Government Getting Away With What Plebes Can’t

Over at Coyote Blog, Warren is discussing things that the NY Transit Authority can get away with that would get a private property owner fined:

New York City Transit has spent close to $1 billion to install more than 200 new elevators and escalators in the subway system since the early 1990s, and it plans to spend almost that much again for dozens more machines through the end of the next decade. It is an investment of historic dimensions, aimed at better serving millions of riders and opening more of the subway to the disabled.

These are the results:

One of every six elevators and escalators in the subway system was out of service for more than a month last year, according to the transit agency’s data.

The 169 escalators in the subway averaged 68 breakdowns or repair calls each last year, with the worst machines logging more than double that number. And some of the least reliable escalators in the system are also some of the newest, accumulating thousands of hours out of service for what officials described as a litany of mechanical flaws.

Two-thirds of the subway elevators — many of which travel all of 15 feet — had at least one breakdown last year in which passengers were trapped inside.

If this was private industry, it’s the sort of performance that an investigative journalist would be salivating over. If it were a private business, it would be a story about how the owner was putting people at risk all in an effort to save money.

But it’s not. It’s the government. So there’s wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth (by the article author, not Warren), and the tone of the argument is conciliatory and making excuses for why the situation is so bad and how sincere the government is about fixing it.

I read Warren’s post two days ago. And as I sat behind a public school bus today, I got a faceful of evidence that it’s not only the public elevators that are able to get away with service no private actor would. The bus was in front of me at a light, and as it left the light, a belched a cloud of foul-smelling gas that quickly permeated the inside of my closed, air-conditioned truck.

I thought to myself: “What would happen to me if my truck was throwing out those fumes?” I’m assuming it would fail emissions and probably not be allowed on the road. Not so for buses. In fact, a clean-air program has rated California‘s soot production and smog production as a “C” and “Poor” level, respectively, despite the fact that the state’s clean-up program, active since 2000, is rated as “Good”. I guess they missed this bus.

But hey, it’s not like they should hurry or anything, it’s only our kids on the bus. I’m sure most of the legislators’ kids are avoiding the bus on the way to their private schools.

  • Mark

    FWIW- a few years ago, the DC Metro was experiencing similar issues (I’m guessing they still are). Anyways, the Washington Post decided to cover the story and actually turned it into a major investigative journalism series; IIRC, they didn’t pull any punches. So, on occasion, the media is actually willing to go after the government (which owes a duty to the public) in the way that they go after the private sector (which doesn’t). On occasion.

  • trumpetbob15


    A similiar thing happened to me only with a garbage truck and a stop light. I was behind one a few months ago and when the light turned green, out flew some garbage. I could only wonder, where were the litter Nazis for that one?

  • tarran

    Oh, my grandfather could beat that one.

    He was driving down a extremely narrow one-way street just east of Hahvuhd Squeah when a garbage truck came barreling up the road going the wrong way, honking its horn at him.

    My grandfather angrily shouted at the garbare truck driver that they were going the wrong way on a one way street. He received the jaw dropping response, “Hey buddy, we’re the government. Now get out of our way.”