Sunday, April 1, 2007

A modest proposal

Those of you who live in the Bay Area are certainly familiar with the major issues that seem to trouble people around here. Polls consistently say that the worst problem is the cost of living. Second to that is traffic. I know my commute sucks. It's not that far by local standards (about 23 miles), and I usually get to work in about 30 minutes, but the drive home takes about an hour. public transportation is a disaster, but that's another rant for another day.

For today, I simply want to provide a modest proposal for curing our traffic ills. I need to acknowledge the source of this idea - my wife's uncle was a source of inspiration for this. He once came to visit and expressed his thought that women simply shouldn't be allowed to drive. He's got a point...that would take half the traffic off the road, more or less. Clearly, this isn't a workable idea. I don't think such a law would pass constitutional review!

Instead, I propose something simple: men cannot drive on odd numbered days, and women cannot drive on even numbered days. That's still a bit unfair, due to the quirks of our calendar system, so we'll even it out by forbidding anyone to drive on the 31st of any month with that many days. (Feb. 29th would be another qualifying day for the complete ban.)

In order for this to be workable, we'll need exceptions for a few critical folks that provide key services: policeman, fireman, doctors, trash collectors, and taxi drivers. The DMV will need to provide special license plates for people who are in these professions to allow them to drive on any day that they are on duty.

Even with that, I estimate that we'd take 35-40% of the traffic off of our roads on a given day. Think of the financial implications, too: we'd be much less dependent on foreign oil, our roads would take a lot less abuse, and productivity would skyrocket from people not sitting around in traffic. We'd have some interesting tax troubles due to the loss of sales and gas tax revenues. We'd also have to increase spending for public transportation, although the sudden surge in bus/train/ferry/trolley ridership should counter that significantly. The oil companies would take a serious hit, although I don't think anyone is really going to shed a tear for them.

I don't really see a downside here. Do your part - send this post to your local government officials, and tell them that Jonathon Swift sent you.

(Anyone not getting this needs to go read this page. Oh, and look at a calendar.)

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