Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

The Economist and London

with 2 comments

Piccadilly Line Barons Court  20051201

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with The Economist newspaper. I have at times been a subscriber and regular reader, but in recent years its rightward shift has grated on my sensibilities. And I do not feel like subscribing to it any more. Of course I follow them on Twitter and try to limit my clicks to stay within the limit of free articles. And as it is the start of the month I did manage to read all of an article on one of my favourite topics: the London Underground. And no that is not a political movement.

But as as so often the case these days there were a couple of things that I noticed. Now since these are things that I know about, I feel entitled to post about it. But is does make me wonder how much one can rely on this source for things I know very little about, and need enlightenment. Am I being misled?

So the article in question. Now the questionable statements

Money for improvements is limited. Fares are already eye-wateringly high (a monthly pass costs £225.10

Hold on a minute there: the fare table for the Underground takes up a full page (A4 size) in tiny type and that is just the adult fares – 12 columns and I lost counts of the rows – for there are 9 fare zones. You can see it as a pdf  and the cited £225.10 covers zones 1 – 6 – or the whole of the Greater London Area without the lines that run into darkest Essex, Hertfordshire or Buckinghamshire. So it is an understandable choice – but by no means the only one. Incidentally, that covers about the same area as Metro Vancouver’s 3 zones and is CAN$460.40 compared to Translink’s at $170 so the eye watering is indeed understandable. Still feel we get ripped off?

There is also this comment

Moreover, if London’s puny mayoralty had the tax-raising powers of its New York equivalent,

which also seems at odds with what I am reading about how annoyed New Yorkers are with the Governor of New York State Andrew Cuomo and his lack of willingness to recognize that the MTA is in fact a state agency, and he is not willing to open up the state’s coffers to pay for much needed modernisations and extensions to the Subway but is happy to fund upgrades for La Guardia airport. Which sounds familiar to us, I think. For a neat summary of how Metro Vancouver gets stiffed go see what Price Tags has based on the longer series of articles by Nathan Pachal. Gord also has good stuff – as usual – on New York too.

But to go back to The Economist, while it may well be true that New York’s Mayor has more tax raising ability than London’s, that does not mean that it is enough to deal with the extreme decrepitude of much of its Subway. Anymore than Metro’s Mayors feel happy about dipping into property taxes again to pay for Translink. That is driven by a political doctrine – and I am not so sure that much of “Bagehot’s” isn’t equally so driven.

 

Written by Stephen Rees

July 31, 2015 at 2:56 pm

2 Responses

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  1. nobody fact checks Bagehot

    i love the economist’s writing style but the content is sooooo right week people with $ i unsubscribed many years ago (back in the 90s!)

    Administrator

    July 31, 2015 at 4:09 pm

  2. Rail systems cost money. Not as much as owning a car, but somehow we think the latter is ‘worth it’ and the former isn’t. I live in the country, and my insurance is over 1100$ a year. Not to mention tires, fuel, maintenance, depreciation… I’m not sure why people like being stuck in traffic and having to fight for a parking spot.

    Richard Smiley

    July 31, 2015 at 4:56 pm


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