Sunday, May 14, 2006

Why is Gov. Schwarzenegger taking away money from public transport

in his 2006-07 budget proposal? As per the proposal, $4.1 b in gasoline sales taxes over the next 10 years will be diverted to pay off transportation bonds. Prior to this proposal, this money was earmarked for defraying operating costs of California's public transport system. "This at a time when demand for mass transit is soaring", according to Jenny Oropeza, D-Carson.

While I always believed that public transport in the United States sucks because of the ubiquity of personal vehicles (one of my aquaintances explained her perception of public transit as "something that people with no other means of transport use"), the converse may as well be true. It is tempting to conspirasize how the auto-related industry uses its clout to make sure that public transit sucks. Reminds me of the time when I was a college student sitting in a corporate office of a mineral water (bottled water) company, negotiating with a manager the terms of a sponsorship that he would provide to a campus event in return for them putting up a retail kiosk at the venue. He asked me what drinking water source existed near the venue and whether it worked. Well, we had the rusty but trusty good old water cooler, and yes it worked most of the time. "Then you have to make sure it doesnt work during the event so people have no option to buy our water", said the manager, half joking.

A book called 'Twentieth Century Sprawl: Highways and the Reshaping of the American Landscape' documents the case of Denver in the early part of the 1900s where increased automobile use and changing policies pushed the public transit system to abandonment. It seems unlikely that public transit today can diminish from its already meagre status, but the Governor's proposal doesnt help it either.

For the record, the bottlers did good business and the cooler worked without fail.

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