Time to cut the F & E lines

One of the biggest gold rushes of our time looks to be the anticipated market for autonomous (self-driving) vehicles.  Worldwide, there are companies and investors throwing billions at the market and what was predicted to happen in ten years now looks like two at most.

The ways autonomous vehicles will impact our daily lives are just now being contemplated, but one impact is clear: they have the ability to completely change how we view public transportation, all for the better.

We need to rid ourselves of a bus- and rail-based paradigm for public transportation.  A complete stop should be placed on all new activities for a couple of years until the full impact of autonomous vehicles can be ascertained.

With autonomous vehicles, we can have true public transportation – a self-driving vehicle that comes directly to your home and takes you where you need to go.  For those using present public transportation, think about it.  No more need to get to the bus or rail stop.  Often this alone requires you have a car, to say nothing of the personal hours saved by going directly where you want when you want.

The vehicle, and it may be more of a covered reclined electric motorcycle than a "normal" four-wheeled car, shows up when requested, where requested.

It deducts the trip from some sort of pre-paid account or credit card, and off you go.  If you have more folks or need more room, you simply request a larger vehicle.  And all these charges can be adjusted to the user's income, thus ensuring that the poor have full access.

There is not a single public transportation operation in the country that charges users the full cost of the service.  Thus, subsidies and taxes are already built in.  Let's just quit paying for polluting, often empty buses and rail cars and instead use the funds to let the marketplace meet the needs of people – people who are guaranteed to have money in their hands to spend for whoever can provide the most value for the buck.  For the poor, this has the ability to transform their lives.  No more two-hour one-way rides to work!

Prices can be set via the marketplace with subsidies and perhaps usage limitations based on personal income.  The poorest get a monthly 30 round trips for the maximum subsidy, with lower subsidies as incomes increase.  It can be accomplished relatively easily.

Each vehicle could come with internal advertising or not – to be determined by the user with the appropriate fare adjustment.  This will only further reduce the cost of operations.

Here in Colorado, we have the Regional Transportation District (RTD).  It covers the Denver metropolitan area with bus and rail with limited bus service farther out.  Its annual budget is just under a half-billion dollars, and it employs almost 3,000.

That is a lot of money that could easily be used to fund a market-driven true public transportation system.  RTD, like many cities across the country, continues to expand on an expensive and polluting bus- and rail-based system of yesterday, to say nothing of offering quite limited public service and convenience to those forced to use it.  The only schedule users of this new public transportation system will need is when they want to be picked up.

Across the country, it is time to stop new spending on the F & E lines and all the rest and to prepare for a golden age of public transportation, all driven by...well, nobody.

John Conlin is an expert in organizational design and change.  He is also president and founder of E.I.C. Enterprises, www.EICEnterprises.org, a 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to spreading the truth here and around the world primarily through K-12 education.

One of the biggest gold rushes of our time looks to be the anticipated market for autonomous (self-driving) vehicles.  Worldwide, there are companies and investors throwing billions at the market and what was predicted to happen in ten years now looks like two at most.

The ways autonomous vehicles will impact our daily lives are just now being contemplated, but one impact is clear: they have the ability to completely change how we view public transportation, all for the better.

We need to rid ourselves of a bus- and rail-based paradigm for public transportation.  A complete stop should be placed on all new activities for a couple of years until the full impact of autonomous vehicles can be ascertained.

With autonomous vehicles, we can have true public transportation – a self-driving vehicle that comes directly to your home and takes you where you need to go.  For those using present public transportation, think about it.  No more need to get to the bus or rail stop.  Often this alone requires you have a car, to say nothing of the personal hours saved by going directly where you want when you want.

The vehicle, and it may be more of a covered reclined electric motorcycle than a "normal" four-wheeled car, shows up when requested, where requested.

It deducts the trip from some sort of pre-paid account or credit card, and off you go.  If you have more folks or need more room, you simply request a larger vehicle.  And all these charges can be adjusted to the user's income, thus ensuring that the poor have full access.

There is not a single public transportation operation in the country that charges users the full cost of the service.  Thus, subsidies and taxes are already built in.  Let's just quit paying for polluting, often empty buses and rail cars and instead use the funds to let the marketplace meet the needs of people – people who are guaranteed to have money in their hands to spend for whoever can provide the most value for the buck.  For the poor, this has the ability to transform their lives.  No more two-hour one-way rides to work!

Prices can be set via the marketplace with subsidies and perhaps usage limitations based on personal income.  The poorest get a monthly 30 round trips for the maximum subsidy, with lower subsidies as incomes increase.  It can be accomplished relatively easily.

Each vehicle could come with internal advertising or not – to be determined by the user with the appropriate fare adjustment.  This will only further reduce the cost of operations.

Here in Colorado, we have the Regional Transportation District (RTD).  It covers the Denver metropolitan area with bus and rail with limited bus service farther out.  Its annual budget is just under a half-billion dollars, and it employs almost 3,000.

That is a lot of money that could easily be used to fund a market-driven true public transportation system.  RTD, like many cities across the country, continues to expand on an expensive and polluting bus- and rail-based system of yesterday, to say nothing of offering quite limited public service and convenience to those forced to use it.  The only schedule users of this new public transportation system will need is when they want to be picked up.

Across the country, it is time to stop new spending on the F & E lines and all the rest and to prepare for a golden age of public transportation, all driven by...well, nobody.

John Conlin is an expert in organizational design and change.  He is also president and founder of E.I.C. Enterprises, www.EICEnterprises.org, a 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to spreading the truth here and around the world primarily through K-12 education.

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