Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The invisible hand has arthritis - the inefficiencies of car ownership

For those who don't know me, I should state that in many instances, I believe that a capitalist orientation provides greater benefits to society than a socialist one - specifically, that incentives within the capitalist system will provide more benefits than a socialist system.

One clear exception to this is our vehicle transportation system - our socialist government-owned roadways, implemented on us by Communists such as Dwight D. Eisenhower, are much more efficient than a system in which the vast majority of roads are toll roads.

But one can argue that personal ownership of the vehicles themselves provides advantages over the "socialist" model. I can testify to this - if I were to take mass transit from my home to my office, it would take me well over three hours (one way), and I wouldn't get to work until about 10:00. Of course transportation improvements could reduce this somewhat, but this would require capital investment. (My mass transit commute home is more in the two hour range.)

However, I just saw a statistic that caught my eye. The RAND corporation report on autonomous vehicles (which I mentioned in a recent tymshft post) includes the following sentence on page 26:

Yet, as Shoup notes in his exhaustive examination of parking policy (2005), the typical automobile is parked for about 95 percent of its lifetime.

For Shoup's purposes, he was concentrating on the fact that the idle vehicles have to sit somewhere during that time - in a garage at home, on a public street, in a pay parking lot, or somewhere else.

But look at it from my perspective as a car owner. I'm paying big money (thousands of dollars, when you add everything up) to keep a car, and most of the time it just sits there.

In a true capitalist model, I'd drive to work, have someone pay me to use my car for a few hours, go into the office, leave work, pick up my car, drive home, and then have someone pay me to use my car for the evening. (Yeah, rent my car out on a Friday night. What could go wrong?)

Obviously other models are springing up, including the Uber model that I talked about in a recent post in which people serve as taxi drivers - am I allowed to say taxi drivers? - and others don't buy a car because an Uberman can haul them around. But are the Uber cars sufficiently utilized, or do they sit around a lot also?

If you think about it, every parking lot you see is testament to the fact that cars are underutilized.
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