Unexpectedly Intriguing!
18 September 2006

In recent years, states where citizens have the right to bring initiatives to the voting ballot have had this right abused by politicians and the special interest groups that support them.

Perhaps the most powerful of these politician-interest group alliances is represented by the public transportation lobby. This alliance of big project developers and state and local government public transportation agencies perpetually promise the following benefits to the voting public in return for votes (and tax money) supporting their dream of universal public transportation:

  1. Better service.
  2. Cleaner air.
  3. Energy conservation.
  4. Greater safety.
  5. Less traffic congestion.

Yet somehow, despite all the investment made by taxpayers over the years in supporting public transporation initiatives, the providers of public transportation continue to keep going back to the polls promising the same things, over and over again. How come they're not doing a better job at providing these things after all these years?

The answer is simple. Public transportation is something that the public wants, but only for other members of the public, not themselves. They want the benefits, the cleaner air, the less congested roads, etc. but they don't want to inconvenience themselves into a system that, no matter how grandly planned, cannot serve every need of every individual.

Instead, one suspects that the only reason the public transportation lobby continues to put initiatives on the ballot is to keep an ever-increasing flow of tax money going to the big public transportation project developers and the bureaucrats of the government agencies that run them. This would explain why the problems "solved" by public transportation never really are solved.

So, we here at Political Calculations had an interesting thought. We couldn't help but notice recently that there sure is a lot less traffic on government holidays when government employees don't work. We also notice that government employees often are among the largest employers in every region of the U.S. We also can't help notice that reduced traffic congestion is one of the stated benefits of public transportation.

Obviously, commuting government employees are a clear contributor to traffic congestion. So, why not have a ballot initiative that combines problem and solution together? Let's get government employees out of their cars and onto public transportation!

How can this be done? We suggest that this goal may be achieved by eliminating the biggest subsidy that government agencies provide their employees for their private transportation: the parking place.

But, we shouldn't eliminate all parking for government employee. After all, we've already acknowledged that no public transportation system, no matter how well executed, is capable of serving every need of every individual. So, the initiative should direct government agencies to only provide parking for just 20% of its employees. Surely that would be enough to accommodate the unique needs of each government employee. Plus, we can count upon the wisdom of the government agencies in allocating the use of their parking places by their employees. If they can successfully allocate our tax money to achieve optimal results, they can certainly do the same with a mere handful of spaces in their own parking lots!

It's a perfect win-win scenario! The voting public gets what they really want (a large number of other people off the roads) and the public transporation lobby gets what they want (more tax money and increased investment in public transportation resources.) In fact, there should be no greater advocate for this change than the government agencies responsible for public transporation themselves. We look forward to their enthusiastic support for this proposed initiative....

Update (22 September 2006): You know, we didn't even know about the public transportation lobby's ballot proposal in King County, Washington when we wrote this! We'll look forward to our initiative proposal appearing on the ballot there sometime in the near future!

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Welcome to the blogosphere's toolchest! Here, unlike other blogs dedicated to analyzing current events, we create easy-to-use, simple tools to do the math related to them so you can get in on the action too! If you would like to learn more about these tools, or if you would like to contribute ideas to develop for this blog, please e-mail us at:

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