A few days ago, I wrote about privately owned fuel cells that might allow companies to effectively disconnect from the power grid -- a possibility that makes me wonder whether we're entering an era when what have long been considered universal basic services (utilities, education, clean water) become more and more privatized, and less and less available to the have-nots.
And today I see a New York magazine piece by Bay Area resident Kevin Roose about how private shuttles run by Silicon Valley high-tech firms have muscled in on public bus stops in San Francisco -- a practice to which the government is now capitulating:
Silicon Valley shuttles have been commandeering Muni stops for years. It's always been illegal. And yet, city officials have mostly turned a blind eye. Now, instead of forcing these buses off their turf, they're bowing. It's as if Goldman Sachs were running its own trains on the 2/3 line [in Manhattan], and instead of shutting them down, the MTA decided to rearrange its own schedules to make sure Goldmanites could get from the Upper West Side to work on time.During the recent transit strike in San Francisco, Roose wrote about the way upscale residents turned to car-booking and ride-sharing services, which wasn't a feasible solution for low-wage commuters:
In my experience, these Silicon Valley shuttles are very popular with the young, educated, upper-income tech workers who take them, and abhorred by most other city residents. According to the Chronicle, residents have been filing "complaints about shuttles forcing Muni buses to disgorge passengers in the middle of streets, blocking crosswalks, backing up traffic, traveling on restricted streets and interfering with bicycles using bike lanes."
... when policy-makers begin to see these services as legitimate replacements for public infrastructure, their incentives to make public services better will disappear. The BART strike has shown how decades of erosion of the tax base, coupled with the rise of a tech-savvy elite that can afford to pay for private services, has reduced public transportation to a second-class alternative and taken away much of the subway unions' negotiating leverage. After all, with so many private options for getting around, why does it matter if a few hundred thousand BART riders are stranded?I just see this as part of an increasingly widespread belief, in blue as well as red America, that government-provided and government-guaranteed services are shoddy and second-rate and not really important because they're for, y'know, other people.