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Great dissection. Those looking for shorthand to describe the libertarian critic need look no further than "every one of these projects loses money." It is a justification for doing nothing that can be used to describe the vast majority of publicly funded transit projects.

@ Read Scott Martin, to expand on his observation on "every one of these projects loses money" as a libertarian's justification to do nothing - it also applies to publicly funded roads and highways, schools, parks, sewer and stormwater systems, fire services, police services, etc.

So why do libertarians single out bikeshare?

I rode a CaBi down to the Science and Engineering fair this weekend and saw a number of tourists and locals also riding the bikes. None of them looked to be 'cogheads,' although a lycra clad biker on Penn Ave. asked about the bike. The one thing in common--they all had huge smiles. But as Marc will quickly remind you, you can't put smiles in the bank.

+1 read scott martin - great dissection of Scribnor's flawed arguments.

@Wayne Phyillaier: Indeed the "loses money" is the libertarian argument against everything (I lose money by having a daughter, so libertarians would argue against family? I lose money on the public park and street cleaning. On the public hauling of trash). Even if the bike share lost every penny that went into it, it's still chump change compared to some big losers in the libertarian eye (NASA is a favorite).

So why go after bike sharing? Because it is new and different and in the news. At best, this turns out to be way to get an article read (current event). At worst, it is a conservative argument in libertarian clothing: a dapper argument standing on its front porch and shaking a cane at those meddlesome bikers changing the transit culture.

What really baffles me is that bike share ought to be a libertarian poster-child. Here you have (relatively) inexpensive public transit investment with a strong private component that eventually pays for itself. Unless you are a libertarian extremist, this ought to appeal to you.

This guy's office is at 19th & L, which is a wonderful place to drive to and from at rush hour.

I'd chip in a few dollars with my fellow readers to get him a monthly membership to CaBi if he promised to use it at least 5 times a week. But then again, as a libertarian, I doubt he'd accept the subsidy. ;-)

Umm, just to correct a few things:

1. Yes, BIXI (the company) expects to make a profit. They are making it by projecting they will sell replacement bikes to DC, London and Toronto at vastly inflated profits. Not exactly the best argument..

2. London isn't going to make a profit. They are projecting that in three months of opening, they will be covering their operating expenses. That is before the big bills for bike replacement and what not come into play - and not the mention repaying initial capital costs.

3. I'd argue the best case for bikesharing is as a subsidy for people who don't own cars. Those people tend to be young, single and no children. As taxpayers, they bring a lot and don't cost a lot (healthcare and education). Getting them into cities brings financial health to cities -- they are very desirable.

I am enjoying cbshare, but it is an open case whether it is sustainable.

charlie, I think you're wrong about London. From the article

"TfL expect it will cover its operating costs within two to three years and will then be able to contribute to its implementation costs. Charlie Lloyd from the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) said:

'It is very likely they will make some kind of profit on this...'"

And in Montreal, I don't know how you can separate the bike-sharing component from the technical component. Without Montreal's investment, this business would be elsewhere. That is a financial win.

But if you want to, the analysis in the link shows the operations alone turning a profit by 2012.

Good dissection, Dan. The criticism of the TIGER grants is hilarious. It sort of rings hollow in the ears of people who live on the ground when a project that enjoys massive local support gets funded in the TIGER program. Makes this guy just sound like a whining DC think tank talking head who has no idea, and people in these communities certainly won't be taking him very seriously.

Interesting thing he notes in other columns is that he lives and works in DC and takes transit and rides his bike pretty much everywhere. Talk about some cognitive dissonance.

The best part of the TIGER criticism? Apparently sometime in 1990 smart growthers took over the federal government and DOT have been running things every since. I had no idea. I mean, that sounds totally like reality, right? Because we've funded nothing but "smart growth" since the early 90's at the federal level, right? High comedy.

I bet you not many people drove their new fangled automobiles from Bentonville to Fayetteville until someone paved them a road.

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