Let’s talk transit – and ideology.
Many conservatives/libertarians dislike transit, because they think it's solely a subsidized public utility. But there's a small subset of this bunch called Market Urbanists, who not only like transit, but think transit use would increase significantly if free-market policies were used in cities. Because that would mean the following 4 things:
1) Banning restrictive zoning, so that housing would get denser, creating the critical mass of people needed for transit.
2) Enforcing congestion charging, so that road use is priced based on driver demand. This would incentivize people to locate closer to their jobs, or commute in using different modes besides solo driving.
3) Liberalizing private transit from pointless bans and regulations. This would cause the industry to grow, namely through “micro transit” options like rideshare, bikeshare, carpool, ebikes, shuttles, dollar vans, etc. Some offerings might be bulkier, though, resembling the intercity startups like Megabus, Bolt Bus and the Brightline train.
4) Reforming public transit. Many Market Urbanists aren’t against public transit, per se, but think that transit agencies must improve their management and services as a condition to get more funding. And if they are unable or unwilling to do this, cities should seek privatization, by signing short-term, performance-based contracts with outside companies.
All 4 of these market-based policy ideas are politically unlikely. But if any or all of them were applied, there's no doubt in my mind that many cities would have higher transit usage...because transit would be way better.
Scott Beyer owns and manages The Market Urbanism Report. He is a roving cross-country journalist who writes regular columns for Forbes, Governing Magazine and HousingOnline.com.
A podcast on Market Urbanism, or the cross between free-market policies and urban issues. We discuss how a liberalized urban approach would lead to more housing, faster transport, improved public services, and better quality of life. Tap to listen.
Market Urbanism Report is sponsored by Panoramic Interests, a progressive developer in San Francisco. Panoramic, which is owned by Patrick Kennedy, specializes in 160 sqft micro-units (called MicroPads) that are built using modular construction materials. Panoramic has long touted these units as a cost-effective way to house San Francisco’s growing homeless population. But Panoramic also builds larger units of between 440-690 sqft. To learn more about Panoramic’s micro-unit model, read MUR’s coverage on the firm in its America’s Progressive Developers series. Or visit Panoramic’s website.