Policy Alternatives in Public Transportation
Transportation plays an important role in the economy of any nation. Individuals without access to private transportation use public transportation which is a service provided for by the government. The use of public transportation has many benefits which include lowering the overall carbon footprint of a country and providing transport to a wide demographic of individuals. Evidence shows that public transportation is a vital service and has the potential to drastically improve the welfare of the state and its citizens.
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However many obstacles and challenges have restricted the growth and prosperity of this sector. Underfunding and outdated technology have been the main obstacles facing this sector (Martens, 2016). Global warming and the increase in the population size have placed pressure on the public transportation. To meet these challenges, there is a need for the upgrading of the existing infrastructure while the alternative would be to offer free tansportation for the less-privileged.
The public transportation sector faces a lot of challenges which negatively impacted the level of service delivery. Public transportation is used as a primary source of transportation by millions of Americans who cannot afford private transportation. As such, it is vital to the financial well-being of a large percentage of those who depend on it for different aspects of everyday life. The government’s view of the sector as being non-critical means public transportation has received limited funding (Wang, 2009).
Limited funding to this sector has led to limited services times in many areas and out-dated technology. Limited service times means the bus system only operates from dusk till dawn. This has radical effects on low-income neighbourhoods that cannot afford private transportation and have no alternatives means of transportation. For these neighbourhoods all economic and social activity is greatly restricted because of limited service times (Rourke, 2011).
Underfunding from the government has left public transportation sector with limited resources making it impossible to invest in new technology. This has reduced the effectiveness and the efficiency of the public transportation system. The lack of adequate security and the lack of maintenance to vandalised infrastructure has also discouraged potential commuters.
There are different variables that affect public transportation systems that need to be taken into consideration when looking for alternative policies. The main variable that affects the transportation system is funding. This is because the sector does not generate enough revenue to cover all its cost and has to rely on government funding in order to provide services. Another important variable is public perception and misconceptions about public transportation.
Using public transportation especially buses carries stigma in the United States. The reason for this is that the use of public transportation is usually associated with poverty. Existing infrastructure is also an important variable to consider when looking for an alternative policy.This is to ensure all new and existing resources are fully utilised.An important variable to consider is overall welfare benefit that the transport system offers to the commuter. This is because the main objective of the public transport system is to improve the overall welfare of the nation’s citizens.
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The current transportation system policy needs to change in order to address current and future problems. The main goal of the public transport system is to provide an efficient transport system that serves both public and private interests. The current system has many merits especially commercial public transportation and has received both strong public and political support.The current system offers many different varieties of transport from buses and cable cars to ferries and water taxis.
The sector raises revenue by charging commuters who use their services but this revenue does not all its operating costs and has to receive federal funding. Government funding and policy dictates the future of this sector. One of the transportation system’s mandate, is to improve the welfare of individuals by providing an alternative for individuals who do not have access to private transportation. The fee charged to commuters of public transport system has a devastating impact on the poorest individuals who cannot afford the charges and has left them with no alternatives funding (Wang, 2009).
These fees are heavily subsidised by the government but for many individuals these fees are still unaffordable. The reason the public transportation system is underfunded is mainly because of voting demographics (Barlow, 2007). The average voter is less dependent on public transportation for day to day life as compared to minorities and the less privileged members of society and this has led to the problem of underfunding.
There are three alternative policies the government can implement to improve the transportation system. The government can opt for the status quo and privatise the public transportation system. An alternative policy the government can choose is to fully upgrade the public transportation system then scrape off all transportation fees. Another policy the government can adopt is to choose to upgrade its services and infrastructure but scrape commuter’s fees for the disadvantaged areas of the city.
The privatisation of government services offers benefits but has some major drawbacks. Privatisation is when a government service or asset is transferred to a private company. The private company may receive funds directly from the government or may earn revenue from the service or asset. The main problem with privatisation is that private firms tend to focus on profits and public or consumer welfare is usually neglected.
This is evident if one look at the prison system where facilities have been privatised. Firms chased profits and in order to cut costs inmate welfare decreased drastically. The benefit of privatisation is efficiency and the potential for growth in the industry. Private companies have a financial incentive to cut costs and be more efficient, these results in a more reliable and cost-effective operation. Private firms are also able to embrace new technology and ideas and do not face the same bureaucracy as government services.
Upgrading the current transportation system and providing free public transport to all users is an alternative that can be adopted. This policy is based on Keynesian economics theory that advocates for government expenditure and investment that stimulates economic growth (Romer, 2012). This is an investment oriented policy whose focus is long term benefits. Upgrading the transport system and offering free services will attract many foreign and domestic investors who will want to advantage of this opportunity.
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This increase in economic activity will have a positive impact on the economy leading to the creation of news jobs and economic opportunity (Romer, 2012). The main problem with this policy is getting funding because upgrading and maintenance cost may be astronomical and the return on investment may take a long period of time to be evident.
The alternative policy the government can take is to upgrade the system and scrape commuter fees for less privileged neighbourhoods.This policy’s main advantage is it actively targets and helps improve the welfare of underprivileged members of society which is one of the main goals of the transport system. Overall consumer satisfaction will also improve through the upgrading of the current infrastructure.
I believe that public transportation has to improve because the United States has one of the best transportation systems in the world but still faces basic challenges. The challenges are not unique and can be managed if the right actions are taken by the relevant departments. The dusk till dawn operation of buses in urban areas leaves commuters and whole neighbourhoods isolated from the rest of the city. This also means that these individuals and communities cannot participate in a twenty-four economy. Security especially late at night can be dangerous on public transport because of lack of adequate security measures. Insecurity influences people’s choice of the mode of transport to use.
Given that they pay taxes, they should be able to receive value for their money. It is absurd that their travel options have to be affected by poor levels of security. In Europe many countries have improved security through the strategic mobilisation police units. As such, people are confident of the safety whenever they are using the public transport system.
If the public transportation system does not adopt new policies future problems will negatively impact the economy. The current population of the United States is growing at an exponential rate and this puts pressure on public transportation and without reforms the government will not be able to adequately serve this growing population. Public transport offers cheap transport for a vast majority of the people helping them save on the money they have.
The potential economic benefit of having an updated public transport system is also lost. The future of public transportation is important because it offers an alternative to fossil fuels whose supply is dwindling. Most of the fossil fuels are also not environmentally friendly. Public transport helps cut down on the use of such fuels that are not environmentally friendly.
To find the best policy we have to analyse the alternatives to conclude which alternative offers the most benefit. Privatisation will allow private firms to take over public transportation so as to make it more efficient. This policy is not favourable because it will mean the government will have to relinquish control of a strategic sector and there is the potential for commuter welfare loss. An alternative policy will be to upgrade the current system and offer free transportation to all users.
This policy will allow for economic growth and will greatly benefit underprivileged members of society. The main reason this policy is not favourable is because of the financial burden the policy carries and long-term benefits may not be attractive to stakeholders. Suitable policies that are viable should be considered at all times. The policy recommended to improve the transport system is to upgrade the current infrastructure and services and provide free transportation for the less privileged. This will greatly improve the welfare of these individuals and also improve the quality of service.
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Barlow, A. L. (2007). Collaborations for social justice: Professionals, publics, and policy change. New York, NY: Rowman & Littlefield.
Martens, K. (2016). Transport justice: Designing fair transportation systems. London, England: Routledge.
Romer, D. (2012). Dynamic stochastic general equilibrium models of fluctuations. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Irwin.
Rourke, J. T. (2011). You decide! 2011: Current debates in american politics (8th ed.). London, England: Longman.
Wang, Y. (2009). Icctp 2009: Critical issues in transportation systems planning, development, and management. Oklahoma, OK: ASCE.