Thursday, December 23, 2010

Washington Ferries

There was a recent article in the Seattle Times that was quite interesting. It was discussing the consequences of anti-tax initiatives in the state of Washington on government services. In particular, the recent Initiative 1053 means that the state can no longer implement a planned increase in ferry fees. Of course, the alternative (at this point) is cancelling ferry runs.

The reaction of the local representatives of one of the hardest hit communities was instructive:

Yet the first people to squawk about the route cuts and fare hikes were a couple of no-tax Republicans, from Whidbey Island, state Reps. Barbara Bailey and Norma Smith. They pronounced the cuts unfair and "devastating."

What is odd about this case is that there really is a disconnect with reality here. Could we easily imagine telling a private business that it was no longer permitted to raise fares to meet expenses? Or at least consider a business that we wanted to keep around. Now, there is some government subsidy here (clearly to make sure that there is reliable service) – this is not normally considered to be an issue given that transportation networks make commerce possible (imagine not having roads or only privately owned roads). But here the people of the state have decided to cut both the government subsidy (via a previous initiative) and the ability to charge users market rates (via the current initiative).

At some point the result looks awful silly . . .


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  2. Very good information on Washington Ferries! Thanks for sharing.

    ferries to France.