An economic analogy

The economic benefits of the Free Market for Transportation Plan become more obvious when considering a hypothetical analogy:

What would happen if the federal government were to impose a sales tax to provide free long distance telephone service?

1) long distance usage will greatly increase

2) most privately-owned long distance carriers will eventually go bankrupt (as did many privately-owned public transit companies in the past), even if they provide superior service or have lower operating expenses.

3) long-distance capacity will have to be greatly increased due to the increase in demand.

4) because there is no monetary incentive to use the system off-peak rather than at peak periods, people attempting to use the system at peak periods would not be able to get through unless they spent a lot of time redialing.

5) the cost to society of providing the "free" long distance service would be greater than the benefit to society.

6) government efforts to discourage long-distance calling by encouraging letter-writing will have negligible effect: the "free" calling has the same lure as "free"ways.  Likewise, verbal pleading (or a PR campaign) for carpooling or transit use will have negligible effect.

7) because long distance telephone service is not polluting, the analogy does not hold for the increase in air and noise pollution caused by a sales tax for freeways and roads.

Another low-cost way to increase roadway capacity

An example from Zurich, Switzerland

Define roadway capacity in terms of moving people, instead of moving vehicles. The capacity of light rail transit is proportional to the average speed (up to a two-minute headway, or the capacity of a 20-lane freeway). For streets and roads with light rail transit lines, the cheapest roadway capacity increase is realized by increasing overall speed, by giving signal pre-emption and not allowing automobiles to use the tracks. Under these conditions, light rail transit speeds approach that of a subway system.

The city of Zurich, Switzerland demonstrates this optimum use of light rail transit. Auto traffic is minimally impacted by signal pre-emption for light rail vehicles because light rail only needs about 20 seconds of signal time to get through an intersection, and comes once every 2 to 6 minutes. These 20 seconds are also used by automobiles traveling parallel to the light rail. Signal timing can still be set to give cross traffic most of the green, if desired. In any case, there would be a much longer wait for cross traffic if all the people in the light rail switched to automobiles. This demonstrates another advantage of light rail vehicles: it groups people together in the time domain, takes less time to cross intersections, and can avoid costly grade separations that occurs with a distributed flow of automobiles such as for freeways.

The City Council of Zurich adopted the following policy in 1975:

"In accordance with the city council's repeatedly stated wish to give priority to public transport when weighing various transport interests, the city departments are hereby instructed in principle to give preferential treatment to public transport. Moreover, reasonable provision must be made for the needs of pedestrians, disabled people, bicyclists and delivery vehicles. The environment, the quality of life and the city's residential areas and the townscape must also be taken into account."


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