November 15, 2003

Transport Blog soundbites

Patrick Crozier | Transport General

Brian Micklethwait makes some excellent points about soundbites over at Samizdata. Made me think I really ought to get some (assuming, that is, that I am not already producing them like crazy without really knowing it.) But if you're going to produce some soundbites first you need to know what it is you actually want to get across. So I started writing out a list:

  1. The UK's railway problems have nothing to do with privatisation
  2. Private railways work better than state railways
  3. The measure of a good railway is not just whether it works for the passenger but also the taxpayer
  4. Compulsory purchase is theft
  5. The very existence of compulsory purchase discourages people from seeking alternatives
  6. Transport systems often create massive positive externalities even if they make losses themselves
  7. These positive externalities are often greater than the losses
  8. Positive externalities can be captured by free enterprise
  9. Private enterprise is not the same as free enterprise
  10. Railways need population density
  11. Rail fares should be deregulated
  12. Safety is not the only thing in life
  13. Safety is dangerous
  14. Trains and planes are safe
  15. Trains and planes are safe because accidents are expensive
  16. Contracting out is not the same thing as privatisation
  17. Private contractors screw the state in just the same way as trade unions
  18. Roads are (probably) the future
  19. Road pricing is good
  20. Private roads are even better
  21. Electronic road tolling and Big Brother are not synonymous
  22. It is not drink or speed that kills but bad driving
  23. Free enterprise has led to a massive increase in aircraft safety
  24. Feasts followed by famines are expensive
  25. Feast and famine are the children of the state
  26. Transport is not an unalloyed good
  27. Railways are far more human systems than technological ones
  28. Technological systems can bear complexity - human systems can't
  29. A good railway is not about getting one big thing right but about getting lots of little things right
  30. Uneconomic lines should be closed down
  31. Railways should stick to what they are good at
  32. The chaos on Britain's railways is to a large extent the fault of the EU
  33. On railways vertical fragmentation doesn't work
  34. There is no such thing as a monopoly
  35. Near monopolies are nothing to fear
  36. Planning is bad - really bad
  37. Freedom good: compulsion bad
  38. Freedom produces good results: compulsion bad results
Which is pretty close to the sum of my transportational wisdom. Now all I have to do is to turn this into a bunch of pithy soundbites.
 
Trackbacks

"Safety is dangerous"
Inspired by the posting below about soundbites, Patrick Crozier has lashed up a list of attempted transport policy soundbites. Not all of them have quite the zip and zing that you are looking for in a soundbite. For example, I don't see this catching o...
Samizdata.net on November 15, 2003

Alas all too believable
I completely agree with Alice Bachini, about this: The father of a persistent truant has said he would rather go
Brian's Education Blog on November 15, 2003

Comments

I believe that one of the basic rules of brainstorming, which this is, I think, is that you don't sneer at suggestions because they are only half way there, but seize on them as good. They're half way there! You have assembled a very good list of concepts here. Mostly, however, there are too many words, and they need boiling down a bit. Maybe others can get boiling.

"Safety is dangerous" is promising. It says something very important, and it may prove good at sucking opponents of what it does say into nitpicking about how, literally, safety is NOT dangerous. Thus, it draws them into a verbal swamp, and every flail serves to draw attention to the basic truth that the soundbite does draw attention to.

Oh, and just in case anyone asks what the truth is that "Safety Is Dangerous" asserts, it is (e.g.): shutting down a railway for three months to make it (even more) safe is likely to kill many more people on the roads than it saves on the railway.

So: 1 out of 38. Not bad!

Posted by Brian Micklethwait on November 15, 2003

... and, I've just done a posting on Samizdata saying the above. Follow the TrackBack if interested.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait on November 15, 2003

Roads are (probably) the future? I think they're already the present. Besides, somebody is going to have to figure out how to transport more people in less space as population grows.

Posted by rj3 on November 15, 2003

rj3,

Assuming that population does indeed increase, there is a lot we can do to make roads run more efficiently ie move more people. Buses, coaches and jitneys could all play a part here.

I am not sure there would be a problem with less road space. As more land gets developed so more roads get built. The only problem might take place in cities in which case in the first instance (as we are beginning to see) the above scenario would apply. In the second instance? Well, that's where (I assume) your trains would come into play.

Posted by Patrick Crozier on November 17, 2003

My trains? I should be so lucky. Still, I think there is a maximum commute distance, which people in America are starting to reach with developments 80-100 miles away from the city center. Adding more lanes in the periphery where there's room won't make this any more bearable.

The only other solution would be to make cars far faster than they are now, which doesn't seem likely, given the fact that modern drivers don't drive much faster than their parents, jokes about old drivers aside. Perhaps there's an upper limit on how fast average people are comfortable driving, given reaction times.

I don't think people will become more spread out than they are now. Even though we already have videoconferencing and home high-speed internet, the best paying and most desired jobs are in cities. Why? Because while it might be cheaper to set up your e-commerce business in the middle of Nebraska, you could never get quality talent to work there.

Add to that the fact that people generally look down on bus riders, and you have a problem. Eventually, more highways will have trains running above them and more train lines will run NYC-style local and express lines. I'm not anti-car, I'm just pro-capacity.

Posted by rj3 on November 17, 2003

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