|by Sally Baptiste|
Do you believe that your elected officials truly represent your best interests or are they frequently influenced by Special Interest Groups (SIGs) and other political factors that leave you and me out in the cold?
My opinion – I am left out in the cold with basically no representation. I strongly believe that the average citizen has little to no representation in today’s political environment.
It is no longer about “We the People”. It is about ”Our SIG has more money to contribute to your campaign – let’s talk”. I asked this question, because when we talk about transportation, we must also talk about the quality of our representation (or the lack of).
This lack of quality representation is the main reason why our transportation system is in such chaos, turmoil and disorder. This lack of representation is why our transportation system is completely out of control.
Political games, SIGs and minimal representation
(if any) is a recipe for increased taxes and growing traffic jams with
absolutely no “taxpayer friendly” solution to our transportation
What is the real goal of our transportation system?
The goal of our transportation system should be to promote the mobility/movement of people, goods and services in the most efficient, effective and safest way possible.
apparent goal of our transportation system/policy is to support SIGs,
waste as many tax dollars as possible on ineffective systems and never
worry about being held accountable to your constituents.
What citizens want and need in transportation is totally
irrelevant. Once the
politicians get their hands on our money let the party begin!
While my goal for transportation may sound simple, it is important to understand and appreciate that our transportation system is quite complicated.
Our current transportation system consists of roads/highways, rail, light-rail, high-speed rail, air, mass-transit, bike paths, etc. Our transportation system impacts our defense and emergency capabilities. Our transportation system is a major lifeline for our economy. In one way or another, every citizen and visitor in America is impacted by our transportation system on daily basis. Meeting our transportation needs and requirements is a difficult , but not an impossible task.
To properly meet the goal of transportation, there are many detailed issues that must be addressed.
For example: What is the preferred mode of transportation? What is the least expensive mode of transportation? What is the safest mode of transportation? What mode of transportation has the least negative impact on wasted fuel, wasted time, pollution and other environmental issues? How does the transportation system impact our quality of life? Who should own and operate the various transportation systems? Who should pay for the various transportation systems? This is a sample of the questions I have been addressing in my attempt to identify the ultimate solution for our current transportation predicament.
The current system is definitely not effective
and definitely does not meet the goal. I don’t claim to be an expert
in public planning or even transportation (yet), but based on my
experience as a commuter, my research on this subject and some common
sense, I am convinced that there has got to be a better solution for our
Who Needs Transportation? It seems so obvious – We all do!
We as a united people that frequently commute across country and across town need an efficient and cost effective transportation system. This seems like a “no-brainer”. With all of our technologies, we should be able to figure this out – right!?!? So, why can’t they (the politicians) figure this out?
What is the real problem in our transportation system? Are they (the politicians) completely clueless as to what our transportation needs are? OR Are they too busy focusing on SIGs and other political games that have absolutely nothing to do with meeting the transportation needs of our country and/or our states?
In my opinion, the last scenario is the closest to the truth – the politicians worry more about SIGs and campaign contributions than their constituents. The politicians are not worried about the people they were voted/hired to represent. The individual citizen is basically irrelevant to them.
At the same time, the politicians are experts at whining for more money. They want more money and less accountability. This is most evident in our transportation system. But, when you ask the question “what are they doing with the transportation tax dollars we already pay?” You don’t have to look too far to find excessive consulting fees paid to SIGs, abusive spending, pork projects, misapplied funds, etc. etc.
This ongoing lack of true representation has created a major negative impact on designing, engineering and construction of an expanded/improved Interstate highway/freeway system that we so desperately need to support our national transportation requirements.
We need an Interstate highway system that can support the current traffic and the increased traffic of the future. At some point, the politicians need to accept the fact that the automobile is here to stay and work on a transportation solution that supports the number one mode of transportation.
We don’t need or want the rail systems that the
politicians are determined to force on us.
The politicians should start listening to citizens and stop
wasting our gas taxes on rail. We
paid our gas taxes for roads not rail!
It is a fact that the transportation system impacts every one of us. It is a fact that the automobile is the number mode of transportation. It is a fact that the automobile is also the number one choice of transportation. It is also a fact that the automobile is the least expensive mode of transportation.
It is a fact that the most common/popular rail
system today, “Amtrak” is 4 billion dollars in debt and is facing a shut down if taxpayers
don’t bail them out. It
is a fact that rail systems have done very little to relieve the highway
The following statement is from the “2002 Urban Mobility Study” by the Texas Transportation Institute:
The last part of this statement identifies the key problems with rail systems.
The fact is alternative modes of transportation are not extensive enough and people simply don’t like to use them. Americans love their cars and the love the freedom to commute as they please. It is also important to consider the impact on our overall economy if a majority of commuters gave up their cars and were completely dependent on mass transit. For example, what would happen to all the retailers and business entities that are not conveniently located near a rail station?
Even with all of these facts, our leadership has still been completely ineffective in developing a quality transportation program.
They choose to disregard the ineffectiveness of rail systems. They choose to disregard the current Amtrak financial woes.
If rail is in such high demand and is the ultimate solution, what happened to Amtrak? Why is Amtrak 4 billion dollars in debt even with federal assistance?
David Gunn, the president of Amtrak, admits that Amtrak will never be profitable and will always need some public assistance. Amtrak needs $200 million in order to carry the railroad through the summer. Amtrak is hoping to have more than $1 billion in an emergency subsidy from Congress to take it another year”. At the same time, the politicians choose to neglect and ignore the most efficient mode of transportation – the automobile.
It is very apparent that our current leadership is not going to solve this problem. Thus, citizens must get involved. Citizens must develop solutions. Citizens must demand changes. Citizens cannot and must not depend on our elected politicians to do the right thing for transportation.
There is simply too much money to waste and too many Special Interest Groups (SIGs) going after the money to allow any true representation or leadership in this area.
It would be great if our elected officials would
represent us and do what is best for us, but I am afraid those days are
over. The cost of getting
elected is so high, that politicians can no longer focus on citizens.
So, my questions continue to be: With all of this history and rail failure, how can the politicians justify building more rail systems? Why are the politicians wasting our tax dollars on rail instead of the roads and highways? Why are they asking for more tax dollars for roads if they can easily afford to waste our tax dollars on ineffective/useless rail systems?
If light-rail and high-speed-rail are in such high demand, let the private sector develop them, own them and operate them. More importantly leave the government and taxpayer dollars out of rail.
The decision of our leaders to continue to funnel more tax dollars into the rail is an example of reckless spending. It simply doesn’t make any reasonable or financial/fiscal sense!
The only explanation I can come up is the lack of any true representation. I can only assume that there must be a long line of SIGs standing next to the politicians begging for the money in return for campaign contributions or other incentives. It isn’t because rail is the solution. It isn’t because rail is less expensive and would save tax dollars. If rail was really in such high demand the private sector would be jumping at the chance to develop this alternative mode of transportation and make lots of money doing.
The simple fact is, the demand for rail is so low, that the private sector knows that they can never make a profit on it. If rail can never make a profit, guess who is stuck paying for this never ending boondoggle – the abused taxpayers – mostly the automobile commuter/taxpayer that never wanted or needed the rail system in the first place.
It is a well-known fact that a substantial amount of gas taxes are used to fund rail systems. Who pays the gas taxes? The same taxpayers that don’t use the rails!
Why should motorists foot the bill for ineffective rail systems
they don’t want and won’t use?
So, when your local politicians start whining for more money for
roads, tell where they can get it! It is time to demand that the
politicians stop wasting our tax dollars on rail and spend it on the
highways. It is just that simple. It is not rocket science.
Where do we go from here?
What can “We the People” do to impact change in this process?
I decided to learn more about transportation systems, transportation trends and our transportation policy. At that point, I started sharing my information with other citizens about the abuse and I strongly encourage other citizens to get involved.
If we work together, we CAN impact change. We must get involved and impact change.
Our transportation future is currently in the hands of the
SIGs. We must get the SIGs
out of public policy and force elected officials to start doing their
job and start representing the people they were elected/hired to
represent (not SIGs).
I strongly encourage other citizens to learn more about transportation, get other citizens involved, write letters to all of your politicians and start demanding true representation and accountability.
I also suggest writing (and emailing) various television newsmagazines and provide them with facts that demonstrate the mismanagement/abuse of our transportation tax dollars. The television newsmagazines seem to like to cover this issue, but they never talk about our transportation tax dollars.
We need to demand that gas taxes be used for roads not other
alternative modes of transportation.
We need to demand that the private sector own and operate rail
systems. Citizens must work
together and make transportation a key election issue.
I would like to start a national campaign that states something
like “The road to public office is changing – the road to public
office must not be railroaded by the Special Interest Groups”.
If the funds are available, billboards along congested highways with a web site and/or phone number is a good way to open the door to public involvement.
We need to organize a true public debate/forum about
need to hear the facts from experts like Wendell Cox, Martin L. Gross
and spokespersons from the SIGs. Politicians
must be invited and encouraged to attend. However, I would not expect
politicians to show up. Most politicians don’t want to face voters on
this issue. They don’t
want to talk about it.
Bottom line – citizens must get involved and
demand changes. It is
difficult to fight city hall but it can and must be done.
Otherwise this abuse and mismanagement will never stop.
The politicians are quite content to waste our money and deliver
nothing. They will never be accountable for their actions unless we
the people start demanding accountability in government.
One last note…… Politicians really don’t like informed voters! In the City of Orlando, citizens that get involved and speak out about abuse are labeled as “The Horribles”.
Informed voters are much more likely to demand true representation and accountability. Informed voters create turbulence for politicians and their SIGs. Informed voters can impact change. It is time for citizens to control public policy – not SIGs. Please get involved and help stop the abuse. Please get involved and help restore our system of representation.