Tuesday, November 05, 2013

"More commuters go it alone ..."

In 1997, Loren Lomasky published "Autonomy and Automobility."  He articulated what we all knew, that nothing beats the freedom and mobility of the private auto. This is not about "car-crazy Californians" or such. Look abroad; as people begin to earn, guess what they want. Or, as we used to say, "Ask any teenager."

Today's WSJ includes "More Commuters Go It Alone ... Americans Increasingly Ride Solo or Work From Home; Carpooling Now Below 10%. ... Meanwhile, just about every other way of getting to work has either languished or declined. Carpooling has tanked—falling from about 20% in 1980, when gasoline prices were soaring from the oil shock of the late 1970s, to under 10% in 2012. Public transportation accounted for just over 6% of daily commutes in 1980 and is now 5%. A category the Census calls 'other means'—which includes biking—stands at 2%, largely unchanged over the past decade. These commuting trends come despite efforts to get people to use public transportation or other alternatives. ..."  The writer could have added that there are no signs that these efforts are even being re-thought.

None of this is news. It highlights the power of the Bootleggers and Baptists insight. Once a coalition forms that includes those who feed at the trough (favored construction interests in this case) holding hands with greens who will support any program that might challenge automobility, it is game-over. This is a much more powerful public policy analysis than all the silly stuff about "evidence-based" policy and serious cost-benefit accounting.