The Disruptive Impact of Breakfast on the Go


A morning latte confounds central planners.

[Thanks to Jeffrey Moyer for the link.]

NEXT: Midnight Mission Madness

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  1. “You have your radio and air conditioning, and having your coffee cup there is one more thing that makes you more inclined to drive,” Kirby said. “If that becomes a big deal, it just makes it a little hard to get people onto transit.

    Transit makes it hard enough for people to use it. Like “No smoking, eating, or radio playing.” Sheesh, the transit agencies tell you 3 reasons to drive instead of taking public transit the moment you use it.

  2. Central planners could even solve this themselves by allowing coffee on the metro (as mentioned above) or even (gasp) SELLING coffee on the metro. Like those fantastic little Cadbury vending machines all over European subways!

  3. “If you see people replacing an in-home activity like brewing your own coffee with an activity that requires a new [car] trip, that’s not exactly the trend we’re looking for,” said Nancy McGuckin

    Whoa, whoa, WHOA! Nancy you little slut, come on up to Seattle and I will show you just how many Starbucks, thats Starbucks only now, that I pass on my commute to work. No new car trip needed, thank you. I think, the last time I counted, I pass 7 starbucks, 4 of which have drive throughs. I probably pass another 3 Tullys, 1 Seattles Best Coffee, and about a dozen independents, one of which is one block from my front door.

    But of course, Nancy could just shut up if they would allow “coffee runners” at all interstate bottle necks in every metropolitan area. They could probably add 10 cents to every latte for transpotation improvements!

  4. I also forgot to mention how many of these espresso stands are at gas stations along the commute routes. Coffee on the go does not mean a new car trip!

  5. “Like those fantastic little Cadbury vending machines all over European subways!”


    ride the EL, there are vending machines there. lemme guess – spring break in england? first time in “europe”?

    when i commuted via subway in vienna, there was no coffee sold there. in fact, there were stories against starbucks and the culture of “walking with coffee”. ditto in copenhagen, where i lived, albeit before the subway opened. and i don’t remember coffee in stockholm, either. and cadbury’s wasn’t big in any of those countries.

    npr has an opening, however.

  6. Tomorrow’s front page news: “Disturbing Trend of ‘Stopping for Gas’ adds miles to commute”.

    Here’s a gem: “How do we predict future travel when commercial and social interactions like this can surprise us?” McGuckin asked.

    Oh, oh, this is good. You mean, um, a study of human action involves surprises and externalities that are not always predictable? Holy shit, someone must have taken psych 1000. How do you predict future travel? Well, perhaps you should step back and realize that human action and interaction is so unpredictable that the natural market mechanism of preference sorting is better at infrastructure management than, say, centralized social engineering based on static comuter modelsin a vacuum. That’s a start.

    “Ronald Kirby, transportation planning director for the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, said he sees problems only if commuters’ coffee addictions motivate them to pass up alternatives to driving alone. Carpools, along with bus and rail systems, usually frown upon — if not outright prohibit — eating and drinking.”

    Duh. As other posters have noted, if you want to attract people to public transportation, prohibiting their daily routine might not be the best idea…

    “However, it’s no accident, restaurant industry analysts say, that commuters rarely have to wait to make a left turn to get their caffeine fix. Restaurants catering to the breakfast crowd usually make sure they’re on the right side of the street for the morning traffic flow. In some cases, Starbucks will have two locations across the street from each other to accommodate traffic patterns in both directions, company spokesman Alan Hilowitz said.”

    See, this is a perfect example of natural market correction. I know, infrastructure planning must employ some amount of centralized design based on static models, but, I dunno…I just find it immensely satisfying to see one of these central planning types get all confounded when people don’t behave like the computer models say they will. Bwah ha ha!!!

  7. “Like those fantastic little Cadbury vending machines all over European subways!”

    You proberbly wont find cadburys out side (at least not in abundance) out side britian and ireland, The europeans are hostile to the british take on choclate, and iirc there has been movements in the EU to prevent Cadburys being called choclate.

  8. It takes an hour to commute between Frederick and Gaithersburg? Good lord.

    – Josh

  9. All of you John-Birchers-In-Denial ought to consider that your rants against “central plannin'” aren’t going to get you better free suburban commutes in your car. If ‘the market’ were in charge of transportation infrastructure, stuff would look like it did pre-WWII: it’d be hard to drive, and easy to take the bus (streetcar).

  10. Yep, but I’d be able to smoke on the market-driven streetcar.

  11. The hand-wringers forget the three things a business needs to succeed; location, location, location. I can confirm that by living in the middle of nowhere I have to drive 10 miles to get to the nearest Starbucks but then it’s 12 miles to take out the trash and the coffee I make at home lasts just about 10 miles.

    Damn, it’s a conspiracy! How else could they know exactly when I’d like a refill?

  12. i never knew there were drive through starbucks before this day.

    you bastards.

  13. “Like those fantastic little Cadbury vending machines all over European subways!”

    Perhaps, but I was extremely disappointed in the inability to find a decent cup of cofffee on a recent trip to France and Italy. Lots of boring expresso opportunities, but little coffee. Yeah, I’m one of those walkaround people.

  14. Rachel, have you ever had coffee spilled on you on a crowded subway or bus? Ever sat in a pile of ketchuppy fries someone left on a seat?

    I suppose there could be special train cars set aside for people who want to put up with this and pay a surcharge for the extra cleanings required. But I suspect you won’t find a laissez-faire attitude toward the consumption of messy food and gooey beverages even from a private mass transit company. It’s got costs and it would upset more customers than it would please.

  15. “If ‘the market’ were in charge of transportation infrastructure, stuff would look like it did pre-WWII: it’d be hard to drive, and easy to take the bus (streetcar).”

    Yeah. Because poeple wouldn’t demand roads if the government didn’t build them.

  16. I think that this is funny as hell. In Seattle, lots of people piss about how there are Starbucks everywhere, and that they “corpratize” the character of nieghborhoods. According to this, we need MORE Starbucks! One on every corner and mid-block so nobody has to add even a foot to their commute. As a stock holder, I’m all for it.

  17. wsdave,

    Still a shareholder after the last few months? must be a true believer – I ditched mine.

  18. Long term for me. Beats the hell out of Microsoft. ‘Sides, I get it at a discount.

  19. wsdave —

    quit talking to myself!!

  20. JC:
    This is a bit OT but it reminds me of a recent online “Commuter Calculator” put up by Sound Transit (King County, Washington). I believe the site and the calculator are supposed to show how much money you save by using the bus, but unfortunately for Sound Transit, it’s more likely to demonstrate how much one saves by NOT using the bus.

    For example my commuting costs using my motorcycle are 1/4 the cost of taking the bus.

    And that doesn’t even consider how much time I save by not taking the bus.

    The real question generated is “How much money do you save by NOT using a wasteful service like Sound Transit?”

    Anyways . . .

  21. Matthew,

    Great link! I plugged my actual numbers in using my Prius and got “no savings”. Then I plugged my numbers using my SUV. No savings! And that’s with gas at $2.50 a gallon!

    Sort of proves my hunch about public transit – only take it if parking is a hassle.

  22. This “Starbucks Effect” seems to be mostly an artifact of the traffic modelling concept “trip.” One “trip” goes from one place to another. So from your driveway to the coffee shop is one trip, from the coffee shop to the cleaners is another trip, and from the cleaners to the office is a third trip – even if all three are located along the same road.

    That said, drivethroughs are murder on traffic patterns. They get the vast majority of the business during peak hours, they involve a huge number of vehicles trying to enter or cross streams of traffic, and they’re almost always on major roads with heavy traffic because, hey, where else do you put a drivethrough?

    I don’t know where you people live, but in Massachusetts, there are all kinds of concessions inside transit stations. We also have one of the higher rates of transit use. Hmmmm…..

    Hey matt, you don’t think people demanded roads in the 20s and 30s?

  23. Gee, where I live the pro-tax-funded-gubmint-run-transit folks advocate stopping along the way in one auto-outing. They call it…trip chaining – Plan and combine your errands into one sensible trip to reduce the amount of miles you drive.

    I think it used to be called “using the melon evolution provided you when you run your errands on the way to and from work.”

    One real side effect of people stopping for their coffee is the problem of idling. I used to work in a building that contained a *$’s with a separate entrance, next door to a bagel shop. On a commercial drag half a mile south of a 20K enrollment state university and about as far from an arterial that is a straight shot to the downtown business district, this building had no off-street parking, except for a metered city parking lot up the block and across the road. As a result, Yupmobiles of all sorts were parked illegally and double-parked with vigor, and, as the winter climate here is forbidding, many of those cars were left running while java junkies ran in for “just a minute.” Drivers making deliveries to our establishment prior to opening to the public frequently couldn’t get their vehicles to our back door, and our earlybird customers were shut out of good parking spaces. The local police wrote some expensive tickets, of course. But what I wondered was, how many of these vehicles with their Sierra Club stickers were in good tune, and how many were venting unburned hydrocarbons out of their tailpipes while Kip and Muffy got their Ventes? That Starbucks moved a lot of coffee, but lines could get long on a cold January morning.

    I’d imagine a slow-moving drive-through could add pollution, too.

    (I don’t hate coffee, but prefer a mug of breakfast tea, Myself.)

  24. in Massachusetts, there are all kinds of concessions inside transit stations. We also have one of the higher rates of transit use.

    And you’ve got a road network established before cars were invented. And no parking. And more college kids per square mile than anywhere else. And you STILL can’t get directly to Logan on the T.

    Basically mass transit works in the Boston area because absolutely NO planning went into the road network. Hence the Big Pig.

  25. Hmmm… Basically public transportation has one advantage: You don’t have to find a parking place.

    But that one advantage has to overcome HUGE disadvantages: Let someone else determine where you go, how you get there, and when you leave and arrive.

    For people who don’t face exorbitant parking space fees or total lack of parking, it’s a no-brainer in favor of DIY.

    And yet, those who advocate public transportation can’t seem to understand why someone would rather listen to the radio, drink a beverage, and have the flexibility to conduct errands on their way to and from work? They’re confounded by people who choose their own best interests (and a desire to drink some coffee on the way to work) instead of doing what other people claim is best for them?

    Most people tend to choose the option that provides the most freedom and the least hassle for themselves. A fair number of people also tend to choose the option that provides the least freedom and the most hassle for others.

    It’s a good thing that most of the people in the latter category have to rely on the majority to surrender their free will and that good old-fashioned selfishness is most often what prevents it. (It’s almost like Ayn Rand was onto something, before it degenerated into nonsense!)

  26. What you don’t get, rob, is that most people who choose transit do so because it provides the most freedom and fewest hassles. You think somebody trying to drive into Boston or Manhatten at 7:30 AM on a Monday is FREE? He’s about as imprisoned as a a non-convict can be.

    It takes a whole of government intervention to create a situation in which it’s easier for most people to drive than take transit. Yet that’s exactly what we’ve seen for the past 50+ years.

  27. Why don’t we just cut out the gov intervention, and see what happens?

  28. For years I worked a job that was a 45-minute bus ride from my home. There was the annoyance that, should I miss the most convenient bus, the next one made me 15 minutes late for work. But once I found my seat I could listen to the news or music on my headphones, and, except when the local school district insisted that middle school brats take that route instead of a yellow bus, read in peace. A nice cuppa tea or coffee was verboten, however.

    Now I dread a bus commute that long, as the local government geniuses have signed the system up for this: The Transit Television Network. What with video cameras installed onboard buses to capture assaults on drivers and passengers by the criminal element, the TTN monitors complete the Orwell/telescreen experience for the rider. Mercifully, some drivers turn the sound down, bumping the boxes from the “tools of Satan” category down into a lesser nuisance. Video display of the route and “next stop” announcements are OK, but sub-TV Land sitcom reruns spliced with pitiful PSAs are no way to start the morning.


  29. And public transportation ISN’T a whole lot of gov’t intervention? I think I could just as easily have said the converse of what you said and it makes the SAME amount of sense: It takes a whole [lot] of government intervention to create a situation in which it’s easier for most people to take transit than drive. Yet that’s exactly what we’ve seen for the past 50+ years.

    Considering how many people drive compared to taking public transportation in this country, the roads would have been built one way or another. That the gov’t got into the road-building business is one of the tragedies of gov’t interference, not a good example for why public transportation is the best way to travel.

    By the way, how are you arguing against the point I just made? You say “What you don’t get, rob, is that most people who choose transit do so because it provides the most freedom and fewest hassles.” I certainly DO understand that for most people, the only way they are choosing public transportation is on the occasions (usually limited to big cities with massive traffic and parking problems) that “it provides the most freedom and fewest hassles.”

    But it still hasn’t solved the traffic problems in those cities, so I think that shows that most people AREN’T choosing public transportation because for them it STILL (even with all the traffic and parking issues) doesn’t work better.

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