by Jon Sanders
Research Editor and Senior Fellow, Regulatory Studies, John Locke Foundation
John, the kind of control you’re attempting simply is … it’s not possible. If there is one thing the history of economics has taught us it’s that the entrepreneurial spirit will not be contained. It breaks free, it expands to new territories and crashes through barriers, painfully, maybe even dangerously, but …. Well, there it is. Entrepreneurs find a way.
— The Locker Room 10/8/14, paraphrasing Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) from “Jurassic Park”
For much of the past year, ridership on Charlotte Area Transit System buses and the Lynx Blue Line has declined. For the first nine months of the fiscal year, ridership on all CATS services, including buses and the light rail, was down 4.3 percent compared with the same period a year earlier.
CATS has speculated that broken fare-box machines on buses are under-counting riders. Low gas prices are probably making transit less attractive.
And CATS is also facing new competition from ride-hailing services such as Uber, which wasn’t founded when the light-rail line opened in 2007. Uber started in Charlotte in a limited way with the Democratic National Convention in 2012.
Transportation boondoggles are inevitable when government transportation experts try to make consumer choices conform to their preferences instead of designing systems that conform to consumer preferences. Entrepreneurs find a way around the controls.
One resident who lives within a quarter-mile of a light-rail station said, “We Uber instead. For $5, you can get uptown. It’s easy.”