How might the role of local and central government be different in 2045? (9/11)

9. How might the role of local and central government be different in 2045?

  • What will be different about the way the government invests in or subsidises transport (in particular, public transport) in the future?
  • Will there be any changes in the way that public and passenger transport is regulated?
  • Will there be any changes to the way that public and passenger transport networks are planned and organised?

It depends on the size of the country. I think in the US the federal government will have very little to say about urban public transportation, it will be supporting research to some extent, there will be some redistribution of money, but I think by and large, transport is going to be delivered at the local, rather than the national, level.

For a small country like New Zealand, I’m not sure that that’s true, because New Zealand does not have the same problem, the same remoteness of the government, that the US has. Local governments in the US won’t be getting money from Washington DC to pay for capital expenditures, so they will be making fewer capital expenditures, and will have spent more money on operations and services, and they will try to focus on things that increase efficiency in most places.

So I think once people recognise, for instance, that Lyft and Uber types of services can serve as transport for many people in that it’s more cost effective than a local bus line, there goes the local bus lines.

But getting tens of thousands of people into a central city can’t be easily done one car at a time, even if it’s a skinny car.

The answer depends on the city, large cities will still require public transport.

And now all of this will still need to be regulated, and so there will be local regulators, ensuring that the price structure is agreed upon and posted. What the prices are, the price function, the algorithm that determines the prices, some combination of fixed charge plus the variable cost will have to go through a taxi utility. It depends on how many competitors there are, if there are enough competitors, the local governments might be more willing to let the market decide this, but if there is only one or two players in this field, and I’m not sure how that pans out.  I’m not sure there’s economies of scale in a large way, in the taxi services, the way there is, it’s a transit. So a city with a lot of players, does not necessarily need to regulate the price, it just needs to make sure that everybody posts their price publically, and the competition will take care of that. But if there are only one or two players, the city wants to make sure that they are not colluding to raise prices.

So how public and private transport services are planned and organized. Whatever infrastructure is there today, will be stuck there and I don’t think there will be a lot of improvements to that, just because it will be a lot more expensive to build new lines and no one will be interested in that with the technology changing so quickly. The idea of making a $50-$100 billion investment in a city that’s changing as rapidly as it is will be forgotten. I think people will start looking at shorter term problems that can be solved in 10 year rather than 50 year timeframes.