Tuesday, June 07, 2011


Peter McFerrin writing in The New Republic:
For those unfamiliar with them, jitneys are shared taxis running on fixed routes. They occupy a middle ground between buses and taxicabs, with the ability to divert somewhat from their routes to provide door-to-door service. They arose in Los Angeles in 1914 and quickly spread across the country, but generated enough opposition from private streetcar companies that most cities and states had banned them by 1920. Jitney service remains popular in pockets of the U.S., such as South Florida and the Outer Boroughs of New York, but occupies a legally murky niche--due in no small part to the opposition of both transit workers’ unions and incumbent taxi and limousine operators.
Outside the U.S., the jitney enjoys particular popularity in developing countries, in large part because many governments simply cannot afford to provide public transit service of any kind to the ever-expanding slums on the edges of their cities. In the developed world, well-regulated jitney service is an essential part of the transportation network in places such as Hong Kong, the Baltic States, and Greece.
Which segment of the population do you think is most reliant on such methods of transportation (hint: not the rich)? Such is the reality of regulation: entrenched special interests mold and shape them to their own ends (the phenomenon is so common that it has its own name and field of economics). And yet to oppose such an approach and let the market work -- aka deregulation -- is viewed by many politicians in this country dirty word in this country.

Related: Also see this column from A. Barton Hinkle.

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