Friday, October 12, 2012

Jitneys as infrastructure failure symptoms

Tim Dickinson of Rolling Stone has spotted a new business offering corporate-style shuttle service a la carte to commuters between San Francisco's Bernal Hill and the tech jobs in Mountain View:
It would be great to know if anyone is keeping a map or statistics on private transit services -- company-only and general-use, legal and illicit, commuter and airport and gamblers'-special, all together.

Because wouldn't that be the perfect indicator of weaknesses in the public infrastructure or anyway of weaknesses in public transit? Seems like you could tweak it into something like a Gini coefficient and get pretty thought-provoking results.

On the more positive side, it could be used to plan public services that people would actually use. Like the plan they followed at one of the new 1970s college campuses: build the buildings, see where paths form in the grass among them, then pave the paths. As opposed to what we've got, which is can't-get-there-from-here destinations and insufficient buses that go places you don't want to be.

For example, I've lived South of Market for sixteen years, walked past the 12 Folsom stops thousands of times, and just took an actual 12 Folsom bus for the first time yesterday.

Maybe I have to add, not that you'd want to drop unprofitable bus lines. Obviously people have to get to places whether it's a popular idea to do so or not. I guess that has to be said, since "wisdom of crowds" gets confused so easily with unquestioning deference to the market.

Just, as with health care -- and as with the filter machines that can find buyers for better-than-tap drinking water in even the poorest neighborhoods of Los Angeles -- if someone's profiteering off the inadequacy of a public service, why not provide the public service?

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