Random thought experiment: I would love for a city to try a "Section 8-style" transit plan. Meaning...
1) The city shifts its transit spending into vouchers for patrons.
2) It then invites companies (for bus, van, carshare, bikeshare, scooters, etc.) to operate. The condition for receiving patron voucher money is that each company must provide a given level of citywide frequency and coverage, to prevent route cherry-picking: (example: “a patron anywhere within city boundaries must be able to access your service within a quarter mile of their location, with it arriving in under 10 minutes”).
3) With those conditions set, companies are then allowed to meet them using their own internal practices. No fixed route requirements, special labor rules, or infrastructure handouts - companies choose their own routes and vehicular modes, and bid for the curb space and right-of-way they wish to use.
What kind of system would emerge? I think there’d be a buffet of options, as companies compete for customers. Services would arrive faster and closer to destinations than big fixed-route public buses now do. And congestion would decrease, since transit ridership would spike in response to the better service.
I look forward to hearing your feedback on my thought experiment.
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.
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