Deregulating the Public Service: Can Government Be Improved?

By John J. Diiulio Jr. | Go to book overview

11
Mass Transit Agencies:
Deregulating Where the
Rubber Meets the Road?

Mark Alan Hughes

CITIES ARE bewildering places. Traveling within them can demand feats of memory, patience, stamina, and courage. Systems develop to bring order to density and to make life sustainable. Some systems, such as time, become so internalized as to be unexamined abstractions. Others create a more tangible tyranny. I cannot forget my first trip from my small hometown in the Ozark Mountains to New York City. Dazzled by the sights along the sidewalk, I found myself standing beneath one of the seemingly endless traffic regulation signs. It read, "NO STANDING." Suddenly realizing that I had, in fact, been standing on that spot for several seconds, I quickly moved along. Relieved that I had avoided arrest, I determined to learn the apparently many rules of urban life as quickly as possible.

Of course, the greater naiveté of that story is that I could ever think that movement in cities is so well managed that pedestrians are segregated from waiting bus riders so as not to confuse a bus driver into making an unneeded stop. (I continued to struggle with a rationale for the sign for some time.) In fact mass transit (defined here as the public provision of shared transportation in vehicles with carrying capacity greater than automobiles) is a clear example of a system in which goals are many, vague, contradictory, and constantly changing, and in which the mission is strictly constrained by external realities. In this chapter I will review these external restrictions from the perspective of deregulating the government.

Deregulation is useful in that it balances other perspectives on public service, including privatization and the idea of "reinventing" government, that emphasize internal constraints on innovation and efficiency. Mass transit has had intensive recent experience with both these reform agendas. Privatization of transportation services

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