18.6.18

CHEAPER TO PATCH THE POTHOLES THAN TO REPLACE THE PIZZAS?

Perhaps Domino's replace the damaged pizza guarantee got somebody in the company thinking about doing something about the road conditions that might have gotten some of the pizzas damaged.

That's got the unimaginative complaining about how subversive an act that is.
This feels like something from a William Gibson cyberpunk dystopia novel, where the government has become so weak and useless, private corporations have been taking over the basic upkeep of the nation. But it’s not a William Gibson novel, there’s no plucky protagonist with some sort of cybernetic implant, it’s just America in 2018, with crumbling roads that Domino’s has decided to fix. For the sake of the pizzas.

Domino’s is tired of their innocent pizzas, who only wish to serve humankind, being beaten all to hell by poorly-maintained roads. They even have a websitethat shows, in graphic, pizza-box-cam detail, what brutal hell pizzas are put through when their delivery vehicle impacts a pothole.
It is a subversive act. Remember, maybe six years ago, Barack Obama riffing off Elizabeth Warren, about the importance of government? "You didn't build that" and such.
To remedy this, Domino’s has been hiring work crews to repair potholes in a number of cities, including Burbank, California (five holes fixed), Bartonville, Texas (eight holes), an impressive 40 holes fixed in Milford, Delaware, and an astounding 150 potholes filled in Athens, Georgia.

It’s not entirely altruistic, of course. Domino’s tags every filled pothole with their logo and the tagline “OH YES WE DID.”
Athens, Georgia, is home to a professional football team masquerading as a college, and I'm not surprised there are a lot of opportunities to fill potholes there.

Or perhaps the unimaginative engage in wishful thinking.
Roads exist to service people's transportation needs, whether that's getting to and from work, schlepping freight between cities, or, yes, delivering freshly cooked pizza. Aligning the funding of roads with the purposes they're used for would make infrastructure more responsive to the end user.

Moving to a more user-focused highway system could look like something radical, such as selling or leasing whole urban highways to private companies (as they've done in Santiago, Chile), or it could look a bit more mundane, such as spending people's gas tax dollars on actually building and maintaining the roads they drive on.

Either option would be far different from how the public sector manages our roads in a lot of states, says Baruch Feigenbaum, a transportation expert with the Reason Foundation (the nonprofit that publishes this website).

"In some states the road conditions are terrible," says Feigenbaum, speaking of interstate highway conditions. "There hasn't been much of new capacity, and in terms of offering in terms of what we would call services" like towing, car repair, and food and drink options at rest stops. (Federal law prohibits the commercialization of interstate rest stops.)

These poor conditions often result from politicians siphoning money away from road infrastructure that people actually use to build out bike lanes and transit systems that politicians would prefer them to use.
Money is fungible, and spending public money on internal improvements is a political act per se.  There might be inefficiently much spending on roads relative to those bike lanes and transit systems (and second and third tracks on railroad trunk lines to expedite 110 mph passenger trains) irrespective of what appears to be happening to the so-called highway trust funds.  Maybe the best thing for the government to do with transportation capital is do less, which is what at least one city manager in Delaware thinks is the case anyway.

Apparently the prospect of Domino's delivering road toppings gets even the staff of the Foundation for Economic Education thinking sloppily.
Roads have historically been viewed as a public good, which is defined as a product or service that is provided to citizens exclusively by governments, ensuring use is accessible to all. This has led many to believe that the government is the only entity capable of road management. And even though toll roads and other forms of private thoroughfares exist as living examples, there are many who cling to the government’s monopoly on roads. But there are multiple problems with this viewpoint.
Governments might have taken a monopoly on the provision of roads and waterways as a way of conserving on the transaction costs of paying tribute to opportunistic robber barons or trolls, or perhaps as a way of making possible the deployment of troops and the delivery of the mail: that is, internal improvements as a defensible function of government.  But somebody trading in economic education ought grasp the canonical public, or collective consumption, good, as one that is costly to produce yet its consumption is nonexclusive and nonrivalrous.  Toll booths provide the exclusivity, traffic jams are evidence of the rivalry.  Thus, again, maybe the best thing for the government to do with transportation capital is less.  The demand for roads is derived from the demand for inter alia pizzas, and the preconditions for market provision of roads are present.

No comments: