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Posted at 12:21 PM ET, 01/ 7/2010

Our oppressed (rush-hour) masses

By washingtonpost.com editors

By Anthony Mauger
Kensington

In the Washington metropolitan area, discrimination against commuters is widespread. Consider Metrorail. Why are fares higher during peak hours? The only possible explanation is that at those times Metro has a captive ridership for whom access to the workplace is essential. Many journeys taken at other times don’t involve that level of necessity. As a former Londoner, I can report that in that city’s Underground, fares are the same at all times, as in fairness they should be. Here, a commuter can pay much more to stand in crowded car than someone else traveling at another time pays for a seat.

Car commuters face another type of discrimination. This comes in the form of numerous “no entry” and “no left turn” signs intended to keep them out of residential areas. What law enforcement terms “cutting through” really is just “taking a short cut.” What’s wrong with that? Doing so enables drivers to spend less time on the road, thereby saving them time and producing less greenhouse gases. The more streets we close to commuters, the more congested are those we let them use. Residents may say that they don’t want commuters on “their” streets, but they need to understand that the streets don’t belong to them. They belong to everybody — except, apparently, commuters.

When the intercounty connector opens in Maryland, it will be a toll road, and the plan involves different toll prices at different times of day. Guess who will be victimized most by the intended toll structure?

Commuting is an inescapable part of the lifestyle of most working people. For many, it is an ordeal, being stuck in traffic or standing in a Metrorail car five days a week. We shouldn’t be adding insult to injury.

By washingtonpost.com editors  | January 7, 2010; 12:21 PM ET
Categories:  HotTopic, transportation  
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Comments

Sir,

Before writing an article, do a little reasearch. Metro is currently facing an enormous shortfall and must try to scrape together funding from Virginia, Maryland, DC and the federal government. Your precious "tube" probalby does not face the patchwork funding that Metro does. Furthermore, all of those oppressed commuters choose to enter the District and work, removing their pay and spending it in other localities and not paying any property taxes.

Finally, do you even a drive a car? No left turns signs keep traffic flowing. Have you ever sat behind an idiot trying to make an illegal left turn during rush hour? They jam an entire lane, create dangerous conditions when people have to switch lanes when stuck behind them or try and race through the intersection to beat oncoming traffic. The crosswalks are synched with the idea of no left turns and protect pedestrians from idiots trying to make a left turn.

Anyone who has picked up the Post or worked for anytime in this area knows all of this. We all know it sucks, but what we are we going to do--underfund Metro more, create havoc during rush hour and all of that. Limited resources and too much demand. Get used to it.

Posted by: Daedulus | January 7, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Sir Daedulus, raising fares to one level would help to solve the budget shortfall.

Solution to the patchwork funding issue: have MD and VA cede MoCo, PG, Arlington and Alexandria and create a new state out of DC.

It'll never happen, but it should.

Posted by: anarcho-liberal-tarian | January 8, 2010 9:05 AM | Report abuse

This lacks a fundamental understanding of economics. Prices should be higher at rush-hour, responding to supply and demand. Only with those high prices can Metro encourage people who don't need to travel at peak times to leave room for communters. If you got rid of the price differential, you would have more crowded trains, and fewer trains at peak times. Of course, we could just go with your suggestion to institute to the London tube's pricing system and charge everyone $6 (4 pounds) for each trip.

Posted by: andrewholland | January 8, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

Economics 101: Price discrimination is rational. Furthermore, we are moving toward a world of greater price discrimination precisely because it is more efficient. Prime example, peak pricing for electricity use, variable price toll lanes. Cripes, we have a country addicted to EBay, with the ultimate price discrimination as prices are set bilaterally betweeen buyers and sellers.

You may not like them, but all of them can be mathemactially proven to be superior to any other pricing scheme. A fact, not an opinion.

Posted by: Wallenstein | January 8, 2010 11:16 AM | Report abuse

Waaaaahhhh, it's not fair. Boo freakin' hoo. Looks like someone needs to pick up a principles of economics textbook. I'll let you borrow mine if you're interested. Unfortunately, I will charge a higher price for it because a lot of people want to buy it. Oh, I forgot, when you have competition for a finite resource you shouldn't be able to charge a higher price. Nice logic.

Posted by: novalfter | January 8, 2010 11:36 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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