A Transportation Renaissance

Last year, Metro revised its bus routes and boasted that ridership would increase by 20 percent within two years. The Chronicle reports that overall ridership declined 4.6 percent last month and bus ridership has dropped 10 percent in the past two months.

At least one Metro executive explains the decrease as a consequence of job loss in the Houston area:

“What I think we are seeing is the unemployment rate has had a real effect on ridership and it is just now exhibiting in our numbers,” Arthur Smiley, Metro’s chief financial officer, said.

This is a dubious claim at best. Houston’s unemployment rate was 4.9 percent in November, only .1 percent higher than November 2015.

But Metro CEO Tom Lambert wasn’t so quick to blame the economy. Lambert

said all the reasons fewer people are riding buses or trains need to be understood.

“I’m not too overly hesitant to say we need to know what the realities are,” Lambert said, even if the feedback forces Metro to shift service. “The opportunity presents itself to be adaptable.”

The reality is, Houstonians don’t like mass transit (at least as operated by government bureaucracies), and the sooner Metro and its supporters realize that, the better off we’ll all be. Instead of forcing light rail and revamped bus routes down our throat, Metro should adapt itself out of the transportation business.

Uber has demonstrated that a private company can operate more efficiently and provide better service than government mass transit and cronyist taxi companies. UPS and FedEx have demonstrated that they can make deliveries more efficiently than the post office. What could private companies do with mass transit if they were allowed?

Transportation regularly ranks among the highest complaints about Houston. Shutting down Metro and freeing the innovators is a practical and moral start to solving Houston’s transportation problems.

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