This past Tuesday, April 11th, the Regional Transportation District voted to move forward with the Mobility Choice Study, which is Mobility as a Service, i.e. self-driving cars. It was a close vote, 8-6 with one board member absent
The concept appears to have been first pitched on December 16, 2015 at the Metro Mayors Caucus.
The presentation in December 2016 asserts that the Denver Metro Chamber will “Identify options for connected mobility and choice, such as transit, personal vehicles, for-profit mobility services, car sharing, ridesharing, bicycling and walking. This strategic direction will move the region from dominance of person vehicles to Mobility as a Service (MaaS).”
Furthermore the presentation asserts the nonprofit will “Develop strategies to implement more cost effective solutions for first and last mile access to existing transit.”
Of course the kicker at the end: “Hand off implementation of the strategies to existing or new agencies.”
I hope you are as thrilled as I am that the Denver Metro area is looking to add more government agencies dealing with transportation and taking upon itself to decide what mode of transportation I should use. That government ambition alone should be concerning but there is much more to this. Read on, it gets worse. Much worse.
You might just be asking yourself, what is this? According to CEF Notes Mobility Choice Initiative this study will “Maximize existing investments in the metro Denver transportation system by leveraging technology to meet future workforce mobility needs, resulting in enhanced economic opportunity and quality of life.”
I know, more words that do not really tell you what they are intending to do. That is part of the problem with this ‘study’ as a whole – what is it they intend to do with your taxpayer dollars?
Upon further questioning by RTD board members, it was revealed:
· There would be 4 “partners” – CDOT, RTD, DRCOG and the Mobility Choice Board.
· The Mobility Choice Board (MCB) would be comprised of 15 members, the majority being Denver or Boulder business interests.
· Each partner would contribute $400K.
· MCB would pay overhead costs, including the Executive Director who would be paid $10,000.00/month.
· The “public” agencies’ (CDOT, RTD & DRCOG) money would be used only for the cost of the report.
· The resulting report could recommend changes to transportation policy, funding, placement and pricing of public transportation in the designated area.
· The results would not binding on any of the agencies.
· The stated purpose of the report/study is to determine transportation options for the region. However, when it was pointed out that there were no representatives from the (1) taxpayer, (2) personal vehicle, (3) disabled, (4) senior, (5) low income, (6) suburban populations, it was suggested that the participating public agencies were knowledgeable and could represent those sectors of the public.
· The MCB would have control over how the report was implemented.
This matter becomes even more interesting because this same issue has now been studied multiple times by multiple government agencies. Why would they want to do yet another study and in a manner whereby the tax payers fund the study but the actual study is controlled by a consortium of private companies – all of whom may have a financial interest in the outcome of the study? Is the answer to this because the previous studies did not reach the conclusion these private companies desired the studies to reach in order for these companies to enhance their profits? Is this whole matter nothing more than a framework for crony capitalism?
It is difficult to determine why the Regional Transportation District and the Denver Regional Council of Governments would allocate the taxpayers money to restudy a matter which has already been studied – with the only change being that taxpayers are footing the bill this time for a study conducted by private companies – all of whom are perfectly capable of investing their own money to conduct a study. There are indications of there being something shady here.
Why would these government agencies even have an interest in this? Perhaps because it has been suggested that the outcome of the study would recommend that Mobility as a Service, i.e. self-driving cars, should be a Public Utility. Yes, you read that right. The concept here is that an RTD-like government agency would at some point in the future control all transportation. One might reasonably presume private corporations acquiring the lucrative contracts required for government to exercise that control is apparently in their blood.
The evidence one might look for to suggest that this is not crony capitalism simply is not present. For example the study that the RTD board voted to pay for with your money has no charter, no plan and no criteria for success. What is more there have been suggestions that this study will be the basis for a 2018 ballot initiative. Ballot initiatives exist in order that we the people may remind the government who is in charge. That government may effectively use our tax dollars against the will of the people by promoting their own ballot initiatives is kind of despicable.
Here was the vote tally on this study from the April 11th RTD meeting:
Chairman Larry Hoy
Please take the time to thank those who voted no.
There will be another RTD meeting at which this topic will be discussed on Tuesday, April 18th at 5:30 PM. The meeting will take place at the RTD Building at 1600 Blake Street in downtown Denver. You may voice your opinion on this matter at that meeting and I suggest you go and do so.