Your article on Metrobus (“Missing the Bus,” 1/23) characterizes privatization as contrary to the interests of riders. As a former Metrobus rider, I believe that privatization would be a boon to riders.
First, I believe that the popular assertion that Metrobus provides better service than the previous private bus companies has the facts backward. I have been in the Washington area long enough to have frequently used D.C. Transit. That company gave excellent service along routes that Metro, once formed, wasted no time discontinuing.
Moreover, while your article extols New York’s public bus service, it does not acknowledge a fact reported in the New York Times Magazine on Dec. 28, 1997: namely, the existence of a jitney mass-transit system “that is better than the municipal bus lines and actually turns a profit.” This jitney system is not on the Upper East Side or some other chichi enclave, as your article implies that it would be, but instead along Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn.
I believe that such a jitney system would work in the Washington area if permitted to do so, for reasons illustrated by a comparison between Metrobus and existing taxi service. I used to take the 9C bus to the Metro station. For a fare of $1.45 and a taxpayer subsidy that was most likely well over that, I received “service” that never ran on time, frequently skipped runs altogether, and was agonizingly slow when it did show up. By contrast, when I took a taxi from my neighborhood to the Metro, I paid $2.00 for superlative service, and the driver presumably turned a profit and, far from receiving a subsidy, paid taxes.
Finally, it is of no moment that Metrorail has “cherry-picked” the high-density routes. The jitney drivers in Brooklyn have to deal with the same “problem.” Besides, where should Metrorail have runalong the low-density routes?
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