it is currently constituted is guaranteed to fail.

    In an earlier comment on another post I wrote about the vagaries of building and managing large infrastructure systems. Those comments are below. I was naive to not mention below the accident waiting to happen that is built into the governance and oversight system build into DC’s subway.

    “But, like everything in life in the real world, mass transit and its success and its failures are all about how, when, why, where, and by whom, it is planned and designed and built, and how and by whom it is thereafter maintained, improved, and looked after, and even then it is also subject to the vagaries of luck and chance. And also to many other unexpected circumstances (related and unrelated) including the ever present Murphy’s Law. This also is how the real world works, Larry. As earlier I pointed out.

    With regard with that approach to how the real world actually works in real time and in what it takes to get major things accomplished in that world, it is typically wise for any player to look at and appraise those developers, bureaucrats, politicians, labor bosses, and everyone else involved in any major project in which he is involved or counts on, and do so as one might appraise a doctor about to operate on him or an opposing Indian Chief he might have to go to war against and with – namely:

    At the end of the day, each and every one of them is a human being. As such each and every one of them is among the most complicated, variable, and inexplicable of all living things. All we have is their record if available.

    But as humans beings they, like everyone else alive, makes mistakes. Always remember that and also that:

    They make mistakes “for reasons good and bad, some beyond their control, some unconsciously made, others not … and many for a wide range of reasons, with and without good cause, and many do more damage, pain and harm than is necessary, or more than they otherwise would have done had they done their job better, more wisely, with excellence, and/or properly.”

    This is true in most everything people do. And so people do it in real estate development, including the building and operating of mass transit systems, which like so many things in this world is an inherently complicated and risky venture that requires a vast and varied array of talents that span the full spectrum of human talents, all of which are far more subjective than all humans (including engineers) by their nature are typically willing to admit.

    And so its true that all those who build mass transit systems or influence how they are built, whether for good or ill, are all “human beings susceptible to frequent error, bad judgment, off days, and are good at some things while bad at others, and sometimes most all of them shade the truth and/or spin it and/or hide it and or outright lie for good reason, bad reason, and misguided reason …

    And even the best of those involved in mass transit systems can go bad. This happens for many reasons – their age or health or finances or issues at home to flaws in their character ranging from hubris to narrow mindedness to rampant prejudices, to greed and envy, to sudden desperation or outright evil, and much in between.

    These truths are everywhere around us, in all we do, and in everyone we meet or otherwise encounter, friend or foe, or the guy passing by. All these truths and their consequences impact us. Every one of us every day. All we can do is take what responsibility we can and do with it the best we can. And keep it in mind when we judge other people, particularly by group.”

    • The central driving failure of the DC subway was the failure [to] demand these [zoning and land use] assurances from the local jurisdictions before construction, and the abject failure in many cases of the local jurisdictions to build densities along the route of the subway in their areas as necessary to support the subway.

      Wow. If I were designing a for-profit suburban rail system before WWI, with real estate sales on the side, and amusement parks at the end of the line to induce ridership, I’d agree with you about the land density, RF — but which is the cause and which the effect? Today, it seems to me that any urban mass transit system is only a small part of an intricate web of urban cross-subsidies, and thus subsidizing the transit system itself with tax dollars from a broader base than users (like, all gas purchasers) is only one more layer of abuse to the primacy of private enterprise. Our zoning and land use policies have created the suburbs and the downtown and the ghettos we now try to stitch back together; why should they be reconfigured to serve the transit system rather than the other way ’round? Once upon a time the city was a close-knit mix of small neighborhoods of rich and poor and small commercial storefronts. We dismembered that; we consigned the poor to places out of sight and out of mind so our suburban vistas wouldn’t be tarnished. Don’t we at least owe them subsidized transportation to where we need to employ them to do the manual and clerical labor we require? I have a problem with blaming the failure of our subway system on inadequate revenue due to lack of density.

      That said, we completely agree, the politicians who refuse to take advantage of the tax base they could build, if they took full advantage of the density opportunities made available to them by mass transit, are without courage, without fortitude, without excuse in my opinion, like so many politicians we see around us, doing their own part to subsidize the residents of those low density neighborhoods about the subway stops in, yes, Tenleytown, and also Clarendon and East Falls Church, with tax dollars foregone (and replaced by levies from other sources).

      • In practical effect, this is how the highly successful Connecticut Avenue and Chevy Chase were built and developed, although developers paid much of cost. But it was a win win, a gift that keeps on giving to DC and Maryland. DC refuses again and again to do same thing with Wisconsin Ave. This is absolutely crazy and irresponsible.

      • I do not believe in building mass transit that cannot pay for itself. That is where the worst sort of corruption starts, people spending other peoples money, which today in our society amount to nothing more than theft.

        If mass transit cannot reasonably support itself don’t build it. What is so radical about that?

      • Obviously too there are complexities. Monies generated from mass transit include not only fares but also a plethora of bundled wealth generators. Sales and real estate taxes to name only the most obvious.

        In addition I suggest that the less dense Clarendon is not subsidized by Courthouse, Virginia Square or Ballston. Instead Clarendon is dramatic and dynamic part of a carefully crafted holistic fabric of inter-related new neighborhoods whose parts now work together to create a cumulative whole that is far greater than is parts.

        Conversely, Tenleytown and Friendship heights DC are the reverse. A irrational example of politicians and a pampered ideologically driven group of residents defeating the public good, building neighborhoods whose whole is less than its parts. And doing so in league with the Board of the Metropolitan Washington Area Transit Authority Board who refuse to allow the development of their bus repair and storage yard that sits atop its own subway stop that comprises on of the best redevelopment sites in the entire United States. Hence their corruption.

        I cannot speak with confident as to Falls Church, given its complex geography, political, and historic fabric, but suspect that it too may well be in the same bag with Wisconsin Ave, but for different reasons.

  8. A whopping 110,000 people work in the Tysons Corner area, so I don’t understand why JW Gilley says Tyson Corner is “Dying” ?

    WMATA has many problems, such as the fact it’s one of the only U.S. subway systems without guaranteed dedicated funding,meaning that WMATA has to negotiate with all the local counties/ jurisdictions annually what their next year’s contribution will be. The Washington Times sometime ago, had a series of scathing articles detailing laziness of system employees, an entrenched atmosphere of reverse racism and sexism (97% of train operators are black males), and train operators often, deliberately and maliciously letting the air out of their brakes out of spite, which puts the train out of service, causing passengers to leave and wait for the next train. The Dec. 2015 (?) Washingtonian Magazine front cover article, explained how when the weekend operating time was extended to 3 a.m., this left little down-time to allow for track maintenance, so that maintenance now has to be done on weekend (days), and tracks shut-down accordingly, meaning longer headways / waits between trains.

    • Well said! The blunt fact is, there is much more to the labor problems at Metro than mere featherbedding. But management, such as it is, is concentrated on fighting its political wars with (and among) the entities represented on the Board, in order to get survival funding — not on running a subway system.

  9. As I sit here a stone’s throw away from the Marriott corporate HQ building, I have to wonder about the wisdom of counting on METRO to pull in the so-called “younger” workforce when contemplating major business decisions such as this:
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/digger/wp/2015/03/01/marriott-ceo-we-will-move-our-headquarters/ . Not to mention the Pentagon’s reliance on getting a big chunk of their workforce into Arlington. Perhaps the entire system should be turned over to the Army Corps of Engineers.

    • “Perhaps the entire system should be turned over to the Army Corps of Engineers.”

      That is way is was before and likely it is the way it should be now with the important caveat that far stricter oversights authority needs to be established and run by competent and highly able people properly motivated to insure the Corps does not abuse its power, or be co-oped and abused by others.

      And of course the Marriot play for our money, is yet another effort by one of the nations great corporate shakedown artists. Always at every opportunity it threatens to move out of its HQs building in Bethesda so as to pocket yet more dirty illicit cash from American public. This corporate protection racket engaged in by many of America’s largest corporations should be outlawed. The corrupts everyone it touches, politicians and corporate executives alike while it steals money out of our pockets. It is only one of the many poster children that corrupt today’s elite in this country.

  10. Can anyone here name a single subway system on the planet earth that was done according to what folks are saying should have been done with METRO and subways in general?

    Context is important when discussing METRO.

    I’m willing to bet that with most of the built systems in the world – each one had it own sets of “issues” similar to the ones we see with METRO.

    or does someone want to make the case that METRO – in all the world is unique – and, in fact, uniquely BAD?

    This whole self flagellation deal is silly.

    There ARE – ABANDONED underground rail stations in New York City – yes – but it does not mean the system is a failure – at all – it’s part and parcel of such systems… they are ALL flawed and mistakes made – that cannot be easily fixed –

    and most important – will someone please show me a subway system on planet earth that runs without subsidies – and just on farebox – both operational and capital?

    as usual – we have some mega conflation going on here with regard to whether or not such systems should be “subsidized” – as if we might put a similar requirement on things like education and law enforcement – that don’t “pay for themselves” either.

    So the rest of the world considers transit to be like law enforcement, education, health care, etc – stuff that society needs and will be paid for by everyone – as opposed to thinking in terms of subsidies verses “farebox”.

    how about we deal with realities on these issues for a change?

    I’m not apologizing for the mess that METRO is – but the simple truth is – it’s a vital service that has to be maintained and reform is what is needed – for what can be reformed and acceptance of what cannot be – like “doglegs” and get on with it rather than having these silly flagellation rants …

  11. Here’s an interesting comparison of Washington METRO to other similar systems in the US:

    Valuing Rail Transit: – Comparing Capital and Operating Costs to Consumer Benefits

    in particular Table 1 on page 7 that details among other things operational and capital costs and subsidies

    http://iurd.berkeley.edu/wp/2010-04.pdf

  12. As usual, Larry G “fails to miss the point.”
    In doing so, he employs a remarkably high number of what are known as the informal, or verbal, fallacies. Students of Larry’s statements will note that they contain several such fallacies that are hard to separate one from another.

    Argument by assertion: “I’m willing to bet that with most of the built systems in the world – each one had it own sets of “issues” similar to the ones we see with METRO.”

    The Fallacy of the Suggestive Question, a variant of the Argument by Assertion:
    “Can anyone here name a single subway system on the planet earth that was done according to what folks are saying should have been done with METRO and subways in general? ”

    All or Nothing (sometimes called Black or White Fallacy), combined with the Suggestive Question Fallacy and Argument by Assertion (you’ll see how easy it is to load a number of fallacies into a single statement):
    “or does someone want to make the case that METRO – in all the world is unique – and, in fact, uniquely BAD?”

    The Genetic Fallacy of Extension– “we have some mega conflation going on here with regard to whether or not such systems should be “subsidized” – as if we might put a similar requirement on things like education and law enforcement – that don’t “pay for themselves” either.”

    Fallacy of the Unwarranted Assumption, sometimes thought of as closely related to the Fallacy of Neglected Aspect:
    “So the rest of the world considers transit to be like law enforcement, education, health care, etc – stuff that society needs and will be paid for by everyone – as opposed to thinking in terms of subsidies verses “farebox”.

    And now, I will engage in argument that could be attacked as one of the Genetic Fallacies, in this case a variant of the Argumentum Ad Hominem fallacy: “Consider the source of the Valuing Rail Transit cited by Larry… Berkeley.”

  13. re: fallacies – amusing….

    the real point here is this:

    List of metro systems (in the world):

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_metro_systems

    now tell me which ones have been abandoned because they “failed”?

    see the problem here is ideological conflation –

    where the ideologues will select something to point out it’s problems – and imply that such failures pretty much prove it’s a failed govt concept…

    it’s sorta like picking a police dept that has problems or a school that has serious problems and claiming they prove that the idea of govt-financed police depts or schools is clearly a failure –

    oh and ‘consider the source”

    go look at table 1 on page 7 – it’s a comparison of systems with real data that allows one to see for themselves which systems are better on the metrics but more than that – that all of them are subsidized – just like a all police depts and public schools are – and all have their problems but no where do we say we should abandon police dept and public schools – at least not normal rational folks who understand that ideology is a failure bigger than any of the institutions that ideology likes to talk about.

    right Crazy?

    • One reason you may find the fallacies amusing is because you obviously don’t understand them, since you continue to use them.

      Your entire post is yet another example of the All or Nothing fallacy. Get a clue, please!! None of the reasonable folks on this blog would say, “Gotta have it all one way.” Instead, they point out the problems inherent in anything that is run by the government and seek free market solutions because they are inherently better, not perfect, but always and invariably better to the extent that it’s possible to use them.

      In the same way that we have decided the greater good of our society is enhanced by a publicly paid for education (with some success I might add, although notice that I do not confuse a publicly paid for education with a publicly provided education, the latter being obviously a shambles) we also decide that some government subsidies for a Metro may provide for a greater good. THAT DOES MEAN IT SHOULD BE RUN BY THE GOVERNMENT!! I hate to shout, but you just don’t seem to get it, so I thought I’d try a cruder approach. Actually, I think you do get it, but you’re one of these guys whose constitution simply won’t allow you to admit that there’s something to the other guy’s argument and then move on.

      Any of these systems have problems; the New York system has problems. But it had fewer problems before the government took it over in the 40’s, as did the Paris Metro. D.C. never was privately operated, so its descent into a mess has been steeper and faster.

  14. “One reason you may find the fallacies amusing is because you obviously don’t understand them, since you continue to use them.”

    Oh I understand them quite well.

    “Your entire post is yet another example of the All or Nothing fallacy. Get a clue, please!! None of the reasonable folks on this blog would say, “Gotta have it all one way.” Instead, they point out the problems inherent in anything that is run by the government and seek free market solutions because they are inherently better, not perfect, but always and invariably better to the extent that it’s possible to use them.”

    actually the “all or nothing” is when someone says ” .. problems inherent in anything that is run by the government ” and then they cannot show a single counter example of one not run by the govt.

    so I asked – to name ones NOT run by the govt – to prove your premise and you say that is a “fallacy”? yes.. that’s amusing.

    “In the same way that we have decided the greater good of our society is enhanced by a publicly paid for education (with some success I might add, although notice that I do not confuse a publicly paid for education with a publicly provided education, the latter being obviously a shambles) we also decide that some government subsidies for a Metro may provide for a greater good. THAT DOES MEAN IT SHOULD BE RUN BY THE GOVERNMENT!! I hate to shout, but you just don’t seem to get it, so I thought I’d try a cruder approach. Actually, I think you do get it, but you’re one of these guys whose constitution simply won’t allow you to admit that there’s something to the other guy’s argument and then move on.”

    no one said it SHOULD be run by the govt – dude. I asked you to show some good non-govt example and what do you do – you SHOUT! –

    “Any of these systems have problems; the New York system has problems. But it had fewer problems before the government took it over in the 40’s, as did the Paris Metro. D.C. never was privately operated, so its descent into a mess has been steeper and faster.”

    yes – they ALL have problems. What does that prove? Do you think things run by the private sector don’t have “problems”?

    My premise is NOT that govt is better – but that if the private sector is better – then why are there not at least some example on the planet? don’t you think if the private sector were better -that it would win out – SOME WHERE?

    here – take a look – this is a gift to you – but you need to read it all the way through – then get back afterwards and lets discuss – govt’s role in it.

    How Hong Kong’s subway turns a $2 billion annual profit
    http://money.cnn.com/2015/03/30/news/hong-kong-mtr-subway-property/

    • You still don’t get it, …Dude. (You sound like that little Obama aide who famously got in front of the cameras and started calling people “Dude”)

      I never said the government should not be involved in transportation. I only said that when the private sector is involved, you get better results. Happened in New York, happened in Paris. When the government tries to run it on its own, the results are worse. That’s all. It shouldn’t be all one way or all the other. Besides, government is the only one who has the right of eminent domain, forgetting the more recent abuses of same by the government.

  15. and I said that you need to show me where the private sector has done it better – on a worldwide basis.

    You make the flat all or nothing statement (like Jim) that ” when the private sector is involved, you get better results. ”

    so show me .

    where on the planet earth has the private sector done a better job with things like Subways?

    and why in the world should the private sector need Eminent Domain if they can negotiate willing buyer/willing seller and be more efficient and cost effective than govt anyhow?

    you guys have ideological theories – that’s it..

    you claim that the private sector can do it better but on the planet earth apparently you cannot provide real examples.

    do you know how many subways and transit systems there are in the world?

    Can you give me a reasonable explanation why the private sector has not come forward and said: ” let us do this – we can do it cheaper and better”?

    come one guy. You can’t live in LA LA LAND forever. You guys give Conservatism a bad name.

    no where on earth – are subways, health care, education, done “better” by the private sector. Why?

    • >>You make the flat all or nothing statement (like Jim) that ” when the private sector is involved, you get better results. ”
      so show me .>>

      Earth to Larry. You remind me of my favorite passage from Through the Looking Glass. “‘When I use a word’, said Humpty Dumpty in a rather scornful tone, ‘It means exactly what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less'” This is too rich for the human mind. You resort to an Impromptu Definition (one of the Question Begging fallacies) in order to reach your all or nothing government vs. private sector conclusions. You read the word “involved” to mean exactly what you want it to mean, namely, “complete takeover”. I, of course, never said that. New York leased tracks to the private companies to run, which they did well. It went gradually downhill when New York decided to run it, as well as own it. When it ran well, it was not all or nothing either way.

      As for why the private sector has not come forward and said “Let us do this”, I think the reason is fairly simple and logical. That reason is the same reason why Cherry Becker fired the City of Richmond as a client: With the current idiots in government holding on for dear life, it was clear that Cherry Becker would get a bad result. It’s the same reason why investment by big banks, companies etc. has stagnated under Obama: they can’t get a good result under the current government regime. Why would any private company offer itself on the altar of the DC Metro problems in such an incredibly dysfunctional government situation? Look at what happened with the water meter/ billing problem in Petersburg. That company, whose name now escapes me, probably wishes it had never heard the name, Petersburg.

      “and why in the world should the private sector need Eminent Domain if they can negotiate willing buyer/willing seller and be more efficient and cost effective than govt anyhow?”

      This is already answered. But ok… again. One way or the other, you will have the government involved, either through regulation or permitting or Corp of Engineers or snail darter protection. There is no way the private sector is going to gamble on buying up land when the government has that kind of control over things unless the government gets out. This the government will never do, nor should it.

      As I said, New York and Paris were better run before WWII when the private sector had a hand in it. How many times to I have to say it. As for the last remark re: education, this is worth the briefest of responses. Virtually all private schools do education better than the vast majority of public schools. There might be some exceptions in the public sector like New Trier or Governor’s School. Give it up, Larr!

  16. nope Crazy – when you say this ” . I only said that when the private sector is involved, you get better results” it means exactly what it says .

    and when you say: ” problems inherent in anything that is run by the government ” – again there is no different meaning than what you said.

    re: ” As for why the private sector has not come forward and said “Let us do this”, I think the reason is fairly simple and logical. That reason is the same reason why Cherry Becker fired the City of Richmond as a client:”

    bullfeathers ! are you saying THIS is the reason that NO WHERE ON EARTH – that there are no private-sector subways?

    We actually DO HAVE private-sector toll roads – right? and we got them from them showing interest and from the govt putting out RFPs that were responded to – and the roads built.

    so why not subways also?

    and I DID give you an example of one – and invited you to read about it and what did you do?

    re: ” There is no way the private sector is going to gamble on buying up land when the government has that kind of control over things unless the government gets out. This the government will never do, nor should it.”

    what does “nor should it mean”?

    Earth to Crazy – are you saying that No where on EARTH out of more than 200+ different countries that govt “will not allow”?

    really?

    re: ” Virtually all private schools do education better than the vast majority of public schools.”

    how would you know if you don’t have apple-to-apple comparisons on both performance and dollars?

    See Crazy – you guys work off of pure ideology – not facts and realities.

    it’s what you want to believe but are unwilling to actually deal with the facts and realities.

    It’s theory – of which the reality is – no examples – in the world – and the reason you provide is that “government” around the world “will not allow it” like it some kind of massive conspiracy and no govt on earth really is representative of those those who vote – just a cabal of “liberals dictators” or some such, eh?

    we can have PPTA roads – why not subways?

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