Sunday, November 06, 2005

Welcome new readers

If you're new to Houston Strategies from the Sunday Chronicle op-ed on commuter rail: Welcome!

I generally try to publish 5 times/week Sun-Thurs nights, so I hope you can make it back regularly. If you prefer to receive the posts via email, send an email to tgattis (at) pdq.net and I'll add you to the list (that format is to confuse spam crawlers - you'll need to change it to a normal email address).

Houston Strategies started in March of this year, and you can quickly skim a short list of highlights from previous months here. Hope you find it interesting and I look forward to seeing your feedback in the comments.

14 Comments:

At 1:18 PM, November 07, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are NOT qualified to comment on commuter rail.

 
At 9:33 PM, November 07, 2005, Anonymous Aaron Pollock said...

Good to see your new readers have raised the tone arond here.

 
At 9:58 PM, November 07, 2005, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

That first comment is the kind that makes me feel good about my argument. It means I must have really made a frustratingly airtight case if people are using personal attacks instead of logical counter-arguments. People resort to anger when their worldview is challenged and they have no substantial response.

 
At 8:36 AM, November 08, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hubris

 
At 9:14 AM, November 08, 2005, Anonymous whoareyou? said...

tory--

logical counter-arguments? please. you can dress a doll up but don't blame others for looking at you if you take her out to dinner.

just to be clear, park and ride buses work very similarly to light rail. they do not stop in front of your building (generally), they do not prevent long walks in inclimate weather (generally) and they DO make several stops along the way.

in addition to the mischaracterizations, i found your article to be of an "error of omissions". to wit, where is any mention of secondary benefits of commuter rail? or discussion of transit to and fro the park and rides? we'll hold further dissection of your piece because frankly it doesnt merit further dissection.

i really liked how you wrote what WE need is a deeper undertstanding of the issue. perhaps we do need a deeper understanding and after your op-ed, we're still waiting.

 
At 9:36 AM, November 08, 2005, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

I have no doubt the park & ride buses are often badly routed. They're run by an unresponsive monolitic bureaucracy that actually has an incentive for service to be bad so people will support commuter rail. Which is why I advocate Metro getting out of the express bus business and offering a simple subsidy to private operators, who pick their services to meet the market need. It's like aviation: govt runs the airports (park & rides), but private operators decide where they will go and when to compete for customers. H-GAC's vanpool program is very successful for this exact reason. The same thing needs to be done for buses.

The simple fact is that, once Metro sinks the money into inconvenient commuter rail, it will fight tooth and nail to eliminate competitors and maximize ridership on that train - regardless of what it does to overall transit ridership levels. That exact thing has been measured with the light rail: all the buses connect to it, giving it high ridership numbers, but the overall number of Metro riders has dropped substantially.

Transit to and from park and rides is not relevant to this discussion: it's the same problem whether the park and ride feeds express buses or commuter rail.

 
At 9:53 AM, November 08, 2005, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

> hubris

I deserve that. I do believe people resort to indignant anger when they don't have rational counter-arguments, but it sounds incredibly arrogant of me to actually say that. I'd delete it if it wouldn't destroy the continuity of this comment thread. My apologies.

 
At 11:26 AM, November 08, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"They're run by an unresponsive monolitic bureaucracy that actually has an incentive for service to be bad so people will support commuter rail."

That's a very unhelpful thing to say. I mean, I could just say you're a HCTRA/highway-lobby shill who has an incentive to prevent viable alternatives to gridlock from being presented to the public.

 
At 11:49 AM, November 08, 2005, Anonymous RJ said...

I think what those who are new to this site will find is that this is an exciting forum to debate a number of issues like commuter rail, and that it provides each person with the opportunity to spend some time reflecting on these important civic topics. Whether you are persuaded to think differently by another person or not, you will find that you think MORE than you otherwise might have about an issue.

There is a pretty broad range of political representation here - I think both fringes of the spectrum pop up from time to time. Prepare to get a tad riled-up. But it's a fun and worthwhile exercise...

 
At 9:54 PM, November 08, 2005, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

> That's a very unhelpful thing to say.

Fair. I deserve that too. Boy, I've been running my mouth off this week. Apologies. Metro's mixed incentives (esp. deep in the bureaucracy) are something I've heard mentioned in several circles, but I have no direct evidence that's the case.

 
At 5:29 PM, November 12, 2005, Anonymous whoareyou? said...

what kinda social systems are you architecting?

you use the park and rides to support your view but when it's shown counter to your argument you trash metro. nice. and IF private operators (which do not appear in your original op-ed) can come in and save the express bus service, why couldn't they do the same with commuter rail?

the reality is that you're a smart guy who authored a poorly written article.

 
At 6:43 PM, November 12, 2005, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

I'm not trashing Metro. They're probably doing the best job they can as a monopoly bureaucracy picking express bus routes. I just think it could be better, and the free market would be the fastest, easiest, and cheapest way to do it.

We can privatize express bus but not rail for the same reason we have a private aviation system but govt-run Amtrak. Businesses will not make capital investments in rail w/o a strong chance of return-on-investment, which is extremely dubious with rail. Bus service is almost all variable costs (vs. fixed costs of rail), so they can try routes, and if they're not profitable, move the buses to other routes (just like airlines do with airplanes) - i.e. it's a low risk enterprise.

Smart guy: thanks!
Poorly written: of a pretty substantial volume of feedback I've gotten (inc. from inside Metro), you're the only one to say that. Sorry I didn't meet your standards.

 
At 11:21 AM, November 13, 2005, Anonymous whoareyou? said...

now that's funny...consider that people will coddle once they realize you are not a threat...it was a poorly written article that merits correction(s) even by your own admission(s). that is not to say that your main thrust is not valid...

 
At 3:02 PM, November 13, 2005, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

I wouldn't say it merits corrections, but I did have to stay narrowly focused on topic to keep it under 1000 words (Chronicle generally limits to 600). Didn't have space to go into private buses or light rail or HOV/HOT lanes or other related topics. Although I think the system would be superior with privatized express buses, I still would choose Metro-run and scheduled express buses any day over any variant of commuter rail.

 

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