Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Bus Stops Here

If you want to see what Ground Zero of the class war is, take a look at San Fransisco.

Recently, many tech companies located in Silicon Valley--such as Google, Apple, and Facebook--have approached transportation a bit differently. They've started a bus program, which will pick up employees around San Fransisco on a company-owned bus. This bus, of course, is outfitted with luxury amenities (or at least as much luxury as you can put on a bus) with the understanding that the commute to work will involve you doing some work. It's a win-win situation; the company gets productivity out of the workers (as well as offering a perk); you don't have as many cars on the streets clogging up the traffic; you're helping the environment; and workers aren't paying for gas.

Win-win, of course, except for activists.

You see, the bus system uses existing bus stops that are taxpayer funded. Never mind that so are the roads or any number of other things that private people use every single day. They also have to stop and pick up workers, which, just like any other bus, can cause congestion--never mind that it's no more, and much less, congestion than each of these workers being in a car and causing more traffic. It also provided less jobs for public bus drivers who (oh, gosh!) happen to be unionized. Regardless, the fact that a private company is providing a service to its relatively well-off employees has outraged many city residents, and it finally came to a boiling point last week. The council--in a highly contentious public meeting--decided to charge the private buses $1 for every stop they make, apparently as a way to recoup the cost of using existing bus stops (or a token "Screw You" and a a sop to the activists). Google is annoyed, and activists are outraged that the buses weren't banned altogether.

In case you haven't figured out this particularly grim fairy tale, this isn't about buses. It's not about using bus stops or employees getting a perk. This is a highly public and visible way to stick it to the rich--the people who dare to provide good jobs in the San Francisco Area and trying to reduce the impact they have on congestion and the earth by providing an innovative way to revolutionize transportation and employee experiences.

It's news items like that this just drive me up the wall. Here is a company--a wildly successful company--trying to do good. Trying to do every thing right that progressives want. But the mere fact that they dare be successful enough to make a lot of money is the only thing that matters--they are evil by the mere fact that they are successful. That's the only way to read this. There is no other explanation that doesn't use the sort of twisted logic that narrow-minded rage-blinded activists use when all their reasonable points are exhausted.

And, of course, a lot of the anger is misplaced--the rank-and-file workers of Google, while certainly well off, are nowhere near the 1%. They have rents and student loans and mortgages just like everyone else.

Now, don't get me wrong--there are real public policy issues. Gentrification has always been an issue for cities, as poorer people get priced out of the market. And there's a who mix of public/private interactions that are real concerns, such as the bus stops. But that is sort of, works, right? If you want higher employment and you want new, clean, well-paying jobs, you're going to have higher property values and thus (quite obviously, one would think) higher rents, mortgages, and tax revenues. You can't have some mythical beast that encompasses both. That's not how economics--or the real world--works.

The Pledge: The laws of supply and demand are real, even if you  close your eyes and wish really, really hard that they weren't. And the first way to make your city become Detroit is to start destroying those who are trying to bring your city into the current decade.

And--most importantly--when San Francisco finally hates your guts enough that you just move, Pittsburgh is more than happy to take those awesome jobs off your hands.

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