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City Buses: Time to Go Out With the Old?

Future Cities
Tuesday, February 18, 2014 00:00 EST

21 comments
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Terry Sweeney
Terry Sweeney  
11/3/2014 11:25:22 PM
User Rank Blogger
How about a new poll?
How about a new poll that looks at the ability of cloud services to address cities' toughest technology challenges?

Something like: What's the biggest impediment cities face with respect to cloud adoption?

--Price

--Inability to customize

--Security and manageability

--Too political, especially if it meant reducing internal IT staff

--Other (please specify in comments below)

Terry Sweeney
Terry Sweeney  
3/31/2014 3:36:42 PM
User Rank Blogger
What kind of buses, then?
The verdict from this poll is not the least bit ambiguous... seems we're pushing for more city buses. I know this issue has been raised at least in part in other blogs, but where are folks with their thinking around diesel/natural gas/electric motorization/hybrids? Projjal Dutta turned a lot of my thinking on its head with his blog and comments last month. 

The5thHorseman
The5thHorseman  
3/19/2014 3:22:26 PM
User Rank Village Voice
Re: Sometimes, older is better...
I agree with you that not everything should be privatized. A good example is law enforcement. I don't believe that private companies, like Blackwater or Haliburton should be in law enforcement roles. Police departments are an example of an organization that should be actively monitored by elected leaders and judicial branches, in order to ensure that they are serving the public, and not intimidating us. This ensures that there is transparency and insight into their activities, and a level of control. Another example; prison systems. If we are going to jail criminals convicted of crimes against society by the judicial system, then those prisons should be operated and maintained by those entities, that there is a measure of public control over the facilities and their operation. The difference between operating a transportation system and operating one of these examples, is that there is a societal responsibility associated with operating law enforcement agencies and penal facilities, to ensure they operate within the society's laws and standards. The transportation system is not a service that requires this type of oversight, and is not a function of the government. We, as a society, need to return to entrpreneurism and provide services for ourselves, that our local economies can thrive again, create jobs and prosperity again for local communities. It's not the only answer, but it works... and it makes us do things for ourselves and for our neighbors. Wouldn't it be cool to know your neighbors again? 

Terry Sweeney
Terry Sweeney  
3/19/2014 2:34:06 PM
User Rank Blogger
Re: Sometimes, older is better...
What you're describing sounds more like abdication than governing, which is understandable given the despair over the lack of creativity among elected leaders, lifelong bureaucrats, and the thinktanks that are paid to study and propose wacky new stuff. I don't think government's the solution to all society's challenges, but the "privatize everything" argument isn't either.

The5thHorseman
The5thHorseman  
3/18/2014 7:59:00 PM
User Rank Village Voice
Re: Sometimes, older is better...
Government has a purpose... to govern. They should not build roads, they should govern; provide oversight, set standards, building codes, develop the laws and rules that apply, provide enforcement, etc. The actual building of roads to meet the standards is the job of engineers and licensed contractors. "Schools are also enormously costly; privatize them too?"   ... Absolutely. Under the control of the federal government, the American public education system has been in a free-fall. In fact, ever since President Lyndon Johnson implemented the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in 1965, federal involvement in education has led to zero improvement in student outcomes, and instead has led to quite the opposite. The 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) ranks U.S. high school students 36th in the world... Shanghai is ranked number 1. Government, it seems, is not good at this either... because they are politicians, NOT teachers. You're right Terry, government, society and business all have a stake in various infrastructure throughout our nation... an infrastructure that is crumbling down around our ears because government has been overwhelmed by having to do it all. Society has to take responsibility for itself, and stop expecting the arbirtary entity of "The government" to solve all its problems... because they aren't solving your problems, they're making them worse. You mentioned you live in L.A. ... Let's see how "The government" handles the absence of fresh water this summer. California only received 32% of it's average rain and snowfall this winter, and the resevoirs are already empty... Do you think the people will solve the problem, or will they look at the government to save them? What do you think will happen  when the central valley farmers get no water for crops? The federal government has already layed claim to all water coming from up north through federally owned aquaducts... what happens when there is no food or water because science was ignored by "The government"? It's gonna be an interesting summer...

Terry Sweeney
Terry Sweeney  
3/18/2014 6:51:43 PM
User Rank Blogger
Re: Sometimes, older is better...
Hmmmmmm... should government also get out of the business of building roads? Charging for their use? Schools are also enormously costly; privatize them too? Seems like government, society and certainly businesses all have a stake in various kinds of infrastructure that benefit the users and the community at large. I'm actually okay with more funding or more budget devoted to public transportation, especially in L.A. where I live, but also in any city where movement is inefficient, costly and bad for the environment.

The5thHorseman
The5thHorseman  
3/18/2014 6:19:47 PM
User Rank Village Voice
Re: Sometimes, older is better...
Hi Terry,

"... I don't know of any public transportation system in the world that's self-sustaining or not subsidized by local and/or federal dollars. Do you?" ... Well, that's really my point Terry, that's the direction we need to go and no, there are not a lot of examples of this in the U.S. Austin Texas recently privatized their bus system, but it is not yet self sustaining. In Detroit, where public transportation has essentially collapsed, new small companies are starting up to fill the gaps; see http://www.popularmechanics.com/cars/alternative-fuel/biofuels/a-private-bus-company-debuts-in-detroit-8657656  ... These startups are encouraging. Government should never have gone into this business in the first place, or into any other service provider activity... it is not their purpose. And undoing this will not be painless or easy. But I can say this... there is not enough taxpayers in the workforce to sustain the astronomical costs associated with our current "the government provides all" model. The baby boomers are retiring, and the taxpayer base is shrinking at an alarming rate. We have to do something about it. Cut the cost of government or watch services collapse over the next 20 years. I hope we can reassign services to businesses to the mutual benefit of the government and taxpayers, to find the balance in between, and grow new businesses and opportunity for employment.

Terry Sweeney
Terry Sweeney  
3/18/2014 4:05:12 PM
User Rank Blogger
Re: Sometimes, older is better...
Interesting perspective, 5thH... I appreciate not wanting to add to the tax burden and city budget. But I don't know of any public transportation system in the world that's self-sustaining or not subsidized by local and/or federal dollars. Do you?

Lesthertod
Lesthertod  
2/28/2014 9:33:17 PM
User Rank Urban Legend
Re: Sometimes, older is better...
Sometimes, the most creative/succesful/innovative solutions come from strange places.

Even Bill Gates said (paraphrasing) that a lazy person will find the best way to make something work, wiht the minimum effort and complexity. That's the kind of people we should look forward with our problems.

The5thHorseman
The5thHorseman  
2/27/2014 7:46:14 PM
User Rank Village Voice
Re: Sometimes, older is better...
Hi Terry,

I lived north of Seattle for a few years in the eighties, and I know what you're talking about. Even back then, the traffic congestion caused public outcry for action. But anything that was placed on the ballot failed, largely because the people did not want the associated taxes. That's a tough hurdle to get over. You may have heard of the infamous "High speed rail" project in California. This project was well intentioned at first, but the implementation is so stupid that it would cost Californians  $2 billion to build, and NO ONE would be able to afford to ride the thing when it's done. This has been fought over for 10 years now... The moral of the story, I think, is that the idea, no matter what it is, needs to be presented to the public in an educational manner that answers the question "How does this help me".  Government needs to accept and act on feedback from the public, including modifying the plan or the solution itself to make it something that the public wants and is willing to fund. And finally, I believe that it should be constructed, operated and maintained by a company that has demonstrated expertise in the transportation system selected. The reason; Jobs. Many transportation solutions die at the ballot box because the taxpayers are so grossly overtaxed already that they are just not willing to take on any more. The solution (say light rail) is bid out and the winning company builds the light rail system, operates it as a service provider when complete, and maintains it into the future with proceeds from operation. This is economically sound; the company creates jobs, other business opportunities, and future tax revenue, as opposed to the city government taking on a transportation system that they are not qualified to operate or support, hiring thousands of employees and spending millions on equipment paid for by taxpayers, and saddling taxpayers with ongoing maintenance and development into the foreseeable future. Government is NOT supposed to be a service provider. When it is, EVERYTHING it does becomes a burden on the taxpayers. We have to stop selling public transportation as a government service and start making it a business opportunity that fuels economic growth. The public will fight public transit much less IF it is not going to be an eternal bill that they have to pay.

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