Monday, July 26, 2010

Decongestants

USA Today has a story on what cities are doing to combat congestion, including a video of a few Minneapolis commuters taking the road less traveled:



What is important here, is the transportation official interacting directly with various downtown employers, which can get discounted transit passes in bulk whereas an individual without said agency-company agreement ends up paying the full fare. The transit agency gets the kind of ridership they need for a variety of reasons, the City gets reduced congestion, and we all get less CO2 spitting internal combustion, overproduced "freedom-making" contraptions.

What many companies end up doing however, is to roll the amount of a monthly transit pass into the salaries of their employees under a misguided attempt at providing "choice." What ends up happening though, we end up pocketing what amounts to little more than a couple of dozen dollars per month and spend several times more money on gas, parking, and car ownership/maintenance than we would otherwise. Perhaps we think it is more convenient, but in the end it wastes our own money, time-saved is often a wash, and the entire city loses money due to man-hours lost in congestion as idling cars belch and fart poison into the air you and I breathe.

Point being, we don't always make the choice that is in our own best interest despite theorists' attempts to suggest we always do/would/should/could in some imaginary perfect world. Sometimes we do need a little softly paternalistic "nudge" of an opt-out system. If companies participated in a program where instead of providing parking for their employees as well as travel stipends of say, $100 a month, they could save on both and buy passes for all of their employees at $50 a month (hypothetical), thereby giving all of their employees essentially a free transit pass to use at their discretion.

If nothing else, the excuse "my car broke down" would no longer be valid for showing up late to a meeting or shift.