Update, see below.

The Bush Administration recently changed federal rules around transit agencies providing game-day service to stadiums. Under the new rules, if a private company is interested in operating the routes, the transit agencies need to step aside and let the private company operate the route. The rule itself is a little fishy, if the private company wants to operate the route in addition to the transit agency, what is the problem with that? If the whole idea is to bring market forces to the transportation market, isn’t competition the most fundamental market force?

If that wasn’t bad enough, the new rule has effectively eliminated all shuttle service to Seahawks games. Starline Luxury Coaches of Seattle wanted to operate the route, but the fare would have been higher, and Starline would not have picked up passengers from park-and-ride lots. So the Seahawks wouldn’t agree to the contract, but since Starline is still interested, Metro can’t operate the service. Even if the Seahawks had agreed, the fare would have been $20 instead of just $6 for Metro. As Ben notes above, Sounder will still operate game-day service for regular season games since no one is capable of competing on that route.

So thanks to the Bush Administration, there will be no buses to Seahawks games. George Bush: eliminating opportunities since 2001!


An agreement has been reached with a private vendor for Seahawks service. The new service will cost $12.50 each direction, needs to be ordered 48 hours in advance and may or may not go to park-and-rides. Nice one, Bush!

13 Replies to “Seahawks Service: Not a Victory for the ‘Market’”

  1. In what way do ‘market forces’ play when government is involved? You’d never accuse the US post office of truly competing with FedEx, for instance, since we subsidise the USPS for umpteen billions of dollars a year, so how can a true market play be in effect for massively subsidised public transit vs. private shuttle companies?

    The only way true market forces would come to bear is if the subsidised transit options butted out entirely (as the law says) and multiple private companies played against each other.

    1. That sounds spot-on… an article had a quote from a Metro spokesperson said they were “indifferent, frankly”. The Seahawks paid for promotion and paid Metro for the cost that fare recovery didn’t handle. The $6 price was artificial.

      Now, the USPS and FedEx do compete on packages, express letters, etc. I don’t see why, if Metro was interested, they couldn’t compete without subsidy in a similar way.

      Also, doesn’t Metro add extra regular route buses from Park and Rides to DSTT for “special events”?

  2. Brant, you’re sort of right, except that all these agencies are subsidized: the coach lines are subsidizes for the roads, etc.

    If Metro is opporating the gameday service at a profit, it’s a net money-maker, regardless if it’s other services are subsidized.

  3. This is total BS. The public built the market. We paid to build the stadiums. We paid to build the U of W.

    We have a huge sunk investment in those facilities and markets. If the Seahawks lose money and move out of town, we suddenly have an empty stadium.

    And if KCMetro can’t make money filling buses with $6/seat riders in off-peak service, it’s time to just give up on the whole bus idea.

    This is nothing more or less than the Bush gang seeing a place where they could slash a neck vein and draw off a few buckets of blood for themselves. The public built the whole kit and kaboodle and now, with a simple rule change, the Bushies are adding a stiff surcharge for their own pockets because, hey, it’s not like the public can afford to let the whole situation crumble.

    It’s the same old “private enterprise” game we’ve seen before. The public paid with land-grants to build the railroads- paid twice as much, actually, as it would have cost the government to build the roads. Then the private railroads squeezed the shippers and employees until the nation was repeatedly and violently thrown into catastrophic depressions- which, conveniently enough for the railroads, gave them the excuse to go bankrupt, stiff half their shareholders and bondowners, and re-emerge with twice the capitalization they had before.

    If you don’t learn from history, you will repeat it.

  4. @joshuadf:
    Not to pick nits, but FedEx is legally forbidden from competing with the USPS. They’re in the same market segment, but USPS is a government-established, heavily subsidized monopoly. FedEx is forbidden by law from charging less than 3 times (!) the USPS first class mail rate, no private company may use mailboxes, one can technically not use anything but USPS for mailing a non-“extremely urgent” letter.
    None of that prevents the USPS from interfering in FedEx’s market, of course, which is sort of the whole problem with the bus service to the Kingdome: a private company cannot compete with a massively subsidized county metro service, but I’d be willing to bet that if the subsidies were taken out of the bus service the metro used to provide, the private companies would beat the top heavy county government hands-down on price.

    And furthermore, why are WE paying for the stadiums? Why are we putting up public money to earn Allen a bunch of cash? We let the Seahawks rent our stadium for 850,000 a year, but for nosebleed season tickets, I see they cost about 1000 a seat! But I suppose that’s neither here nor there.

    1. Yes, you are correct that the USPS has a government monopoly on non-express mail. Not arguing with that…

      However, I’m not convinced that all services run off public money are any more inefficient or than private ones, or even more heavily subsidized considering publicly funded roads or single-source contracts. Certainly some public institutions are notoriously badly run, but so are a lot of private companies. When these private companies have a nearly guaranteed revenue stream (newspapers before 10 year ago, textbook publishers, manufacturers of patented vaccines, etc.) they rot and their customers wince and fork over the cash.

      By the way, as far as professional sports go, American football actually has some good business principles:

  5. Y’know, it’s like there are young people around who don’t know what happened before they arrived.

    There used to be a ferry company in Puget Sound called the Black Ball Line. By the mid-30s they had a virtual monopoly in providing ferry service. And they still couldn’t make a profit. That’s why we have state ferries today. “Private enterprise” simply couldn’t do the job.

    The same thing goes for parcel post. By 1910 the American people were fed up with the high prices and low quality services they got from private shipping companies. It took a full-court national effort to overcome the lobbying by the shipping companies but the people did it, and USPS Parcel Post was established.

    Stringing together grey-bearded homilies like “massively subsidized” and “top-heavy government” doesn’t make any wheels go ’round- except maybe in the head of the speaker.

    1. All true… but you’re leaving out the little detail of the Great Depression ruining Black Ball (except for their Port Angeles-Victoria route which still runs today, of course).

      Yes, who would have thought the government-subsidized private railroads “couldn’t” provide cheap parcel service? I’m all for spurring market adoption of new technologies, but there are clearly bad eggs in every basket.

  6. Yes, but you’re leaving out the little detail of the Great Depression being both a natural and unavoidable regular occurrence of “free enterprise” capitalism, and an unnatural exaggeration of those regular depressions, caused by speculators and businesses having too much power.

    The Black Ball Line was at no time able to pay their workers a living wage for humane working conditions. When the Inland Boatmen’s Union got strong enough to demand wages and decent hours, the game was over for the Black Ball Line.

  7. Just for the record–last I checked, the USPS no longer receives government subsidies (aside from the monopoly status).

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