Lori Aratani and Paul Duggan of the Washington Post report on the controversy about which agency should oversee safety of the Washington DC subway system (“Metrorail”).
Category Archives: Dot
Three stories in the Washington Post show why compliance with federal information quality guidelines ought to be mandatory.
The Wall Street Journal’s Scott McCartney writes that airport food has gone upscale to appeal to affluent travelers having to spend more time in the sterile zone. The logistics of high-quality airport cuisine are daunting, but a least one airport restaurateur recognizes the externality of delay as a market opportunity.
A well worn complaint about the Transportation Security Administration is its inability or unwillingness to profile potential threats or practice other forms of risk-based screening. This is compounded by what appear to be a strong preference for doing things that enhance the appearance of safety, practices that appear to be gratuitous abuses of authority, and bureaucratic risk-aversion. Risk-based screening would allow TSA to focus its resources where they have the greatest payoff.
Typically, opponents complain that risk-based screening is discriminatory. This objection confuses discrimination and discernment. Discrimination means giving disproportionate attention to persons based on factors that are uncorrelated with risk. Thus, discriminatory screening cannot be risk-based screening, which uses risk analysis to discern greater from lesser threats and allocates more resources toward the former than the latter.
A new counter argument has been presented, this time by a retired flight attendant who says she represents 9/11 family members. It is an appeal to authority, not to reason.
Kytja Weir of the Washington Examiner reports that “[a] years-long squabble that was holding up nearly $75 million in federal stimulus funds has been resolved, just weeks before a deadline that would cost Northern Virginia the money and scuttle 11 miles of high-speed rail near Quantico.” Weir says the project had been identified as a high priority for funding under the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (aka, the “stimulus” law) because it was “‘shovel ready,’ with all engineering and design work complete.”
Is the track improvement cost-effective?
A few recent federal regulations have been accompanied by Regulatory Impact Analyses in which benefit estimates assume that consumers are, well, stupid. Exhibit A in this genre is the RIA prepared by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration in support of the last increase in corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards for passenger cars and light trucks. NHTSA counted as benefits from regulation savings from reduced fuel costs associated with more fuel efficient vehicles. But for this to be cognizable as a benefit, there must be an externality preventing consumers from rationally accounting for fuel costs. Consumers must be incapable of recognizing reduced fuel costs as private financial benefit; regulation must be needed to internalize this externality and capture the benefits.
In a different context, a recent federal district court opinion explains the limits of the “consumers are stupid” meme. The case pits WesternGeco (the holder of five relevant patents) against ION Geophysical Corp. (an alleged infringer).