- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 17, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

I cannot understand Metro’s problems except to say that they may be the result of Metro being financed and run by the government. I have lived in or frequently visited about 15 countries. I was able to use and observe their public transportation systems. Virtually all seem to run better and give better service than ours. The best and most interesting was what I saw in Hong Kong.

Public or commercial transportation is the norm in Hong Kong for most people. Systems consist of a subway; a ferry; longer-range boats that travel to surrounding areas; large double-decker buses that run on fixed routes; 16-passenger buses that run like taxis, serving destinations chosen by passengers; trains that run to outer areas; a trolley system; and taxis. Tunnels operate in somewhat the same manner as other systems. As far as I could determine, all the systems are financed by private investors, run for profit and actually make a profit.

The subway is rapid, clean and cheap and runs 24/7. It is privately financed and earns a profit. I never saw a broken escalator, a dirty car or a nonworking ticket machine.

Most interesting was the tunnel between the island and Kowloon. Again, it was privately financed and very profitable. The investors built it with the agreement that they could reap all profits for 10 years and then ownership would revert to the local government. The cost of construction was earned in 18 months.

Why can’t Metro, which has a captive customer base, make a profit instead of coming hat in hand to taxpayers who may never use it and still have financial problems that require reducing service and deferred repairs?

JAMES R. CAMPBELL

Arlington

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