Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Dallas airport rail not very popular and reducing city corruption

This week we have a couple of followups from my post a couple of weeks ago.

First, I criticized Dallas' decision to build a very expensive light rail line to DFW airport, and it doesn't seem to be getting much ridership traction, nor do their downtown rail lines seem to be doing as well as our very full HOV express buses:
Here’s the crazy thing: She was the only one who got off the train at DART’s Terminal A station. She said she looked up and down the rail cars and station platform, and not one other person disembarked. 
I was surprised, for two reasons: 
1) About 60,000 people work at D/FW. That includes airline workers, concessions employees, parking people, security personnel, folks with badges and everything. With all those thousands punching the clock there, you’d think one or two might have been heading there at 8 a.m. from the 13-city DART service area. Strange. 
2) The sheer volume of outgoing local passengers, about 30,000 a day. (That’s based on 31 million enplanements a year, with 35 percent of fliers with local origination/destination — all figures provided by David Magana, D/FW’s PIO. Blame me, not him, for any bad math.) 
Not all of those tens of thousands of fliers come from the Dallas side of the airport, but still. A pile of them do.
I hope DART reaches and exceeds 1,200 passengers a day at D/FW. I’d like to think the line to the airport was worth the civic investment. It makes sense, on the face of it. But we’re a car-loving metro area, and it’s rare that I see a DART park-n-ride approaching half full on my way to work each day. 
Public transit can be a hard sell in these parts.
Secondly, I mentioned the Aaron Renn's Urbanophile series on city corruption a couple of weeks ago, linking to part one, and now parts two, three, and four are out, listed here along with interesting excerpts from part two on fixing corruption:
  1. The City As a Decline Machine, or How the Loss of Hometown Banks Paved the Way For Corruption (short summary in my post here)
  2. Fixing Corrupt Cities
  3. Thoughts On Eliminating Systemic Corruption
  4. When the People Are Corrupted
"The authors’ basic formula for corruption is simple: C = M + D – A. That is Corruption = Monopoly power + Discretion by officials – Accountability. Resultingly, as they put it:
A strategy against corruption, therefore, should not begin or end with fulmination about ethics or the need for a new set of attitudes. Instead, it should look cold-bloodedly at ways to reduce monopoly power, limit and clarify discretion, and increase transparency, all the while taking account of the costs, both direct and indirect, of these ways. 
There is another crucial point in designing an anti-corruption strategy: Corruption is a crime of calculation, not of passion. People will tend to engage in corruption when the risks are low, the penalties mild, and the rewards great. This insight overlaps the formula just mentioned because the rewards will be greater as monopoly power increases. But it adds the idea that incentives at the margin are what determine the calculations of corrupt and potentially corrupt official and citizens. Change information and incentives, and you change corruption.
The book is also notable for being against what would appear to be one of the most popular responses to incidents of corruption, namely adding more rules. This often just makes it easier for corruption to flourish. As they put it, “Corruption loves multiple and complex regulations.” We also see in the US that more regulation increase the rent seeking returns to corruption and leads to regulatory capture, either by regulated industries or activists (or some combination of both).

They also say that corruption shouldn’t be looked at in isolation or as the sole aim, but rather that anti-corruption efforts should be seen as a tool for reinventing and improving the delivery of public services...
Among their recommended approaches in the fight against corruption are having a point person with a high profile and public accountability for delivering results, creating an independent anti-corruption office (such as an inspector general type organization), starting by picking low-hanging fruit, eliminating the perception of impunity by “frying big fish” via prosecuting senior officials , working with and not against the bureaucracy, and many other things. "

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At 4:24 PM, September 12, 2014, Anonymous Rich Robins said...

Might corruption explain why it's so astonishingly costly to expand light rail here in Houston? Over a hundred million (tax) dollars per mile is quite a lot, and reportedly unrivaled in places such as Eastern Europe...


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