Privatizing Mass Transit Could Solve the Global Gas Crisis

By Indri Schaelicke | United States

With oil and gas supplies dwindling, it is more imperative than ever that we cut back fuel consumption. For years, experts have been encouraging the populace to find ways to scale back. Easy ways to achieve this include carpooling, keeping vehicles up to standards that maximize fuel efficiency, walking, biking, and using mass transit. Public transportation infrastructure has greatly improved since the dawn of the concept. However, like any publicly funded program, public transportation suffers from several major issues.

Economic Flaws of Government Agencies

A flaw inherent to government agencies is that they have no incentive to turn a profit. These programs will continue to exist no matter how profitable they are. Hence, they have no reason to innovate and provide better, more appealing products. In the first three months of 2018 alone, the US Postal Service reported a $1.3 billion loss. A private business could not afford to experience such losses without going bankrupt, but the USPS has been doing this for years now.

In the years between 2001 and 2015, the USPS posted a loss in 11 of them. The Post Office has not been profitable since 2006, when it had a $900 million surplus. By comparison, UPS, a private mail delivery company, has posted a profit in excess of at least a billion dollars in 12 of 14 years since 2005. The company profited by $382 Million in 2007, and $807 Million in 2012. UPS attracts many more customers and makes a much greater profit because the goods and services it offers are more desirable to consumers.

Private companies must offer a desirable, in-demand product in order to make a profit and stay in business. A famous example of a company going bankrupt due to their products becoming obsolete is Blockbuster. The beloved movie rental store was run out of business because of the changing movie rental market. Customers were no longer interested in checking out a movie from a store, but rather, in on-demand streaming services. Blockbuster did not offer this, so its customers took their business elsewhere. As a result, companies like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon took off.

The Oil Crisis and Private Mass Transit

Current estimates say that the world could run out of oil by 2052. In addition, gas supplies will likely run on empty by 2060. In order to extend this timeframe so that we can find more reserves, we must drastically cut back on the amount we are using as a whole. Admittedly, automobile technology is making great strides every day, which will boost fuel efficiency and eliminate waste. However, this may not be enough. Experts have already been encouraging the widespread use of mass transit, a step in the right direction.

If the widespread adoption of mass transit is to be most effective, the industry must be privatized. Mass transit companies’ privatization would encourage the development of new, more efficient technologies as businesses seek to cut down on costs and offer better goods and services to consumers.

A prime example of the success privatizing mass transit could see is Elon Musk’s Boring Company tunnel in Los Angeles. Seeking a solution to the notoriously bad LA traffic, Musk has begun the construction of an underground tunnel, in which specialized vehicles will shuttle cars and people on a two-mile journey. By operating the venture in the private sector, Musk’s venture will avoid the ball and chain of the government bureaucracy. On the contrary, it can harness its profit incentive to drive innovation and provide the best services it can.

Failing Public Transportation

When governments run unpopular businesses, there is little to no chance for innovation. Since the foundation of Amtrak in 1970, the passenger railroad company has never generated a profit. The company has no incentive to survive the competitive transportation market, as it knows it will continue to receive government funding every year. A private company, however, could never afford to take losses for 48 straight years. It instead would need to innovate and create better services to attract customers. Mass transit must be privatized in order to promote innovation and bring costs down for consumers.

If the world is able to use privatized transit systems more than conventional automobiles, global gas and oil consumption will slow down, and the lifetime of our existing reserves will increase. This is crucial, as renewable energy resources are yet to be reliable and mainstream. Further development must go into renewable energy, and private mass transit will ensure that oil and gas do not run out before then.

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