23 July 2008
“Everything I learnt just got better and better if you like train wrecks”
Patrick Crozier

I’ve been listening to this podcast in which Russ Roberts of Café Hayek talks to Mike Munger about mass transit in Santiago, Chile.  It seems that they had a perfectly good1 private system which got nationalised.  Result: huge losses, longer commutes, higher car use, oh, and the odd riot.

But do they want to go back to the old system, you know the one that worked?  Hell no.

As Munger observes:

A public mass transportation system is the fiction that each of us can ride at the expense of all of us.

By the way, in case you think the guy is making it all up here is a report from the International Herald Tribune and here is what a Santiagan commenter had to say:

I am from Santiago, and it is very hard to understate the mess caused by the change in the public transportation system.

Santiago is a city where most of its population use public transportation (including myself) and the significant decrease in its quality caused inmense suffering. People who were used to wait for 10 minutes or less for a bus that would take them accross town in 45 minutes need to wait for over 30 minutes now, having to switch buses (sometimes more than once and at stops that could be several blocks away) and doubling or tripling their travel time. This causes havoc with family and “down” time.

Many areas of the city are not not served (or underserved) by the new buses and the ministry of transport has had to draw new routes with astonishing frequency.

And a system that was self-financed and produced profits for the operators, has caused the government to give huge subsidies and cause losses to the new bus companies. This is a terrible loss of wealth, in financial terms and withr espect to the time lost by passengers, in a country that already had a pretty good system.

This is all due to planners belief that thier intelligence was better than the wisdom of hundreds of bus companies.

At least, this has discredited central planning in Chile for the foreseeable time.

1.  Well, there was a slight problem with buses racing one another and mowing down pedestrians.

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