Today’s AM New York featured an article highlighting public outrage against the MTA for requesting more money. It’s good that New Yorkers are realizing what a black hole the MTA truly is. John F Kennedy once dramatically said “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” It’s time, however, to ask what your city can do for you. By city, I don’t mean the populous, but instead the pseudo government agencies always groveling for more of your tax dollars. Tell them to not only stop taking money from you, but to actually give you money! Imagine if instead of taking money out of your pocket every year, the MTA, which includes the Subway, the busses, the LIRR and Metro North, and certain bridges and tunnels, was sold, with no specific political purpose, with the proceeds going to you, the taxpayer, in the form of a tax refund. Imagine how greatly a single or multiple private organizations would value such transportation infrastructure. The price would be in the billions of dollars, and all that money would be unleashed upon the New York City tax paying population.
That money, however much it would boost our local economy, isn’t the main concern. It would be a one time payout, and would probably not reach three figures for too many people. The main benefit would be improved mass transit efficiency. According to the 2008 budget report on the MTA website, 41% of the system’s revenue comes from taxes. This means that the MTA, despite having been given ability to operate, without competition, the two largest commuter rail networks and the largest subway system on the planet, cannot make a profit. Does this mean that rail and bus service in New York City is not profitable, and that if the MTA were to be privatized, it would go out of business? I’m not a transportation expert, nor do I play one on TV, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that New York city has enough of a condensed population that mass transit would be profitable. In fact, I’d like to say that just about anyone with a basic understand of economics and engineering could probably pull a profit running what we now know as the MTA.
The MTA is protected from competition, but in order to ensure that the market process provides us with transportation efficiently, we must ensure that the market process is able to function. This means allowing anybody who wishes to build a new series of rail lines or bridges, and allowing anyone with a bus to start shuttling passengers around. Basically, if somebody wants to start transporting willing customers for profit, they should be allowed to in any way as long as they do not interfere with the property of anyone else. What interferes with this are land use and building regulations, which make it nearly impossible to build anything in New York City, and taxicab medallions, which have given taxicab drivers a legalized monopolistic cartel. End these regulations, and you shall see New York City moving at a faster, cheaper, and more efficient pace.