Competitive contracting could cut bus costs in half

| NY Torch

Wendell Cox has a new piece at newgeography on how practically to open up transit monopolies. One part, which discusses how London runs its public-bus service, is relevant to New York:

Transport for London … is competitively bid. Between 1985 and 2000, the costs per mile of service declined more than one-half, adjusted for inflation [italics Cox’s]. Much the same has occurred in Socialist Scandinavia. All Copenhagen bus service is competitively bid. Stockholm not only bid its bus service, but also saved money by competitively bidding its metro (subway) system.

In New York, Metropolitan Transportation Authority chief Jay Walder just so happens to come from TfL. In fact, Walder may sign a two-year, no-bid contract with TfL to advise the MTA on stuff like swipe-card technology. Swipe-card technology is proven worldwide, so it’s unclear what special value TfL could offer here.

Instead, maybe Walder should ask TfL to advise New York pols on the benefits of competitively contracted bus service, with the public sector doing its job — designing a good contract structure and enforcing bus-only lanes — and the private sector doing its new job, providing good service at a cost-effective price.

At a Citizens Budget Commission breakfast earlier this week, Walder spent some time telling the attendees how dismally London’s effort to privatize its Tube failed. Right — but Walder didn’t mention that the bus side of things has succeeded.