Sunday, February 24, 2019

Choice Riders

For decades the US mass transit politico-industrial complex has been obsessed with "choice riders." The idea is that there are a bunch of middle class suburbanites who commute by car and if only you could crack the magic code you could somehow coax them into maybe consider taking whatever the latest grand idea for mass transit is. They don't "have" to take public transit. Your goal is to make them choose it! These people will never ride buses, of course, unless maybe we put free wifi on them and, I dunno, make it somehow look like notabus, but maybe they'll ride a train. Only if they can drive to the train, of course, so we can't put the stops in dense neighborhoods where people actually can walk to them. Instead we'll put them places we can integrate 1000 spot garages which always leads to your ridership being limited by... the number of parking spots.

So we do everything we can to try to build whatever we think these people *might* ride (ferries are good, people love a good boat ride*), or at least could see themselves riding, maybe, sometime, but, you know, probably not.

But everyone is a "choice rider." Lots of poor people in urban hellholes buy cars, too, in part because the mass transit system sucks. "Choice riders" as conceived by transit agencies are, if not people who would never ride mass transit, the people who *might* but are the least likely to. Still the whole system is dedicated to trying to lure these people, at least to the extent that we have a system. The resources are heavily constrained.

Essentially, too many people who make these decisions want to cater to "people like me" because that's who is important.

Also, too, every election cycle is the year those moderate Republicans in the suburbs will finally flip blue...

*there are places ferries are good and necessary largely because there are no bridges in appropriate spots, but in most places ferries-as-commuter-transit are just super expensive highly subsidized low capacity vehicles for people who really like them because who doesn't like a boat ride.