It Depends on How You Want to Pay for It


It Depends on How You Want to Pay for It

Columnist Mark Wilson is writing a series on what the country will look like under our new president. He quotes another naysayer:

Urbanist journalist Greg Lindsay imagines a darker scenario in which all public transit is handed over to private corporations. Imagine Uber running trains with surge pricing on your way to work each morning. Individual neighborhoods might be tolled on entry, effectively cutting off parts of the city to people without the means to pay. Consider having to pay $2.50 every time you go shopping in Tribeca or commute to your job in SoHo—perhaps through an RFID-powered deduction system that tolls users seamlessly across the city.

Oh My Goodness.  It would seem that Mr. Lindsay doesn’t understand that everything we do costs money. The only discussion is how we collect and pay for it, and in dealing with cities, how much we want to subsidize certain services.

These are decisions that cities wrestle with daily. Can they continue to raise taxes to pay for services, or do we charge individuals to use those services based on what it costs to deliver them. A private entity (like Uber) will charge enough to cover costs and have something left over. That how capitalism works. They will be as efficient as possible, and also ensure that the infrastructure they install will be properly maintained so their investment will be protected.

Consider WAMATA – the DC Metro. A large portion of it is closed, unusable since it was not properly maintained and there is no money to maintain it now. This is also true of water mains in Los Angeles. The city is in a drought, but thousands of gallons of water is lost daily to leakage.

Is it possible that the city didn’t charge enough for the use of the Metro, or for water, to ensure that the systems could be maintained? Ya Think.

Mr. Lindsay’s concerns are already in place in London, where you cannot drive into the central city during certain hours (congestion pricing) without paying a healthy fee. Yikes.

Wilson, Lindsay and Co worry about folks having to pay for services that in the past were subsidized by the government. Do they realize that we are paying for them now, just in a different way (taxes)?

It has been said that those in the UK, for instance, pay a 20% sales tax, but they don’t realize it, since its included in the price of the item. Here in the US, sales taxes, where they are collected, are added separately. Wonder what would happen if the city tacked a 20% surcharge on all items bought and you saw it every time you bought a candy bar ( or a car). Can you say torches and pitchforks?

The new administration seems to be made up primarily of business folk. I’m not sure whether this is good or bad, but it certainly will be different.




Picture of John Van Horn

John Van Horn

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