Letter to the Editor: Radical proposals for new transportation planning

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To the editor:

We all need a plan. Intuitively, we know the more complex the task, the more likely the goal will be attained with a roadmap. Alexandria’s transportation plan, adopted in 2008, is a splendid example of a complex task that needs updating. From what I’ve learned, the update is starting out on the right track by wondering how to make the money-losing, city-owned transit company, Dash, so convenient that it will actually get people out of their cars and into Dash buses.

Here’s my suggestion: Close down Dash. Its ridership is so anemic that it would be better to give the few who use it taxi vouchers, or maybe electric bikes. If bikes, then at least the bike lanes might see some use. Let’s face it: our city bureaucrats are not trained to operate a business. They have no skin in the game, so to speak.

What they’re using is your money to operate a business; it’s not their money at risk. And the results show it. Except for rush hours, big buses roll along during the day with so few riders that Dash will never pay for itself.

Ditto for the city-owned and operated bike company. This is the venture that commandeered locations throughout Alexandria with no heads-up to neighborhoods that a bike rack would be taking up some of their precious street space. To my knowledge, there was no explanation ever given why a bike rack in any given location was justified.

If that condescending conduct wasn’t enough, then at least savor this: the city bike company is, like Dash, a money-loser, and for the same reason. Our local government, like all governments big and small worldwide, don’t use money efficiently – that is, by ensuring revenues exceed expenses. If their businesses need more money, they don’t become more efficient. Instead, they raise taxes.

Admittedly, taxi vouchers and electric bikes aren’t practical replacements for Dash. Either would require more bureaucrats to dole out the goodies – that is, the bikes and vouchers. What bikes? How many vouchers? Too messy.

But here’s a solution that will work: Let the private sector solve the problem of getting people to where they want to go. There are lots of benefits when the public sector lets the tax-paying private sector make money by providing services. One of those is more tax revenue for a city that never has enough.

Maybe several small bus companies will emerge with small, propane-powered buses, or small electric-powered ones. Who knows? But as long as the city regards transportation as a service it must provide, an updated transportation plan will be a waste of time, money and the trees felled to make paper on which it publishes its vision.

If a plan absolutely must be produced, then it should be laser focused on how to limit the number of automobiles that can be registered in Alexandria. If it’s expensive enough, then more people will find less costly ways to get to where they want to go. Some might even walk.

– Jimm Roberts, Alexandria

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