Kill it before it grows?

No one knows exactly what “price gouging” is supposed to mean in a capitalist economy. Price fixing and collusion are a different matter, but that so far does not appear to be the issue currently with gasoline.
There are some relevant things we do know.
As traffic volume increases, private cars become less efficient: traffic jams, higher fuel consumption and GAS PRICES!, problems parking (for 22+ hours daily storage of two tons of idle equipment).
As traffic volume increases, mass transit becomes more efficient: more passengers carried on the same train or bus, lower fuel consumption per passenger, more frequent service (at three-minute intervals, there is no such thing as missing or waiting for your train), more convenient routes and stops, more shuttle service to and from major hubs, little increase in parking/storage burden, lower costs, lower fares. (Indeed, the entire current fare-box revenue of public transit in America could be offset by a few cents per gallon increase in the gas tax.)
(And note, it is the commute we’re really concerned with here. That’s what burns the gas, not shopping trips and family rides in the country. Keep a car! It is second and third cars per household that have dominated the overflow of autos in America. We should at least give more people an incentive to live near transit and ride to work.)
So mass transit is a potential blessing for the public and a horrendous threat to America’s core industrial corporations: autos and petroleum. This caused GM and Firestone to buy up and destroy the tracks and cables of 200 mass transit systems in the US during the 1930s and 40s.
In the Bay Area, this was the Key Line, which ran across the lower level of the Bay Bridge (and through the Solano Tunnel). The agreements under which they sold off the remnant properties forbid reestablishment with anything other than rubber wheels.
For the corporations, the advantages of expanding mass transit are a slippery slope. Can they kill it before it grows?



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2 responses to “Kill it before it grows?”

  1. briggs Avatar

    the kicker is that the housing near mass transit is not affordable for two-thirds of workers – at least in the Bay Area. So the trade-off – a 4,000 sq. ft. house in the ‘burbs for less than $500,000 – means a commute by car of 50 to 100 miles each way.

  2. David Kolodney Avatar
    David Kolodney

    [Note: I don’t know to what extent the following is still true, but it was true for many years, and I believe that by and large it still is. In either case, its effect is somewhat irreversable, since so much of the housing that grew up around the BART stations over the years is already in place.]
    That said, there is a kicker to the kicker: Much of that unaffordability is the result of active policy! The areas around the BART stations were zoned to forbid multi-unit housing.
    If apartment buildings–whether rentals or condos–had been allowed, the supply of housing near the stations would be many times greater than it is, and the prices would be far more affordible.
    The owners of the single-family homes became a powerful local lobby to keep the zoning as it is. And the homeowners everywhere in these cities have pitched in, because they don’t want to see apartment-dwelling hoi poloi invading their municipalities.