As part of a long string of comments to this post (Ladner on Uber), Clark Lim, an adjunct prof at UBC in transportation engineering, added some insight reprinted here that otherwise might get missed.

Why do all topics have to end up arguing about auto vs. transit subsidy?

There are so many cross-subsidies (tangible and intangible) between so many aspects of modern society, including between all transport modes, that it is difficult to prove one is subsidized more than another. To say you know the facts, wel,l no one has really done a good job at such a “wicked” analysis.

Consider this: subsidies are like you doing people favours, and vice versa. Over your life time you probably gave a hand to many people and them in return. Try doing the accounting on that to see who helped who more is probably easier than to figure out the impact of subsidies of various modes over lifecycles and across populations that have varying migration and utilization rates by mode.

I find most studies are either biased to one mode or do not do a complete and exhaustive enough analysis. …

And the word “subsidy” doesn’t even do justice to the concept of the interaction between social welfare and economic equity, which also requires a definition of how each individual perceives value. To really consider this honestly and thoroughly is like opening up Pandora’s Box as you are going down the rabbit hole. I commend those who try with an objective and sincere approach.

Now going back on topic, it is about how technology is affecting human transport. And yes, we do have flying cars by now, in fact a while now. But technical feasibility is the easy part. It’s regulatory, legal, economic, and social feasibility that is and will be the difficult part from now on.

In the past, technology was the hard part (i.e. hundreds of years ago) and what we take for granted, like a TV remote, would be considered magic then. Now technology is becoming ubiquitous and cheap. Did you check how much 1 GB of memory costs these days? We don’t even talk about memory in GBs anymore; it’s now TBs. And that TV remote, when the buttons are gummed up, you just exchanged it for a new one from the Shaw booth at the local mall – so it’s basically free.

Or am I subsidizing everyone’s new remote?