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I will grant them that it was disingenuous to apply for the seed money under the auspicies of benefitting lower income people (remember they do essentially require a credit card to use). However, outside of that I don't find the program to subsidized. Quite the opposite, it's a fee-for-service model loosely akin to a toll road--a concept supported by most libertarians.

I think you sort of jumped off pace with your hit on tax cuts and wars. The libertarians would agree with you on that point. They would say most tax cuts (especially funded by debt) are subsidies. Most of them would say they're against war too.

Anyway, back to the point at hand, the simplest response to them is when can taxpayer's elected officials subsidize something (road, bridge, etc) that would in fact benefit nearly all of them? Ultimately they should appreciate the people voting for politicians against "traffic" and so when someone suggests a toll-esque philosophy to take drivers off the road (and shoot, improve their health while they're at it) then why should they bemoan it? They're bemoaning a one-time subsidy because it was poorly written--I would laugh and say cry me a river.

Now if they started questioning farebox recovery from Metro or other mass transit then I may give them some more credence given Metro's horrible mismanagement, planning and operation with every-increasing prices and subsidized heavily by local jurisdictions.

So, ReasonTV, recognize that not all cyclists are liberals, let alone rich white liberals. It's a silly name-calling notion that wastes time.

T, the money that will be used for lower income people will be used for the Rockville program. It was not used for DC or Arlington. And it will get around the credit card issue by giving away memberships.

"The bike sharing program is one of eight regional projects to receive funds under the Job Access Reverse Commute (JARC) program of the Federal Transit Administration. These funds must be used to improve mobility options for low-income commuter.

Low-income workers who meet program guidelines will receive a free, one year bike share membership; coverage for a certain level of user fees; a bike helmet; bicycle use and safety training classes; and assistance with finding safe bicycle routes.

The JARC grant will provide $1.288 million, and the matching portion is $688,000, of which the City of Rockville will contribute up to $200,000 for both capital costs and operation costs. Costs associated with the program include streetscape improvements or bike path links. Capital costs associated with the program include streetscape improvements or bike path links."

Also, low income people do have credit cards, just not in numbers that high earners do.

The libertarians would agree with you on that point.

That's fine. I'm not arguing with them on that. I'm merely saying that those should be the poster children of our fiscal mess, not a program that has so far met or exceeded all of its promises and returned benefits that exceed costs.

Capital Bikeshare is a pseudo-public good. There seems to have been a market breakdown that nobody knew about - that people wanted to bike more and seemed to 'lack' access. The evidence? Its success - the fact that demand for this good is rising (up to a point in the future, sure). But that's what governments sometimes do (successfully) - correct for market failures.

If they want to get all free-market on CaBi, maybe they should kick themselves in the asses for not thinking of it first.

That said...lots of subsidies go to the 'well-off.' Look at the Senate's new Farm Bill for evidence. But without CaBi, there'd be no CaBi to donate to homeless people, as has been done. I'll side with anybody who says it needs to be expanded to grant access to more of the poor and homeless, to give them a healthy transportation alternative to the bus or metro. But I really doubt that's Kennedy's and Reason's point behind starting this kerfuffle.

If they want to get all free-market on CaBi, maybe they should kick themselves in the asses for not thinking of it first.

Or, they could offer to buy the system from DDOT and Arlington County.

Most people agree that the program should find ways to become more accessible to the less affluent. CaBi even has programs underway that seek to do that. But there are other factors (the poor might tend to be older and sicker; and/or live in neighborhoods where biking is more difficult) that will make complete equity impossible.

Why don't we call a red herring a red herring. This is really just an attempt to vilify anyone who does not fit perfectly in the narrow ideological world view of the people who run the Reason organization, an amazing misnomer for such an intellectually lazy bunch of cheeky, deceptive liars.

Maybe CaBi members even speak foreign languages at a rate higher than the national average, or, *gasp* even are foreigners. Now, this evil plot to bring socialism to the US is even throwing taxpayer money at foreigners, who may or may not be here legally.

This whole discussion is pointless. If the focus of CaBi had been on underserved populations, then "Reason" would make this the focal point claiming that it's the welfare state run amok.

This episode highlights a well-known fact: You cannot argue with children, drunkards and Republicans/ libertarians.

Meanwhile, the puny little part of the transportation bill actually designed to provide Americans with real transportation choices and alleviate congestion is under the most serious attack by, you guessed it, the GOP in the House and the Senate.

Tax cuts that don't achieve the stated goals of paying for themselves, wars that cost a trillion dollars more than promised, and tax loopholes written by and for certain industries, with dubious benefits to taxpayers are far more accurate symbols.

You forgot to mention one of the most wasteful, redundant, rent-seeking-riddled medical service models on the planet. But you pretty much nail it.

"f even such a minor and fanciful outlay as subsidies for a bike-renting business elicit such pushback, is it any wonder that we're so fucking broke at all levels of government?"

If half the folks on the political spectrum think that the nation's fiscal problems can be solved by cutting things like effectively neutral bike-share programs, is it any wonder that we're so fucking broke at all levels of government?

I think you sort of jumped off pace with your hit on tax cuts and wars. The libertarians would agree with you on that point. They would say most tax cuts (especially funded by debt) are subsidies. Most of them would say they're against war too.

I buy $5000 worth of electronic gadgets, bike stuff, and clothing every month, but...God damn it! How are we supposed to pay our bills when my wife keeps dropping loose change down in the sofa!?!

Wish I'd bothered to take the CaBi survey. I prolly could've won a prize for being the only subscriber with a HSD.

And after reading the comments section of this latest Reason article,I'm beginning to wonder just what earning a degree gives you. I don't think I read one genuinely intelligent comment out of all 165.

I don't know about anyone else, but I was totally convinced by his arguments when he used the F-word. That always wins a debate in my book. Yes sirree, Bob.

If he's so concerned about the financial problems of governments at every level, how about tackling programs that receive hundreds of millions or billions of dollars in subsidies each year instead?

There's also the fact that the U.S. wastes billions of dollars on healthcare spending to treat avoidable conditions related to sedentary lifestyles and poor nutrition. (People who are sedentary also tend to eat badly, so the two are usually related.) Getting people off their rear ends will help to cut down on that massive wasteful healthcare spending and make the economy much more efficient and productive, for both the public and private sector.

Clearly, the only good government program is a bad government program, if you're a libertarian.

In true libertarian form, I own my own bike so I've never used CaBi. I love the fact that it's there though, and I'm really glad people are using it.

I'm more interested in biking infrastructure improvements especially in the 'burbs. I'm all for limited gov't spending, but damn we could use a bike lane or two out here in the hinterlands of Fairfax County. Or at least some wider shoulders.

Washcycle, all I can say is I am *amazed* at how calm and reasoned your responses were on their message board. Nicely done!

The problem with externality arguments -- and most people miss this -- is valuing an externality.

It is a linked argument -- if you can create a market for an externality then you can measure it and reward people.

You can't create a market mechanism for the externality of using bikeshare. You can try to set a value --- as MWCOG did -- but that number is largely junk.

charlie, the trick is to come up with an agreed upon, neutral referee - like CBO. [Of course, that can be gamed as well]. I'll agree that externalities are difficult to value - how much is the joy of seeing art in the public space worth? - but so what? We can't ignore externalities either. So we do the best we can. If you think MWCOGs numbers are wrong, then make your case, otherwise you're just wasting our time. It's like saying we shouldn't try to plan for the future, because no one knows what will happen in the future. It's true no one knows, but that doesn't make the conclusion correct.

How about running a correction on the previous story? Wouldn't it be good journalism to note this fact?

This would go to show that Reason is not in the business of doing journalism. They're in the business of pushing ideology and disguising it as "journalism".

@washcycle; actually, no. That is exactly the problem, which you and the Dave Alperts of the the world are missing. Talking about externalities is pointless UNLESS there is a market attached to it. In fact that the failure of Coase's theorem -- it isn't the transaction costs that are preventing markets, it is some thing (your public art) don't have a price.

It's a cute concept that liberal people have jumped on to to try and value public benefits. There isn't one. But it's a fool's game.

Going back to REASON:

" there is no good goddamn reason that cash-strapped taxpayers should be subsidizing the preferences of elites"

We fund elite preferences all the time. Just look at the Pentagon. Or NASA. Or, hell, the NSF.

The issue isn't elite prefernces. It is successful programs that target middle class taxpayers and give benefits to them. That makes Republicans sweat, because that is the real secret of govenement expansion.

charlie, I disagree. Somethings have value even if they don't have a price. And ignoring that value (or cost) is foolish.

It does not follow from the conclusion that assigning a specific value to an externality is practically impossible to the conclusion that we should assign no value. We make careful, conservative estimates, with assumptions made explicit.

The framing device for bike sharing for technocrats like me is about choices in how to manage transportation demand and supply in urban centers.

But that isn't an argument that would resonate with most people.

But it's how I see it. I have no problem with cities managing districts to reduce vehicular traffic.

It's true that bike sharing benefits the middle class. If you stick with just Rawls' arguments, then you only are justified in spending money to help the less well off. That isn't how the world works.

Do I think we could do better by mobility for the less well off. Sure. That's another argument. Biking can and should be an element of that.

Richard, I agree. As someone else mentioned: "Since they're so concerned about mobility for Washignton's poor, how much additional funding are they prepared to support for Metro Bus?"


@Washcycle; value, yes. Absolutely. Pricing, no.

Take another step back. What the economic radicals (Coasians) want is reductions in transactions costs, because they claim that will create markets, and once you have a market you can do something about an externality.


And when I saw "reduce transaction costs" it really means "lets corporations do whatever they want"

Now, to RLayman's point on congestion management, that is great. A side issue with I'd love to explore with him is whether the future of bikeshare is large cities -- or small ones. If he's familiar with Grand Haven, MI, for instance, that is a town begging for bikeshare.

Bikesharing ultimately isn't a great D(income equality) or R (deregulate) issue. It's a new thing, which is why idiot libertarians have a have time figuring it out. And Felix.

If you stick with just Rawls' arguments, then you only are justified in spending money to help the less well off. That isn't how the world works.

Sure but if your stated political goal is to shrink government to the point where you can "drown it in a bathtub", eliminating all services for anyone who's not desperately poor is a good start. Once every government program is for marginal people, the battle's pretty much over.

If you'll forgive the metaphor, you're arguing about the right call on the play with people who don't even acknowledge there should be goalposts.

Nobody at REASON will ever acknowledge the value of subsidies and government programs; it's antithetical to their religious obsession with Rand. Trying to discuss the finer points of implementation of something they believe should not exist at all just legitimizes them.

charlie, I don't understand what you're trying to say.

OK, I can agree with some of the theoretical reasons against subsidies: they have all sorts of deadweight costs, andfighting one subsidy with another subsidy is perverse, and prone to all sorts of meddling.

But in the real world, we have this huge subsidy for other transport (esp cars) and for people to live in exurbs. It is not feasible to remove those subsidies immediately, so the next best thing is to build alternatives, while we wean people off cars. Building bikeshare is a smart way towards less subsidies.

charlie, wrt bike sharing in small communities, if you have a high amount of trust then you don't need to have the super-hardened systems a la Bixi/Bcycle/what I am trying to sell (Urbikes).


In places where you don't have to worry too much about vandalism, you can have a much less costly system like the Tulsa Townies system or the Zotz system on the grounds of UC Irvine.

I don't know the price difference exactly, but it'd be at least $2000 probably as much as $4000 cheaper on a per bike basis.

As far as Grand Haven goes, I hate to admit that I have limited experience with the western part of the state except for the Traverse City area and some trips to Kalamazoo (ex-wife was from there). I am Southeastern Michigan born and bred.

There is another variant too that we are still trying to roll out, to multiunit buildings. Again, while there is high quality bike parking, there isn't the kiosk/dock set up. (In our system a kiosk is $8-10,000 each and the docks are about $1000 each. The ad-map frame is pretty expensive though, up to $9K if you want 4 sides.)

Oh, you'd definitely have to subsidize the operations of the system too. Unless the area is a big tourism destination, you need at least 15-25 members per bike to break even. Advertising revenues are minimal. Sponsorship and partner revenues decline over time as the system is no longer "new". (This is an issue in Denver.)

Gillespie's rebuttal piece probably helps BikeShare. He quotes a lot of criticism from a lot of reputable writers. The reader can't help but think it's Gillespie, not all the other writers, who's wrong.

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