Mass Transit Needs Some Competition

Background Reading


© Leap Transit

© Leap Transit

Does San Francisco need another private bus? Well, it’s got one.

Do you like high-end coffee shops with distressed wood paneling? Have you ever woken up in the morning and wished that a coffee shop with distressed wood paneling would just pull up outside your house in the morning, so that you could ride all the way to work inside a coffee shop with distressed wood paneling?

If you answered yes to these questions, and if you happen to live in San Francisco’s Marina district or on Russian Hill, and if you happen to work either downtown or in Soma, and if you have $6, I am here to inform you that there is, finally, a special bus just for you. Cue the adventure music!


Well, if having a private bus is pretentious the great! Let’s have more! Mass Transit systems have lulled us into a vicious cycle of anxiety over fare raises and the threat that State will stop doling out money on an endless basis.

In fact the one thing that Mass Transit users complain about most is the quality of the service they get:

And whether hipsters want to admit it or not they are among the least likely to ride public transit. Which in my mind helps to boost bicycle commuter ridership.

They openly write to the ChainLink Forum about the fact that someone riding next to them on a bus stinks! So why not then find a way to make bus riding more enjoyable? And at the same time give the CTA a bit of much needed competition?

Imagine what it would be like if every single business concern with which we dealt was receiving money from the State (our tax money) and despite the low level of service quality continued to rake in the same amount of tax largesse each year.

Imagine too that instead of spending much of their ‘profits‘ on maintenance they waited until the next round of budget talks in Washington, DC and then had their lapdogs plead that without their service the poor would flounder. And suddenly the money rolls in to fix things. Passengers wonder aloud will the service improve? The answer is a definite, maybe.

If there were a competitive bus service in Chicago that had the kinds of vehicle numbers as the CTA and could charge what the experience really costs, things on the CTA might even improve. That would be especially true if they were put on a ‘sustainability diet‘ where the operating costs had to be taken out of their profit margin. That of course would make it certain that the artificial ‘cheapness‘ of public transit was exposed. And that would stop all the incorrect blather about automobile driving being the most expensive of modes. It may not be if the playing field is leveled.

So my hat (helmet) goes off to the San Franciscans who are dipping their toes into the Capitalist waters and making the Mass Transit system take notice!