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Against jitneys - Input Junkie
June 24th, 2010
10:05 am

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Against jitneys
They have incentives to drive carelessly.

This doesn't prove that jitneys are a net loss, but it's worth adding into the argument.

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From:whswhs
Date:June 24th, 2010 03:33 pm (UTC)
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Now wait a minute. We're talking about a situation where jitney operation is allowed, but only to a small number of licensed drivers, who are not sufficient to meet the demand, and where other drivers are doing so without licenses, and without being legally permitted to do so. So they're already breaking the law, and trying to avoid the attention of the legal authorities. Is it supposed to be a surprise that they disregard the law in other ways, or that they value short-term profit over long-term reputation or sustainability? Those are exactly the normal characteristics of black markets all over the world.

They were, for example, characteristic of the market for alcohol under Prohibition: sale of goods of unpredictable or even dangerous quality, and recklessness and even open violence on the part of the sellers. But repeal of Prohibition drastically decreased both problems. The neighborhood convenience store has no incentive to shoot up the neighborhood liquor store in a dispute over territory, and if they sell bad liquor they can be located and sued, and they can suffer a loss of reputation with their customers . . . so, really, there's very little worry about quality, at least not at the level of "how much methanol is there in this?"

Of course, the situation in Delhi doesn't seem to be one of outright prohibition. Rather, it's the artificial creation of monopolistic privileges for legally favored operators, as a means of extracting rents from them, combined with prohibition of competing operators. But the effects can be similar. It sounds as if they are in this case. It's not a question of the inherent nature of the industry; it's a question of the illegalization of a large part of the industry causing it to acquire the normal characteristics of extralegal enterprises. The illegality is a major source of the problems.
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From:anton_p_nym
Date:June 24th, 2010 04:55 pm (UTC)
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Wow. It's like you read a completely different article than I did.

The article I read showed how perverse incentives encouraged the same sort of reckless behaviour that stock options encouraged in the financial markets. It also showed how what may make sense in microeconomic terms can lead to disastrous macroeconomic consequences... something that reliance upon self-regulation can't fix, alas, because it's too easy for entities to write off the bad effects to externalities.

-- Steve will point to the legendary recklessness of NYC taxi drivers back in less-regulated days (when cabs had brass railings passengers could grip in order to remain in their seats, as seat belts were exotic novelties) as supporting evidence.
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From:agrumer
Date:June 24th, 2010 07:27 pm (UTC)
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We're talking about a situation where jitney operation is allowed, but only to a small number of licensed drivers

You wait a minute. Neither of those articles (the OurDelhiStruggle blog post, nor the NY Times article it links to) is perfectly clear about what the limitations are on the 300 or so legal jitney drivers in NYC. Is the 300 number a limit imposed by the city, making this a story about monopolistic rent-seeking by a government licensing agency? Or is it just that there are many jitney drivers who would rather increase their profit margin by avoiding licensing fees, making this a story about short-term cost-cutting in the absence of an effective regulatory policing system? The two paragraphs about Norman Morris imply the latter.

The bits about competing drivers sabotaging each others' vehicles reminds me of Prohibition and drug shootouts, but it also reminds me of the fights among competing railroad companies in the 19th century.
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From:whswhs
Date:June 25th, 2010 12:06 am (UTC)
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The New York Times story says As the number of vans increased, the Transport Workers Union, wary of competition for public buses, pressured the City Council to clamp down on the vans. The Council passed tough regulations in 1994 that made it significantly harder and more expensive for drivers to license their vans. I read that as partly (a) protecting rent-seeking bythe Transport Workers Union and partly (b) extracting rents from van drivers. It doesn't matter if licensure is deliberately held down to a fixed number; if you set up artificial barriers to entry it has similar effects.
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From:agrumer
Date:June 25th, 2010 04:50 am (UTC)
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Sorry, I somehow missed that there was a second page to that article.

(What the hell, NY Times? Why can't you just put your articles out on one page by default?)

(And what the hell, bloggers? Why can't you use the single page link?)
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From:ice_hesitant
Date:June 24th, 2010 07:44 pm (UTC)
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There's simmering outrage in Toronto over the salaries of bus drivers. At the same time, there's a shortage of applicants to become a bus driver. Apparently, people aren't keen on working 11 hour split shifts with a useless 3 hour break in between.

It takes a year to train a new bus driver. It's in our interest to minimize turn over, both from the perspective of safety and from the perspective of minimizing the overhead of training.

However, a certain electoral demographic thinks bus drivers should be paid the same as burger flippers, despite the burger flipping industry both having a ridiculous turnover problem and not operating heavy machinery.

TTC rivals New York's system in terms of modal share between transit and private cars. Some bus routes have more than 1 bus a minute during rush hour. At the same time, there are very few accidents and fewer casualties. Kudos from me to the TTC for running a safe system.
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From:houseboatonstyx
Date:June 25th, 2010 03:09 am (UTC)
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One thing clear, it's not a hardware problem. It's a red tape problem.

Not the little vans themselves, but the infrastructure that regulates the vans.

Clean up the regulations, and the little vans can serve fine. So it fits well with the previous post.
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From:agrumer
Date:June 25th, 2010 05:04 am (UTC)
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The more I think about this, the more I wonder how much I trust a mainstream news article about how "dangerous" some unregulated bus system is. I used to see the exact same kind of fear-mongering about the cheap Chinatown buses I often took to travel between NYC and Boston. (Still do, but now they're more mainstream.)

I haven't taken a jitney. I'm actually kind of amazed at how popular the jitneys are along Flatbush Avenue, since that street is pretty well served by both the MTA buses and the subway system.
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From:redrose3125
Date:June 25th, 2010 08:01 pm (UTC)
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The jitneys along Flatbush made horrible traffic jams on it, at least down at the end I grew up on.
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