Monthly Archives: May 2017

Urban Transit, Race, and Class in D.C.

This morning I took a bus from my mostly white upper middle class suburb of Washington DC to the Metro station.   The bus originates in a working class suburb to the north of my town.  When I got on around 7am, the bus was fairly crowded, a standing room only affair.  What might come as a surprise is that I was the only white, non-Hispanic male on the bus.  There were a few African-American males, more Hispanic males, a few more African-American women, but mostly Hispanic women.  Given the origin of the bus, this is not surprising.  A few white women got on the bus on our trip to the Metro station,  but when the bus reached its destination, I was still the only white male on the bus.  The bus passes through a wealthy almost purely white suburb between my house and the Metro station.  A few people got off, but almost no one got on.

When I got on the Metro, it was if I had landed on another planet.  The riders were almost exclusively white males.  Many were wearing suits and ties.  No one on the bus was.   The ethnic makeup of the ridership on the Metro did not change on my trip to downtown DC.

The people on the bus, like those on the Metro all seemed to be going to work.  But the bus riders were dressed for more manual work than the Metro riders.  Again, this is not a shocker.

When they tell you that we need to deport the illegals and “all those people are on welfare”,  please know that it’s a load of crap.   Those people are the ones who work for low wages in the hospitality industry, clean our homes and offices, harvest and process the food on our tables, and take the bus to work.



The Auction Approach to Airline Overbooking

Why do the airlines overbook?  Because people don’t show up!  Why don’t they show up?  Frequently, they have traffic or similar problems and get to the gate after the plane doors are closed.     Don’t the airlines make money from empty seats?  Not if they accommodate the passengers who were stuck in traffic on a later flight.

A few years ago I was in Amsterdam and went on a tour of the wholesale flower market near Schiphol airport.  Flowers are purchased by the Dutch auction mechanism.  Each lot of flowers is initially offered at a relatively high price and the auctioneer lowers the price until a buyer bids for it.   The first person to bid purchases the lot.

Could the airlines do a similar auction when overbooked?    They could start with a low price and keep raising it until someone agreed to leave their seat for the offered reward. In the flower auction, the goal of the buyer is get the lot for the lowest price.  But buyers who wait too long for the price to drop wind up with no flowers.    In the airline version, the passenger’s goal is to get the highest price for giving up the seat.   Like the Dutch auction, those who wait too long will find the seat is already sold before they act.

In the flower auction, there is one seller and many buyers.  In the seat auction there is one buyer and many sellers.   But in each case, the many must decide what value they put on the object on sale.

If any readers know the executive leadership at major airlines, please feel free to pass this along.