Monopoly, subsidies and the Mohring Effect. A synthesis
This paper provides a unifying framework to analyze whether a monopoly transit provider will under or over-supply frequency. To this end we couch the problem in term of Spence [(1975). Monopoly, quality and regulation. The Bell Journal of Economics, 6, 417–429] who analyzed the incentives to provide quality by a monopolist. We show that all of the results of a recent academic exchange discussing this topic are special cases of Spence [(1975). Monopoly, quality and regulation. The Bell Journal of Economics, 6, 417–429], albeit with an adjustment in order to take into account the cost structure of frequency provision in the case of public transport. In theory then, there are cases when a monopolist may offer optimal or above optimal levels of frequency without requiring subsidies. However, public transport is rarely provided by an unregulated monopolist. Rather, these services are usually provided either by an exclusive operator under regulated fares or by a group of competing operators, with or without fare regulation. We show that in the first case frequency will always be below the social optimal level.