PBS put together a program outlining the connection between energy prices, transportation systems, the mortgage crisis (which has created the financial meltdown), and US History.
It’s fantastic, and you owe it to yourself to watch.
The key feature, the absolute home run they hit, is showcasing in detail the type of life that is available in a transit-oriented neighborhood that is NOT downtown. They showed the vitality of a main street, rail stop town. That’s how America was built, that’s how America should be.
The second biggest hit, they linked the rise in public control of the transportation system the decrease in its efficiency and effectiveness.
While I agree as strongly as anyone in the world that mass transit needs to be reborn in this country, I also think it would be 100% better if it was done privately. The problem is, private goods cannot compete directly against public goods. That’s why we limit government in the first place. As the civil engineer in the interview points out, we could make things a lot better just by removing the federal laws that prohibit private companies from providing competing transit services. But to transform our economy back to a free-enterprise, opportunity creating machine, we would have to PRIVATIZE our express-highway system, and charge users the full price of admission.
I don’t know if that could ever be pulled off, politically. If not, private transit companies will never have a fair shake at the business of getting from A to B.