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Curb Rights: A Foundation for Free Enterprise in Urban Transit

3.0 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0815749394
ISBN-10: 0815749392
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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

The authors of this book say it's time to rethink the fundamental structure of transit policy. The book focuses on street-based transit - buses, shuttles, and jitneys. The authors propose that urban transit be brought into the fold of market activity by establishing property rights not only in vehicles, but also in curb zones and transit stops. Market competition and entrepreneurship would depend on a foundation of what they call "curb rights". By creating exclusive and transferable curb rights (to bus stops and other pickup points) leased by auction, the authors contend that American cities can have the best of both kinds of markets - scheduled (and unsubsidized) bus service and unscheduled but faster and more flexible jitneys. They maintain that a carefully planned transit system based on property rights would rid the transit market of inefficient government production and overregulation. It would also avoid the problems of a lawless market - cutthroat competition, schedule jockeying, and even curbside conflict among rival operators. Entrepreneurs would be free, able, and driven to introduce ever better service, revise schedules and route structures, establish connections among transit providers, facilitate passenger interchange, introduce new vehicles, and use new pricing strategies. And travelers would find public transit more attractive than they do now.

About the Author

Daniel B. Klein is Associate Professor of Economics at Santa Clara University. He is co-author of "Curb Rights: A Foundation for Free Enterprise in Urban Transit" and editor of "Reputation: Studies in the Voluntary Elicitation of Good Conduct" and "What Do Economists Contribute?", available from NYU Press.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 164 pages
  • Publisher: Brookings Institution Press (January 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0815749392
  • ISBN-13: 978-0815749394
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,346,525 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
There would be no need to take a "survey on how customers felt before and after deregulation." The "survey" would be expressed by customers voluntarily using the service, i.e. whether they were willing to purchase rides on deregulated transit vehicles. If customers were satisfied, the transit company would prosper. If not, they would go out of business and another company could enter the market and provide satisfactory service. That is the only survey that counts! If that's too much Econ 101 speculation, then you just don't get it!
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Format: Paperback
The authors suggest a hybrid system of urban mass-transit consisting of both privately-owned, flexibly-scheduled & routed and public-owned, fixed scheduled & routed bus systems. In order to prevent the flexibly-scheduled system from parasitically skimming passengers from the fixed route system, the authors suggest the promotion of "curb rights" to separate the operations.

This would allow the predictably high-volume routes to be served by the high-volume, large bus & cost overhead municipal operation while allowing the service increases possible through the addition of smaller and possibly innovative operators.

Makes sense to me. While clearly advocating their position, the authors recognize and address the ligitimancy of the municipalities' concerns over service preservation. With sensible implentation, I'm sure it would work to improve urban transit which (it seems to me) currently consists of balancing the interest of car-driving taxpayers to limit transit subsidies and the interests of Municipal Transit Agency employee unions to maximize employee wages and benefits, with the transit customer well down on the list of concerns.
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Format: Paperback
"Curb Rights" tries to answer the problem of subsidized transit, but offers too much economic modeling, which would not necessarily work.
The book is founded on the theory of bus and jitney operators having rights to own the curb for bus stops. This brings about too much free market optimism, but very little assurance that public transit would actually be improved.
It's no surprise that free market public transit is advocated, one of the authors is from the Libertarian Party think tank, the Reason Foundation.
The authors also mention that in places where transit was deregulated, there was no survey on how riders actually felt about service before and after deregulation. So there is no guarantee about improvement.
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Format: Paperback
I wouldn't spend any money on this book. The theory espoused in this book is so far from reality, it isn't funny.
This book promotes the notion that "free enterprise" must be inserted into public transit so as to maximize the benefits to passengers and society at large.
However, this notion is demonstrably wrong.
For example, local bus operations in British cities outside of London were completely de-regulated in the 1980's by the national Tory government, e.g., public funding was almost entirely cut off and private bus companies were allowed to compete freely against one another (as opposed to "privatization" in the U.S. which has mainly meant a public agency putting service out to competitive bid). Regional pass schemes allowing passengers to freely transfer from one route or operator to another were abolished.
The results are conclusive. Bus patronage in British cities dropped more than 30% by the early 1990's. In London, bus patronage over the same period actually increased somewhat, despite major cuts in subsidy funding. The difference was that London retained regional governmental control of fare and service decisions, despite putting much of the service out to bid.
The disaster of British local bus de-regulation has also been repeated in spades by the ill-considered "privatization" of British Rail. Rail privatization has been a big enough disaster to become one of the hottest public issues in Great Britain.
The successes obtained by "centralized" regional planning and decision-making authority in elected government hands is quite conclusive in other countries. In Zurich, per capita transit usage is among the highest in the developed world, exceeding a number of Japanese cities.
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