Washington Metro: Safety, Delay, Cost

Metro Station Smoke

WTOP: A Metro worker blamed for falsifying records about the tunnel fans that failed during last year’s deadly smoke incident near L’Enfant Plaza has been granted his job back by an arbitration panel — and Metro’s largest union has just filed a lawsuit against Metro because the worker hasn’t been reinstated yet.

The union’s defense is that everyone was doing it so no one is to blame. The Union is probably right that the WMTA suffers from a culture of poor safety and responsibility but you can’t fix that culture without clear signals that the incentives have changed.

I had to take the Metro to DC earlier this week and due to track closings for safety improvements it was miserable, at least 45 minutes of delays for the roundtrip. Some 700,000 people ride the metro every day and if each is delayed by just 15 minutes total (7.5 minutes each way) then at $15 an hour that’s 2.6 million dollars worth of delay every day.

Comments

Metro is a black jobs program. Ninety seven percent of its train & bus operators are black. The engineering corp skews black, whites with PhDs are routinely passed over for management positions by blacks that are barely literate. This has all been documented for years, now the proverbial chickens are coming home to roost.

I know for a fact of a white applicant that was referred to its Finance dept by a mutual acquaintance whose resume was trashed. Caribbean manager asked first what race he was when told he was white he said nope. His reasoning whites think they know everything. Needless to say Metro's finance dept is also in shambles.

The union needs to be crushed or there won't be a functioning system going forward.
http://m.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/mar/26/metro-derailed-by-culture-of-complacence-incompete/

This will be corrected when Trumpet is elected. He will appoint David Duke to straighten this out.

You know Dave, don't you. Sound like you do.

By the way, Ed, if this story really happened, he should report it to the DOJ or local civil rights authorities.

That's why we have laws. That's how they get enforced.

Unless it is just a story.

It happened. He just doesn't know about it.

The man wants a job, not a lawsuit. He doesn't care about the DC Metro enough to make it his life's uncompensated work, which is what a lawsuit amounts to. It's supposed to be that people with guaranteed lifetime employment and minimal workloads (aka university professors) take on these projects for the social good, but of course they don't if it would be politically incorrect. Get one of your law professor friends to take the case pro bono (or do it yourself if you're a lawyer) rather than telling everyone else what to do.

y81, Are you Roger Ailes with that argument not to report?

The man wants a job, not a lawsuit.

This is obvious when a minority gets passed over and the question is "why didn't they sue?" It's because it's painful and expensive.

Lots of tertiary sector workers are black, especially bus drivers. That's not the issue. You need to decertify the union, recruit and promote through impartial examinations, establish something close to at-will tenure for employees, and put a capable and committed chief executive at the helm. And you need to strip the federal courts of any jurisdiction over civil service examinations.

Art, The premise of your story is that the union hires the employees. No they don't, and they don't fire them either. Cities recruit and hire through announcement processes, interviews, and civil service exams, all of which you claim they do not do. The story you believe is not only incomprehensible, not understandable, but is also contrary to fact. In case you are curious, or in need of a job, you can apply here and see the rules and application procedure: http://www.wmata.com/careers/

Bill,

Have you actually ever hired people for a government jobs or are you just talking theory that you have read on the internet?

Yes to the first and no to the second.

Well, Bill, I have done a lot of hiring myself for the government myself. I know I don't know the federal agencies very well (although I have worked with the VA as a supplier of services) and I do know that the degree of competence and criminality can very from agency to agency and location to location. Still, I can't but help find your comments to be very naive and at odds with my experience. Maybe you are just lucky and work for a good agency.

But it can't have escaped your notice that even democratic state governors no longer trust their work force. And as far as the rest of the population goes, we state employees are the most worthless people around. I think that a lot of the purposed solutions are not going to fix anything due to a very simplistic idea of what the problems are. But pretending that there are not serious problems with the way we do things or trying to pretend that accountability is much of a factor is a government employees life is not helping the debate.

Perhaps you have just never worked for the private sector and don't know what the rest of world is comparing your life to.

Apeman, You can look at Turkey and ask how Erdogon will be "reforming" the civil service by firing those in place, without cause, and replacing the persons he fires with new government employees.

Civil service, and civil service reform, has a history. The history was: to the victors belongs the spoils. Despite what you may think, I realize that due process slows things down. But, it also prevents political tyranny as well. A little due process is in the termination or discipline phase may be good for everyone.

I am in the private sector, by the way. One of my clients also does computer survey work for HR departments, measuring supervisors and employees. One of the surveys they conduct involves employee satisfaction. Government employees ranked very low on the list of satisfaction. Very little opportunity for mobility, very little voice, very little freedom of doing what they want when they want. And, they often have to deal with the public, some of whom are not as kind or generous as you are. The people at the level I know in government are underpaid and have many opportunities in the private sector. Those who have remained I make a point of thanking for their service. You should too.

OH NO! If we fire government employees it is JUST LIKE TURKEY!!!

Please Bill, you beclown yourself.

Bill,

Just to be clear, I work for the state and I am underpaid relative to my peers in the private sector. I don't need to be thanked because I am here for my own reasons (not the least because I would be unlikely to get an equivalent position in the private sector due to the fact that I don't have a degree. That is one area where the state is less fussy then the private sector, largely due to necessity). I am well aware that government employees have very low levels of satisfaction. I am not sure you are understanding cause and effect though.

One thing I do agree with you is that civil service has a long history and the "to the victor belongs the spoils" did not work very well. But any institutions that does not renew itself from time to time will become irrelevant. Civil Service is long pass do for reform. Sadly, it is going in the wrong direction.

derek, When you can't justify eliminating due process or seeing the reasons we have civil service rules I guess you would also not understand why Erdogon or any would be demagogue would not like civil service protections impeding him from getting his way.

You're fired.

Wonder where I heard that on television.

"The story you believe is not only incomprehensible, not understandable, but is also contrary to fact."

The Washington Times story, "Metro derailed by culture of complacence, incompetence, lack of diversity" is "incomprehensible, not understandable, and contrary to fact"?

Art's story that the union hires the employee, FALSE, that the WMATA does not recruit through exams and interviews FALSE, and that the work is not terminable for performance FALSE.

That is not my point, as anyone with minimal reading comprehension and who is not playing crappy little forensic games can see.

Bill, you're a smart guy. So why are you so unwilling to address peoples' actual arguments, rather than some imaginary argument you've chosen to ascribe to them?

Art, The premise of your story is that the union hires the employees.

No, your gloss on my remarks is that the union hires. That is not derived from anything I said. It does relate to the inane point you wish to make.

Art, Your words: " You need to decertify the union, recruit and promote through impartial examinations, establish something close to at-will tenure for employees."

If you like what Erdogon is doing to Turkish civil service, that's fine, but there is a reason that we have due process in federal employment procedures...to keep politicians from appointing their favorites to civil service or terminating those they do not like from it as well. Due process, sure, it's slow. I one represented a doc from federal termination (along with a labor lawyer) because the nurses thought he was too assertive (he was from NY). The guy prevailed, later transferred to Texas, and then riffed, which tells you that if you want to make someone move out, you can, as well as use the internal processes.

My words say nothing about union hiring halls. They do allude to the gutting and disappearance of civil service examinations.

A Republican lawmaker just gave Metro an award for its firing of senior managers.
http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/lawmaker-gives-out-award-for-d.c.-metro-firings/article/2592157

The complete lack of a white working class in the Washington area may have certain downsides. You have to drive out to Frederick or Anne Arundel counties in Maryland or Prince William in Virginia to encounter working class whites.

The white wage earners are there, you just don't notice them.

Eh, I've noticed plenty of white guy in hardhats in downtown DC working on construction projects.

Most drive in from Southern MD , Western Fairfax & Prince Williams. I know of guys that drive in from St. Mary's for jobs in Alexandria. There is virtually no white working class I'm DC and the adjoining jurisdictions with the possible exception of Hyattsville area of PG.

According to NYT food stamp map the rate of whites on food stamp in DC, Arlington & Alexandria <1% of whites.

So food stamp usage is a measure of whether one is working class now? O tempora! O mores!

If the workers were non-union whites, the trains would not need to stop when worders were working on the track because whites don't die when run over by tracks?

When non-union white workers find motors have bad bearings, they will buy the new parts out of their savings?

Or if non-union white workers shutdown the Metro because of hardware failures or to work on the tracks designed based on Congress limiting the budget to have no spare tracks, no one will be inconvenienced?

Or is your view that non-union whites would have long ago made the Metro so horrible that it had been shutdown and everyone just drives in highly congested highways?

It is like watching Rome dying.Or rereading Asimov's Forward the Foundation. Where is Hari Seldon?

Haha. Just what we have been talking about. One guy screwing up 12000 miles away has the ability to shake your world? Yay media.

I doubt it is just "a guy" screwing up. And some guys screwed up aome centuries ago and we got the Dark Ages. Some other guys screwed up, the archduke was killed and the world burned. "How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!"

The homicide rate in metro Washington is 6 per 100,000. That in Brazil is 25 per 100,000 (and higher in your ghastly cities). The metropolis as a whole is the occidental world's most affluent bar the San Francisco Bay region. Washington doesn't have apologies to make to Paris for aught but a deficit of architectural treasures. It certainly does not need to abase itself to Latin America.

Aside the excentric comparison between a metro region and what is basically a subcontinent (if it matters, my city's homicide rate is half the Brazilian rate-- without the benefit of being the richest metropolis of the Western world, and my house's homicide rate is zero), if the Chinese or the Saudis take over, it probably will be even lower-- both run tight ships. I guess from your point of view nothing would have been lost. While Rome burns, Nero plays a love song

The word is 'eccentric' and an apples-to-apples comparison would make the horror of Brazil's security situation all the more apparent.

"The word is ‘eccentric’"
No, it is not.
"Also, especially British, excentric." -- http://www.dictionary.com/browse/excentric?s=t
"Excentric" seems to be a perfectly cromulent word. Why Americans write "eccentric", but write "extraneous" is beyond me. It makes no sense at all.

"an apples-to-apples comparison would make the horror of Brazil’s security situation all the more apparent."

No, it wouldn't. Brasília (Brazil's Washington) is to Washington as the USA is to Canada. In many cities, crime is retreating already. São Paulo's (Brazil's most important city) rate is half the national rate. São Paulo State's is a mere 8 per 100 000 people, down two-thirds since the middle 90's .Efficient policing is the key, this was how Brazilian authorities managed to apprehend the terrorists before they could act. One must dare to dare.

Thiago,

Sorry, your point is that all the places you reference have a higher homicide rate than Washington, D.C.?

"Sorry, your point is that all the places you reference have a higher homicide rate than Washington, D.C.?"

No, my point is that America is to Canada as Brazil is to America, so America "be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so." Another point is that some Brazilian places mange to have Washington-like homice ratesnwithout the benefit of being the richest regions in the Western World. And again, if you think a low homicide rate justifies everything, maybe you should learn Mandarin or Arab.

The later chapters of Atlas Shrugged would be a closer analogy.

The new Godwin's Law.

Thanks, Hazel.

Why is that a Godwin and not citing Asimov?

Precisely because Atlas Shrugged is a closer analogy.

Although we aren't anywhere near the later chapters yet.

There was an incident a few weeks ago where a DC metro train operator ran a red signal, endangering the lives of some workers who were on the tracks ahead of the train. He was immediately fired - and will almost certainly get his job back after an administrative hearing.

Everyone should use the private transportation system, except oops there isn't one. For reasons of physical reality.

And so yeah, it is a constant political battle to get things right-funded, not overfunded, not underfunded, not bogged by billionaire rent seekers or hourly rent seekers.

Another reason to support good governance top to bottom.

"Everyone should use the private transportation system, except oops there isn’t one. For reasons of physical reality."

In 20 years, the majority of cars and buses on the road will be fully autonomous. And the majority of cars will be owned by private companies, and be purchased as mobility services (like a taxi).

Psst. "Roads"

(And freeways, and rent seeking by construction firms.)

I gather you believe once workers are replaced by robots, consumers will have a thousand times as much money to spend, and gdp and wealth will soar?

"I gather you believe once workers are replaced by robots, consumers will have a thousand times as much money to spend, and gdp and wealth will soar?"

Yes, once computers begin adding billions and even trillions of human brain equivalents of computing power every year (which should happen in the next 10-20 years), the effect on the economy should be similar to adding billions or even trillions of people per year to the human population. Except that the computers should need far less infrastructure (schools, wastewater treatment plants, food supply networks, etc.)

http://markbahner.typepad.com/photos/uncategorized/per_capita_gdp_growth_october_2004_predi_1.JPG
http://markbahner.typepad.com/random_thoughts/2016/02/recalculating-worldwide-computing-power.html

One possibility is that costs will go down (e.g. the cost per mile traveled being reduced by >80% in just a couple of decades) so it will be challenging to estimate what the inflation rate is, and mismeasurements of inflation (i.e. over-estimating inflation) will potentially hide economic growth.

"Psst. 'Roads' (And freeways, and rent seeking by construction firms.)"

Oh, so you're defining anything that travels on roads (and presumably through airports, or ports built with public funding) as "public transportation". I was referring to "private transportation" the way most of the world refers to it.

But I don't agree that it's some sort of unchanging "physical reality" that roads could never be entirely publicly funded. Especially when the vehicles are computer-driven, people will know everywhere the vehicle drives. It would be fairly straightforward to charge fees to the people who use the roads.

Don't hold your breath. There still aren't any autonomous lawnmowers, a much simpler process than automobiles.

Eh? http://www.husqvarna.com/us/products/robotic-lawn-mowers/

People who use one tell me it works pretty good.

So, why are so many people outsourcing lawn mowing to landscaping companies that have been forced to pay $20 an hour, AND go through immigration h1a hell to get workers able and willing to work in heat and humidity and the cold and wet?

Why haven't robots replaced landscapers, like humans have been replaced with tractors and harvesters in farming?

"So, why are so many people outsourcing lawn mowing to landscaping companies that have been forced to pay $20 an hour, AND go through immigration h1a hell to get workers able and willing to work in heat and humidity and the cold and wet? Why haven’t robots replaced landscapers, like humans have been replaced with tractors and harvesters in farming?"

Because AI is increasing at such a rapid rate from such a low starting point. For example, a single Iphone probably has more memory and processing power than all the supercomputers that existed 30 years ago. So the switch from people to computers running lawn mowers will be very rapid.

"Don’t hold your breath. There still aren’t any autonomous lawnmowers, a much simpler process than automobiles."

I'm not going to hold my breath. The first mass-production fully autonomous vehicles should appear within 5 years. (Even then, there might be situations like snow and ice where the computer would refuse to engage.) I can't even hold my breath for 3 minutes.

For the average American, driving a car is the most exciting and interesting part of their mundane, banal lives. Why would they want to eliminate the opportunity to pass cars going 2 or 3 miles an hour slower than themselves?

"For example, a single Iphone probably has more memory and processing power than all the supercomputers that existed 30 years ago."

Nope. iPhone 6 has 1 GB RAM. The 1985 Cray-2 had a base memory of 512 MB up to 4 GB. The iPhone 6 probably has several times the CPU power*, but I suspect there were more than 2 Cray-2s extant by the end of 1986 (not to mention all the other supercomputers of that era).

* an iPad 2 was shown to have about the same LINPACK performance as a Cray-2.

They won't listen anyway.

[So called] autonomous vehicles: the latest libertarian wet dream.

"Everyone should use the private transportation system, except oops there isn’t one. For reasons of physical reality."

No. The first New York subway lines were built and run by private companies. The Shinkansen in Japan is privately operated. The same goes for America's world-class freight rail system.

Indeed - almost all the railways and subways in the UK, the first and most densely populated railway system in the world were built privately. Private is definitely the way to go for public transport. Here is a great graph of the number of passengers on UK railways since the 1830's;
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_rail_transport_in_Great_Britain#/media/File:GBR_rail_passengers_by_year_1830-2015.png
Prior to nationalisation passenger rail numbers reached a peak of 1500 million journeys per year. After nationalisation in 1947 they fell continuously over time to half that number. In 1995 John Major's government privatised British Rail (against massive opposition). Passenger numbers rocketed up and have now surpassed the previous peak. Yet there are still idiots in the UK arguing against the privatisation.

" The Shinkansen in Japan is privately operated. "

Yes, and the biggest line (the Tokaido Shinkansen running between Tokyo and Osaka) is profitable. But when it was built, it was built by a government-owned company -- the JR companies were formed later in a privatisation drive, after decades of running the system at a massive loss.

More significant, at least as a comparison with WMATA, is that Tokyo is serviced by a number of private railways, like Keisei, Odakyu, Tobu, Seibu, or Tokyu, which have steadily expanded. Of the two subway systems (Toei and Tokyo Metro), Tokyo Metro has been privatised, and runs at a profit. Most significant of all, if you look at the operating expenditures for Tokyo Metro and compare them to operating expenditures for WMATA, you can tell WMATA's problem is not that it's not spending enough money. It's that it's badly run. Stuff like this article here are exactly what a user of Metro would think was going on behind the scenes.

The original New York City subway was built by the City, and the Interborough Rapid Transit subway was always owned by the City. It was, however, operated under contract by a private contractor, The Interborough Company. The term of the contract was fifty years, with the right to renew for another 25.

There were plenty of complaints about the quality of service provided, and the length of the contract was considered scandalous. Nonetheless the joke was on the Interborough Co., as the City retained the authority to set fares. The fare was set at five cents which, adjusted for inflation, is a good deal lower than it is now and which was almost certainly too low, especially after the burst of inflation that occurred after WWI.

The Interborough Co. entered receivership and its properties were acquired by New York City for a modest sum in 1940, the subway fare went to ten cents in 1948 and to 15 cents in 1954.

Chicago was different: its elevated rail was privately owned (although the original builder-operator promptly went bankrupt).

I don't think "physical reality" has anything to do with it.
It's not like it's theoretically impossible to run a train system. It just seems to be beyond the capacity of Washington DC's government.

The Metro is not just run by DC. It extends into Virginia and Maryland and those states play a large role in it as well. Ditto, Congress, by virtue of its oversight powers over the district. Part of the problem is getting all the players on the same page.

Even worse than having a government run a train system, is having four governments run a train system.

In the Philippines, in the bigger cities, they have private buses, called "Jeepneys", and you pay about 20 cents for a 2-3 km ride, which is average. The drivers are just as bad (reckless) as the worse DC Metro bus driver; often the drivers, they say, are criminals. They rent a jeepney for a fee, I think it's about $25 a day, and whatever they keep over that amount is their profit. The jeepneys 'fight' for customers on popular routes by loitering where passengers are to be found, to the annoyance of the existing passengers, and cut in front of other jeepneys to steal fares, but so far I've not seen fistfights amount jeepney drivers. Having said all the above, the system "works" in that it gets you from point A to B, though on crowded days it's insufferable inside. Cabs in Manila are also hard to find in rush hour, and you have to negotiate a fare, often $25 for a cross-town trip in Manila which takes two hours (you can literally often walk faster). I'm now gone from Manila so where I'm at, there's no jeepneys, only motorcycle taxis and vans for long hauls, much nicer.

So clearly they should raise the fares by $3.75 per round trip and use the funding to fix the delays. $2.6mm / day can fix a lot of problems. Except all their riders likely wouldn't pay the increased rate just to save 15 mins.

WMATA's problem is not money, it's incompetence. The man in the article falsified inspection records, and this is apparently standard procedure at WMATA. Which is about what one would expect. To a limited extent, money can buy your way out of incompetence, but "throw money at it" is not a solution to every problem.

The first thing they have to fix is the culture of the organisation. They've apparently made some strides at the top by throwing out the old managers, but "everyone falsifies inspection records" isn't a problem you can fix by firing a couple of managers -- that requires major personnel changes at every level or the organisation.

Once that's done, maybe they can make better use of the money they've been spending.

They granted tenure to Metro workers.

Non-academic, of course.

What do you expect when you grant tenure.

"...you can’t fix that culture without clear signals that the incentives have changed."

--------

Just what are the real "incentives" for "government workers" anywhere ?

Typical government workers at any level are overpaid and difficult to fire.
Their incentive, therefore, is to further improve their personal economic status ... by minimize their actual day to day workload. Goofing-Off at work and skipping/pencil-whipping required tasks are easy ways to do that, but their are many other proven techniques.

Leftists believe that government & government workers do things better because a guaranteed job & paycheck somehow removes individual human self-interest & greed from the economic equation --- and people become angelic laborers for the common good. Centuries of real world experience prove otherwise.

If you want something done inefficiently and at least twice the cost of the private sector -- have the government do it.

darby, In federal and state government there are performance reviews and dismissals for cause, despite your beliefs.

Nonsense -- dismissal/firing rate in the Federal government is consistently below 0.005 and is now at an all time low.

The formal performance-review systems are a complete joke and should be abolished.

You are including the military in your numbers, are you not.

The army regularly kicks people out. Even people who are okay performers. It's an "up or out" organization. Which makes sense because you don't want 100 sergeants and 50 privates on the field. Outside of Beetle Bailey you aren't going to find people staying at E1 for a decade.

Ragingly ignorant. Firing civilians in government is nearly impossible.

+1, you cannot fire a US Federal worker for cause, or rather, it's really though. They have to show up to work nude or do something stupid like murder somebody. And in Greece it's even worse, (reading an excellent book by James Angelos, "The Full Catastrophe") civil servants convicted of murder still retain their jobs and full pensions. In the USA, when firemen and police routinely get over $200k / yr with overtime, you know something is wrong.

Finally someone mentioning police. One tribe loves public sector workers except for police, the other tribe only loves police out of all public sector workers. They don't get that the arguments against the workers they don't like work equally well against those they do like.

"the other tribe only loves police out of all public sector workers."

They also love members of the armed forces. And they're keen enough on scientists.

Perhaps because one side views itself as the supplier of government and the other sees itself as the consumer of government. So they have opposite views on things like efficacy and cost.

The set of agencies I used to work for implemented in 1994 a new evaluation procedure which had been tested in one component agency. In that component agency, the supervisors had evaluated 1,500 employees and terminated 3.

3? Heartless and ruthless, I tell you, heartless and ruthless.

Oh, please, support your assertions with facts.

This is from the Houston Chronicle:

"A common misperception is that federal, state and local government employees can't be fired from their jobs despite poor performance or misconduct. This is untrue. According to the United States Merit Systems Protection Board, a federal agency that oversees appeals filed by fired civil servants, the federal government terminated almost 12,000 federal employees in 2009. Since government employees, as compared to private sector employees, are vested with additional constitutional procedural rights before they may be terminated, firing a civil servant is more difficult and takes more time."

I committed the link, but there is more from the Houston Chronicle Fact Check:

"Unlike private sector employees whom employers may fire at will, federal, state and local government employees enjoy procedural protections before they can be terminated from employment. These rights come from the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution, which prohibits the government from harming employees' property interest in their income without minimum due process of law. The procedures that federal government agencies must follow when terminating an employee appear in the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978. Procedures for firing state and local government emplotees come under the laws of each state or municipality.

Performance-Based Removals
The procedures for terminating a federal employee for poor performance come under Chapter 43 of the Civil Service Reform Act. In order to fire federal workers for poor work, the government must issue them notice that their performance is unsatisfactory in one or more critical areas. They then undergo a performance improvement plan that typically lasts 90 days. If employees don't demonstrate better performance, the agency's supervisor may issue a written notice of proposed removal specifically identifying the failed performance. Upon receipt of this notice, employees receive an opportunity to give a written and oral response disputing the allegations of bad performance. The federal agency may also not terminate the employee until at least 30 days after it's issued the notice of proposed removal."

http://work.chron.com/can-fired-civil-service-jobs-19492.html

Sadly, I think you are wrong in spite of citing a source. I can't be sure you are wrong because I don't work for the feds. But I could write the same sort of article for the state I work for. And it would all be true in theory but false in practice. We have fired employees for cause where I work, but always for reasons so egregious that they are hardly be called being fired for performance.

In the state we say you have to commit murder to be fired. Not quite true, but true enough. For example, one guy shot up a house with a gun. He got fired. Another guy was signing in for overtime and then going to the bars. He did not get fired even though his case was turned over to the AG's office by fellow staff. But yeah. We have performance reviews. I give them out to all my staff. But they don't mean much because I can't do anything about them. I have even been forbidden from getting a guy fired while he was still on probation (and normally that is one time when you can get staff fired).

Many people feel that those "rights" -- for employees supported by our taxes -- are the problem.

Bill,

You think the Constitution guarantees government employees procedural safeguards beyond what private employees have? What possible justification could there be? Citing the 5th Amendment is comical. No one has a property interest in their job.

In any case you are simply wrong about the reality of the situation as any Federal employee can tell you. Terrible employees remain there year after year. If they are terrible enough, they are rewarded with nothing to do, since no one can count on them.

Cliff, You may enjoy reading a law review article on this subject: http://scholarship.law.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=4997&context=penn_law_review

Cliff, I suspect that you will not read the law review article, and will cling to your views without even bothering to support them.

But, let me quote a recent report to Congress from the Merit Systems Review Board and give you --no, you won't read it--others a link to the report.

"To assist Congress in these endeavors, this report explains the current civil service laws
for adverse actions and the history behind their formation. It also explains why the Constitution requires that any system to remove a public employee for cause must include: (1) an opportunity– before removal – for the individual to know the charges and present a defense; and (2) the ability
to appeal a removal decision before an impartial adjudicator. The report discusses why the circumstances of the case can determine whether the individual has been given the process that is “due” and how this enables the employing agency to act even more swiftly when there is reason to believe that a serious crime has been committed. The report also contains an appendix that clarifies any confusion about how the current civil service operates.
Due process is available for the whistleblower, the employee who belongs to the “wrong” political party, the reservist whose periods of military service are inconvenient to the boss, the scapegoat, and the person who has been misjudged based on faulty information. Due process is a constitutional requirement and a small price to pay to ensure the American people receive a merit- based civil service rather than a corrupt spoils system."

Here is the link: http://www.mspb.gov/netsearch/viewdocs.aspx?docnumber=1166935&version=1171499&application=ACROBAT

12,000 out of 2.7 million (ish) is .44%. So about one out of 225 employees, per year. Whereas, per the BLS, the layoff and discharge rate in private employers is 1.2 percent in a month (which seems exceptionally high to me?)

Link to 2.7 million http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2014/11/07/the-federal-government-now-employs-the-fewest-people-since-1966/
BLS report on turnover in private employers. http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/jolts.pdf

With respect to due process, I think there's a little confusion about terminology. A gov't employee has no "substantive" due process right to remain in a job. But if there is a statute saying that a certain type of employee can only be fired for cause, then the employee has a procedural due process right to show whether or not there is "cause." Nevertheless the underlying right is created by the applicable statute, not the constitution.

Government housing for the poor is 2X as expensive as what a smart private developer can do:
http://portlandtribune.com/pt/9-news/273396-148139-developer-continues-push-for-efficiency-in-affordable-housing

You would think Portland progressives would be excited about a guy like Rob Justus who can build housing for the poor twice as efficiently. But helping the poor isn't the primary progressive mission.
Signalling is mission 1.
Building affordable housing without kicking back to construction unions, enviro-lobbies, Regulators, etc is verboten.

Present-tense compensation is seldom a problem; unsound pension programs commonly are. Overstaffing is a problem.

Pension programs are big problem regardless of how sound they are. I can't get quality staff for many of the openings I need to hire for. The reason is always the same. State does not pay enough. I can sit down and demonstrate to them the present cost value of the pension till I am blue in the face, the bottom line is still that a guy who is used to making 60 grand a year is not going to come work for 45 grand. If you look at the cash value of the benefits (i.e. the ultimate cost to the taxpayers), it would be cheaper to just give the guy 60 grand and let him choose how to spend it and I would get better staff. But the state don't look at it that way because it is easier to obscure the cost of the benefits.

Yup. I would definitely work for the feds, who at least offer a salary that isn't completely insulting compared to what the private sector offers in many fields, plus better benefits. I have never seen a state government job posting that had a salary that made it seem worth my time to apply, and I don't even consider money one of my primary career motivations. If the private sector is offering 80-100k for something, the feds are probably offering ~70k and the states are offering no more than ~60k.

"But the state don’t look at it that way because it is easier to obscure the cost of the benefits."

Exactly right.

There is a reason why many have a solid distrust of government.

Federal government pays more than private for all jobs at the lower end. Only really upper-level positions are "underpaid" relative to the private sector.

Cliff,

I am not sure about the Federal Government (although judging by the VA people I know you are wrong about the feds) but you are certainly wrong about the state. I will bet one thing that throws you off is that you look at studies comparing total compensation. My point is that many of things that are counted as "compensation" from an accounting perspective don't help at all when you are trying to hire people for a state job. If I am trying to hire a Plant Utilities Engineer he don't care what the accountants say the total package the state is offering is worth. All he knows is that I am asking him to work for 45 grand a year and he is used to pulling in 65 grand a year.

Beyond a certain point minimizing one's workload does not improve one's life, assuming you still have to show up for X hours a day. Have you never been at work where you had a dearth of stuff to do? I would much rather have a full day's work to tend to than a lack of work, which just stultifying.

I once came from academia to do an internship at a federal government research lab. The pace of work was so slow as to make even (not particularly hard-working) me look like a workaholic. At the end of my time there, I was encouraged to come work for them full-time, and the reasons given to me were 1) you don't have to work that hard, and 2) they can't really fire you. Speaking for my own mental health, the private sector, along with its imperfect incentives, is much better for me.

If, by their own admission, they are all to blame, then they should all be punished. Take away their pensions? Cut their wages by half? Whatever works.

Decimation. Fire a random 10%, regardless of seniority.

Huh, so you guys over the pond are shareholders in a big corporation where everyone 'is doing it' and your solution is to fire some manual worker instead of the CEO. Brezhnev approves.

Yeah. That is how it works all too often. I don't have too much sympathy for the worker because in my experience most of them should have never been hired. Still, if I was an arbitrator I might have ruled in favor of the worker for the very reason you give.

If the senior manager can't fire the manual worker, despite his falsifying records, the senior manager can't enforce the rules. Who created the rule that forbids firing the manual worker?

Probably previous senior managers (perhaps current if they've been around long enough) who granted so much power to the union.

I think it is pretty clear that I acknowledge how hard it is to fire a government worker. But as a manager, I have to say that is the least of the problems rendering the government increasingly non-functional. Even if you ignore the big picture, it is the managers in state service who are a far bigger problem then their employees when it comes to rendering the state dysfunctional.

An example would be the New York times article crying about how all the staff who were accused of abuse in various state agencies and let off by arbitration panels. To them, it was self evident that if so many accused people where getting off, then a lot of guilty people where going free "protected" by the system. Having some inside knowledge, the truth is more like the State criminally mismanages things so that the poor line workers are in an impossible situation.

For example, I know of one instance where a worker was sucker punched by a client. The worker was by himself in a room full of clients known to have problems with aggression. The worker subdued the client who suckered punch him. It was the workers job to secure aggressive clients in a safe manner. This much is beyond dispute. What is in dispute is whether the worker used excessive force or not. State, based on the word of the client and possibly medical evidence (I don't know, I was not privy to their case) tried to get the guy fired. Most likely they were correct because you can't possible subdued a client in the approved manner by yourself. That is why you are never supposed to be a room full of them by yourself.

The state lost their case and the guy got off. You could look at it as an example of how the union protects the guilty. But I look at it as an example of a criminal double standard. Who was charged with placing the guy in a situation where he was all by himself when regs say that is never supposed to happen? Nobody. Only the little guys are ever in danger of losing their jobs.

WMATA has had 15 General Managers since its founding in 1967. In just the past decade, there have been six. I suspect deep seated culture problems are not the fault of any of the recent GMs. The newest one has been in place since November of last year. He's probably fired more managers than the previous five put together.

As a government employee this cuts near and dear to my heart. A couple of points.

1. Falsifying records is common in government service. The tone of "what you falsify" starts at the top. I have seen new management come in and clean up and I have seen others come in and restart the process of corruption.
2. From a moral standpoint, the guy should have been fired only if his entire management team got let go as well. All too often I have seen some lowly government employee let go when it was management that created the situation. When management is really corrupt, they look at employes as cutouts. Losing an underlining or two is the price of business and it does not change what they do.
3. It may be different down in DC, but in my state, if you come across an agency that is almost entirely staff by "disadvantaged groups" it is usually a sign that government is not paying enough to attract qualified people to do the work. In other words, if you have an agency whose demographic make up does not match the equivalent private sector workforce, they are not paying enough.

Public sector employees should have to bid for their jobs on an annual basis, low bidder getting the position, just like government agencies take bids from suppliers of paper, gasoline and fighter jets.

"and fighter jets"
Hahahahaha

How do you call it, the F-35 Doctrine? The $ 600 hammer rule? Well, I guess it is easier to be tough with workers than with donors and lobbyist... In this economy, who knows when a politician we need a "private" job?

The $600 hammer, as ridiculous as it sounds, costs almost that much to make. That, of course, is the cheap part of the purchase. the 1200 pages of regulation around how the hammer is made and what properties it possesses costs a hell of a lot more. A single or two page document would produce a $25 or $50 hammer.

The $600 hammers and toilet seats were due to accounting conventions concerning billing for certain types of overhead. .

That is not precisely true. I was told by a naval captain at the time those stories were coming out that the military simply has different needs. His example was carpet, for example in the wardroom.

Carpet which had to be designed to not catch on fire under a temperature of something like 500°, nor generate toxic smoke after the ship had been hit. Comparing the price of normal carpet to carpet designed for combat conditions was meaningless - and yes, there was undoubtedly a large amount of detailed specifications that had to be met. Welcome to running a modern military.

That is not precisely true.

https://www.hks.harvard.edu/fs/skelman/

I'm sure Dr. Kelman is looking forward to be instructed by you.

Who will enforce the contracts? That is the problem with the state at least. We hire contractors to enforce our contracts and somehow the penalties for non-compliance are rarely if ever enforced. I got some non performing contractors kicked off the job once, but it was a major battle with other state employees.

As an employee of a private company.... this is unheard of. You would be fired immediately if management got wind of it. They take obedience to the letter of the law, very, very seriously where I work. It would definitely be treated as a failure of the manager if the employee was caught falsifying something, but the reality is, there are no managers who would tolerate that. Employees are occasionally let go for breaking the rules, but usually it involves retraining and a black mark on the employee's performance review.

Sorry, I was being hyperbolic by saying you'd be fired immediately. Depends on how blatant it is, but I don't think anyone has died yet as a result of something like this either.

In DC WMATA/metro employees make much higher then the equivalent private sector workforce does.

Yeah, I spent a lot of time trying to commute via Metro. It sucks. I don't think Professor Tabarrok's calculation is valid at all the way it's written -- I mean, Metro was always _way_ longer than driving for me, and it's still worth doing for money savings and because I can use that extra time in a seat to do some reading or writing or just napping, so an additional 15 minutes doesn't have to be wasted time. But the problem is the trip time is totally not predictable. Four or five rides a week -- that's half -- would have unpredictable and long delays. So a predictable fifteen minute delay is no great shakes but having every third trip delayed 45 minutes so your work schedule is all screwy -- that's a nightmare, and that's what Metro gives you.

Yeah, everything seemed to unravel starting around the time of the crash in 2009. Ever since then, everything is constantly "under repair," causing regular delays as they seem to find a new problem about every three days, and making the system essentially unusable on weekends when frequency was already low. And yet reliability seems to be continuing to get worse, even after 7 years of this.

I'd say the TWO crashes of 2009 were just the most visible. They were preceded by a number of derailments and track worker injuries and fatalities in the preceding decade.

Oh, I recall. I commuted to one of the stations with an enormous escalator and it was constantly broken well before 2009. It was just at that point that outrage grew to a sufficient level that the idea of doing something about it seemed to really become a priority. The problem is that the rehabilitation process has been run with such utter incompetence that it's made the system nigh-unusable, so ridership is declining, so revenues are declining, so the level of government subsidy required to do the repairs is increasing, and there really appears to be no end in sight. I never thought I would say this, but I almost agree with the shut it all down for 6 months and reopen it working well philosophy at this point.

Falsifying records is a CRIME. Generally, when employees lie they are fired. Sometimes they're prosecuted.

Yes, it's a crime, but it may be as common as speeding or rolling through a stop sign.

I suspect this Metro case is an example of a rule that's ignored by workers because it's considered to be overkill. My brother was a mechanic at a school district bus yard, and they were required to complete a checklist EVERY DAY for each of their 30 buses: tire pressure, oil level, turn signals, etc. Of course they didn't do it, they just made the checkmark every day without even looking at the buses. If the rule had been more realistic, like a weekly checklist, it may have gotten more respect and more compliance.

It's not common at private companies.
In my job, adherence to laws and safety regulations is taken very, very seriously. Infractions are rare. People do get fired for them. But usually, the way it is handled is that very minor infractions are treated with retraining and poor performance reviews. It would be unheard of for the problem to get so bad that someone died of smoke inhalation.

Abolish tenure.

Abolish the Washington Metro.

Abolish Washington.

I agree with everyone.

Federal employees account for about 20% of the local workforce; headquarters employees of the seat of government have to live and work somewhere. Another 12% or so are local public employees of the sort you see anywhere, e.g. the Fairfax school district. What you'd call 'Official Washington' or "This Town" - the President, Congress, their salaried aides, the judges and their clerks, the diplomatic personnel, the 3-4,000 discretionary employees in the federal executive, the party employees, the lobbyists, the political consultants, the political journalists, the lawyers in the firms with a 'government relations' practice, and the dependents of all these people - might amount to 2% of the local population. A great many of these people make up a repellent and corrupt oligarchy (and sometimes comical to boot - viz. Hunter Biden). The rest of the city is not responsible for their gluttony.

This, of course, significantly understates the role of the federal government in the local economy, which is heavily dominated by contractors and influence-peddlers who, while not in the government, rely upon and exploit it for their livelihood.

When DC was established as the seat of national government all communication was on a person-to-person basis. Letters were sorted and delivered by humans, there was no telephone. It was necessary for elected officials and their bureaucratic underlings to actually meet in person in order to get anything done. That was over 200 years ago. Technological advances mean that communication between legislators no longer requires them to be in the same city or even the same state. In fact, while in DC they communicate by telephone, fax, email, etc. DC should be converted into a national museum devoted to the attempted extermination of the native Americans and the legislators and department heads should operate from offices in their own home towns. It's time for government to move into the 21st century.

This, of course, significantly understates the role of the federal government in the local economy, which is heavily dominated by contractors and influence-peddlers who, while not in the government, rely upon and exploit it for their livelihood.

'Heavily dominated'? The private sector in the Washington commuter belt differs from the mean in it's industrial mix. Here's the distribution of value added outside government (with the national means for metropolitan centers in parentheses),

Manufacturing: 2.8% (13%)
Wholesale trade: 3.7% (7%)
Retail trade: 5.1% (6.5%)
Information: 7.7% (5.7%)
Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate: 26.6% (24.4%)
Professional and Business Services 29.4% (14.6%)
Administrative and Waste management services: 4.1% (3.6%)
Education: 1.8% (1.3%)
Health Care and Social assistance: 6.2% (8.2%)
Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation: 4.2% (4.3%)
Other [including mining, construction, utilities]: 7.4% (11.4%)

The red flag I see here is the hypertrophy of 'professional and business services'. Even if all that's 'government contractors', that's 15% of the value-added, something short of 'heavily dominated'.

Bolish America!

Why? You have a great deal of infrastructure there and once upon a time it was a handsome and pleasant service to use. It's not impossible to repair the metro. Its just the sort of project that AM McConnell doesn't give a damn about and BO won't do because it would offend Democratic Party clientele.

Tyler: Can you please explain how a presidential candiate who lies about seeing calls for a moment of silence for the *cop shooter* (not the cops) in Dallas isn't a racial demagoge who is unfit for office ? (1)

I really don't get how someone as smart and analytical as you doesn't gag at the thought of Trump - I really don't get it
most of the socalled crimes of Hillary (Benghazi) are just fictions; true, white water is sleazy, but if you disqualified every politician of rthat level of sleaze, congress would be empty

I"m sorry - I am honestly distressed and perturbed that you don't consider Trump on a level with Putin or Hugo Chavez or Berlusconi
Respectfully yours
ezra abrams

1 http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/trump-claims-seen-moment-of-silence-dallas-shooter
And his lies about cheers in NJ on 9/11, his ludicrous idea that we can create millions of high paying jobs by trade war with china, his lies about Ted Cruz' father, his lies about...

You're a partisan Democrat who does not understand normal people. Normal people are not perplexing. You are.

I am sympathetic to Tyler, but I think he has made a long-standing error. He is an intellectual, an so he has a certain respect for dangerous intellectuals, even they are both dangerous and wrong.

Thus, to the extent that intellectual openness has made MR a lesser hangout for "new racists", Tyler has if not campaigned for Trump, at least provided infrastructure.

So has everyone who has supported more cryptic forms of hate for their intellectual daring.

If you accept Hillary as valid candidate for office, I don't have any sympathy for your complaints about Trump. Trump is the candidate who talked about killing the families off terrorist. Hillary is the candidate who was part of an administration that sent missiles into homes of terrorists while their wives and kids happened to be there. The reason liberals don't have much moral legitimacy in this country any more is that they have more histrionics about what people say then what they do.

Because collateral damage and war crimes have always been the same?

To a faker, maybe. To someone more interested in trolling than thinking things out, and taking the actual moral high ground.

I believe the high ground is that collateral damage is never good, but sometimes necessary, which is why collateral deaths are not war crimes as defined under international law. Whereas killing civilians as punishment would be.

I, too, believe that the moral high ground is whatever ground I happen to be standing on at the moment.

I'm confused by the premise of this comment. Doesn't Tyler hate Trump as much as anyone? He's just a bloodless academic rather than a rabid partisan. I'm not voting for Trump but I hate it when people trot out the "Drumpf" and "He could have invested in a magical S&P 500 index with the money he didn't inherit from his dad in 1970" and the "he hates Mexicans!" crap. The truth is bad enough.

>if you disqualified every politician of rthat level of sleaze, congress would be empty

DNC talking points establishing the foundations of thought of the Democratic Party.

Congress conjoined to a responsible executive can repair this problem, but Congress generally accomplishes nothing other than feeding candy to pressure groups, and there are no pressure groups in favor of the Metro as a well-functioning service. Interestingly, a concatenation of forces did manage to act to dramatically improve security in DC and the condition of the city's fisc, so it's not as if its an immutable social law that nothing can improve in DC.

The Post Office used to be the butt of many jokes about federal employees. In my many visits to post offices around SoCal over the past few years, I have seen a more efficient system and have been served by helpful employees who aren't going through the motions.
For what it is worth, I have also had good service at the California DMV in various offices. Of course, that may be entirely due to selection of offices away from the major population centers. YMMV.

The DC Metro may become the new standard for inept bureaucracies. Now people may say that the department was so bad, it was like being run by DC Metro.

Postal employees tend to putter and the supervisors tend to staff the desks suboptimally. Place still needs work.

The Post Office is more of a logistical operation than a retail one, and on that end, they're pretty good. Indeed, so good that those trips to the post office with their suboptimally assigned desks aren't even necessary.

I've never understood the use of the post office as representative of bad customer service. I've had exactly one less-than-pleasant visit to a post office, and that was to get a passport where the clerk was noticeably annoyed at having to handle a complicated transaction as opposed to just selling some stamps or fetching a package.
My worst customer service experiences have all been at private businesses: Fast food places, convenience stores, cell phone companies, and expedia.com whose customer service was so horrible on one occasion that the Devil will be buying long johns before I ever use that service again.

They're not bad, just slow, and they don't have staff open more windows when the line is snaking out the door.

My worst customer service experience was at the DMV 35 years ago. My last several trips to a DMV office or county clerk have been a piece of cake.

In the last 15 years or so, I'd say the most disagreeable people to deal with are medical office receptionists.

All too often Walmart etc,. do not have enough staff when they get busy unexpectedly.

DMV's, I agree, used to be terrible back when I first got my license (that would be 1983). Since they computerized and you can do many things online they're a lot less awful, though the RealID Act has created some snafus for people. Still, when I got my Maryland DL a couple years ago I showed up twenty minutes before the place opened and was in and out in ten minutes.

Metro is very clearly in a bad place and plagued by lots of systemic issues. However, the recent delays are the last thing Alex should be whining about. The SafeTrack plan, which is causing the delays, is the most efficient way at this late stage for the system to make long-needed repairs that are absolutely necessary to prevent safety problems and bigger issues that would ultimately cause major, long-term issues. It is a positive sign that Metro is finally taking seriously the challenge of long-delayed maintenance.

Perhaps. Another brilliant safety move was to automate all Metro trains so that the operators do little more than open and close the doors, akin to BART in SF airport and elsewhere. The Metro train operators still get a nice salary for pushing a button though.

As I understand it, Metro started to move to automated/driverless trains, experienced some issue (safety?) and reverted to manual operation. Now, however, they are moving back to automated trains. Whatever the process, I don't believe they have ever had automated trains staffed by drivers--defeats the purpose.

I believe the purpose is to stop trains from running into other trains and over maintenance workers, without firing anyone

How do they handle an emergency? Or security issues? Last time I was on the DC Metro (on a Sunday last November) a guy in my car collapsed due to some unknown medical issue. People used the emergency intercom to notify the driver who asked if there were any medical personnel anywhere on the train and delayed at the next stop for EMTs (and for some sort of medically trained woman from another car to come back to ours and take a look at the guy).

Yeah, I'm saying they didn't do that. Don't know what Ray is talking about.

Republicans refuse to provide funds for the nation's crumbling infrastructure and Tabarrok is appalled. No, he's not appalled that Republicans won't provide the funds but because public employees are incapable of feeding the multitudes with five loaves of bread and two fish. It's impossible to find good help these days.

Republicans refuse to provide funds for the nation’s crumbling infrastructure and Tabarrok is appalled.

Have you bothered to tally up the sums spent on public works by federal, state, and local governments? Does it occur to you that 'crumbling infrastructure' has been a meme in public discourse for 35 years because someone want's more candy?

Don't forget to add that wall to your list.

You are wrong to think that infrastructure funding worries are related solely to people wanting candy. Much of our infrastructure was built in the decade or two after World War II. It is all aging rapidly and it has not been kept up. I have a map of the areas bridges in on my desk that shows how bad they are and why. My state is just putting band aids on the problem and kicking the can down the road. I doubt we are the only ones.

A better point would be how rules and regulations are making it increasingly impossible to fix problems even if there is money (or at least make it cost vastly more and take vastly more time).

Well if you introduce a proposal build a bridge you get to put your name on it. Nobody puts your name on a bridge because you secured maintenance funding.

Yeah, people keep saying our infrastructure is crumbling because we won't allocate funds, but this is -- let's be frank -- a lie. It is a lie. It may be the case that of the funds we allocate to infrastructure, we over-allocate to dumb projects because they are shiny and new, and under-allocate to maintenance and training. That, I can well believe, given the moronic decision to blow $4 billion on a single new commuter station by the world trade center in NYC, or the billions we're flushing down the toilet with high speed rail connections to cities with crappy public transit infrastructure (viz. Los Angeles). But the notion that our infrastructure is crappy because the agencies involved aren't spending enough is simply ludicrous.

Ignore the revenue/debt/subsidy figures. In 2015, WMATA had operating expenses of approximately $2.5 billion. Of that, about $750K was depreciation (i.e. paper expense), so call it $1.75 billion. The annual report doesn't break it down among Metrorail, Metrobus, and MetroAccess, so it's hard to be certain how much of that was rail, but based on WMATA's budgets, it looks like about 60% (~$1 billion) should be attributable to rail operating costs. So that's $1 billion to operate ~800,000 rides/day among 91 stations, 1,126 cars, across 188 km of track.

Now consider Tokyo Metro. First, they operate at a profit, although population density is probably the necessary precondition for profitability (that, and reliability), so we shan't hold that against WMATA. They have about the same length of track (195 km), but a bit more than twice as many cars (2,773), and just under twice as many stations (179). They service about 10 times as many passengers daily (about 7 million). According to their latest shareholder report (filed last month), their rail-business operating expenses were 265 billion JPY (about $2.4 billion using 110JPY/USD), of which about 65 billion JPY (~$600M USD) were depreciation. The remaining $1.8 billion covered operations.

So if you compare the two, Tokyo Metro's expenditures are roughly in line with WMATA's on a per car and a per station basis (a little lower on each, but within the range you could fudge with exchange rate shifts). On the other hand, they service almost 10 times as many passengers with those cars, and my subjective experience of lead times on Tokyo Metro vs WMATA is that they run those cars a lot more frequently. As in, at least three times as frequently (I don't think I've ever had to wait more than 5 minutes for a train on the Tokyo Metro). And of course, the experience of Tokyo Metro vs. WMATA is like night and day -- punctual trains, polite staff, clean stations, even on the old lines, like the Ginza line (opened 1927).

Anyhow, my point is this: our public transit systems -- WMATA, at least -- spend plenty of money. They're simply not underfunded in the aggregate. We're just not getting our money's worth. In terms of why our service is so crappy despite spending comparable funds, I think the lead culprit is labour costs. WMATA's budget is dominated by labour costs. The same is not true of Tokyo Metro.

Indeed -- shifting gears to Japan Rail -- I don't recall hearing this was an issue with Tokyo Metro when it was privatised, but it was an issue for the massively unprofitable government railway company when it was privatised into the Japan Rail regional companies. Regional JRs didn't hire back all the employees and there have been lawsuits continuing to this day for back pay. My sense is that labour costs were a massive problem for the old systems, and the biggest benefit of privatisation was being able to terminate (or rather, not re-hire) a huge number of superfluous and expensive employees.

Sorry, those figures for Tokyo Metro are FY 2015, not FY 2016 (they have a 3/31 YE) . . . read off the wrong column in the shareholders report. Expenses for 2016 are same ballpark, but a little higher (profit also seems to have increased between 2015 and 2016.)

The fried chicken coming home to roost, so to speak.

I have a friend who says to simply never read the MR comments because they are full of lunatics and unapologetic racists. Thanks for proving him right.

The danger is that if you keep reading, you may become one of them

Some of the folks above did not like my reference to Turkey and the role of civil service protection, and due process...In today's news...Regarding Civil Service protection and due process:

"CARACAS, Venezuela — “You must know what you did,” Eva Belloso’s boss said to her when she was fired without notice this month after 24 years with Venezuela’s tax and customs service.

Belloso, who was coordinator of legal services at Seniat (as the agency is known) in Zulia state, said she told her boss she had no idea, “unless it has something to do with my signature for the recall referendum.”

“That must be it,” her boss said, according to her account.

The same thing happened that week to Juvenal Rosales, a nine-year Seniat employee in Caracas — with one difference: Rosales got an oblique heads-up.

A manager had approached him in a hallway a few days earlier and said, “You signed, right? Well, things are a bit difficult for you now,” Rosales recalled.

In all, nearly 90 Seniat employees nationwide were let go in the recent wave of firings either without explanation or for unsubstantiated reasons, according to a list maintained by the ex-employees. What they have in common is having endorsed a petition for a referendum on ousting President Nicolás Maduro, whose term is not up until 2019."

Thanks Bill. Can you please link to the post arguing that public employees should be fired for partisan political reasons, so I can see who you are responding to?

Urso, Do you know what due process is, and why it prevents firings for partisan reasons.

I am often amused by comments which fail to take into account our nation's history. So, go read a good history book about the spoils system and the introduction of civil service reforms under Teddy Roosevelt.

Non-responsive response duly noted.

Life imitates an Ayn Rand novel again.

It's almost as if she had lived in a country where labor unions controlled everything , or something to that effect. How could she possibly have been so prophetic?

So, every delay caused by DC metro is an example of government overreach and an attack on freedom and liberty? Do we have comparable back of the envelope calculations for commuting visa private vehicle, traffic delays, land use for parking, exhaust, accidents?

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