Forget King County Metro car-tab fees and bus cuts | Jeff Jared

Instead of another tax hike to rescue our government-run monopoly and centrally planned bus system (King County Metro), we should just legalize private jitneys.

I must disagree with my paper’s support of Councilmembers Jane Hague and Kathy Lambert’s about-face to vote in favor of the $20 King County car-tab tax hike to bail out our socialist bus system in King County).

Instead of another tax hike to rescue our government-run monopoly and centrally planned bus system (King County Metro), we should just legalize private jitneys.

And similarly, limits on cab medallions (business licenses to drive a cab) should also end, breaking the taxi semi-monopoly as well.

The county bus monopoly loses money and can’t support itself. Sales taxpayers and car drivers must make up the difference between what the bus passenger pays and what the ride really costs.

As some have said, many buses are empty and most are too big. That’s government monopoly.

If we only had one grocery store to use because of a countywide monopoly, we’d riot. But we take a bus monopoly lying down.

We should break up King County’s bus monopoly by legalizing jitneys and other private, non-fixed-route carriers like motorcycle cabs (Thailand), minivans (Manhattan) and gypsy cabs (Russia).

Gypsy cabs are freelance cab drivers, like you or me, who need some extra money. Gypsy cabs could be fully freelance or in a loose organization. Jitneys are like buses but are more flexible in their routes and usually the size of minivans.

Let others “cherry pick” bus stops. Let a free market operate and transportation routes would flourish as supply meets demand. Government centrally planned monopolies don’t do this and always lose money requiring subsidy. See Amtrak and the US Postal Service.

And the federal Urban Mass Transit Act of 1964 should be repealed. There is no place for the feds in local transportation. Fixed-route monopoly bus systems using downtown cities as their hubs is a 1960’s idea that doesn’t reflect modern population and travel patterns.

Studies show that privatizing buses works. And jitneys and vans won’t be crashing over each other trying to get passengers. That’s a myth.

Is there a safety issue with “unknown” freelance cabbies? Well, a private certification system could help, but there is an element of hitchhiking here. But I used gypsy cabs all over Russia without a problem.

Why not $5 anywhere in King County? Today, this would require three bus transfers and take three hours, or would cost $60 in a cab. After deregulation, this would take 30 minutes and cost $5 in a jitney.

So when I’m driving back to Kirkland from Seattle on 520 on a sunny day with my convertible top down, I could swoop in at Montlake Station and grab a couple passengers for $2 each to help pay for the toll on the way to Kirkland.

Or if I’m a passenger at Montlake trying to get to Kirkland, I’d have two or three minivans, jitneys or gypsy cabs to choose from every five minutes, without having to board an over-engineered government monopoly bus on a 1960’s style fixed route that comes every 45 minutes, and loses money in the process.

Jeff E. Jared is an attorney and political writer in Kirkland who writes from a libertarian and law-and-economics perspective.

 


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