Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Response to MetroRail Expansion

As I read this article by Shashank Desai, I found myself unable to disagree with his position on expanding the MetroRail. Capital Metro, the company in charge of the city of Austin's public transportation system, invested a large sum of money to get the ball rolling, and they have seen little in the way of profits. Desai is right. Capital Metro needs to find a way to increase the (currently awful) rate at which citizens use the MetroRail.
As he states, the MetroRail is one of the most effective methods of getting from one part of Austin to another, because it is both energy efficient and time efficient. I agree with Shashank in that Capital Metro really needs to emphasize to the public that the Rail has stark advantages over other modes of transportation. In my opinion, one of the MetroRail's biggest advantages is that it never has to compete with traffic. The PR group at Capital Metro needs to start advertising the MetroRail's advantages if they hope to increase consumerism. I recently rode the MetroRail when I went to watch President Obama speak, and it was incredibly efficient. I went from North Austin to 4th street in about half an hour, and it was cheap. Unfortunately, it was relatively empty. We really need to encourage the increased use of this system. Another problem is that nobody actually checks a person's ticket on the Rail, so some people probably take advantage of this and ride the rail for free. With these problems fixed, the MetroRail shows an amazing amount of potential.
Desai notes the importance of the MetroRail's other advantages, such as energy efficacy and cost. He even mentions the important recent cost cut to prices in the MetroRail. He forgot the simple advantage of convenience as well. The MetroRail now allows people to park their bicycles safely at MetroRail stations. If used properly, the MetroRail could be one of the best resources the city of Austin has to offer, but the marketing and execution of this plan has been poor thus far.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Aerial spraying? Not in my state

Dallas County has just announced that it will use aerial spraying to deal with the county's recent outbreak of West Nile Virus. Nine cases (including one fatality) from the mosquito-borne virus have been reported in the county, which is the most the county has seen ever in a year. Aerial spraying is the release of chemical particles into the air with the intent to kill a particular vector. It was once a popular method of introducing pesticides and herbicides to crops, to rid them of diseases, but it is now heavily regulated and controlled. City officials were very reluctant to agree to the plan until city Judge Clay Jenkins recommended the use of pyrethrin (a mosquito adulticide). To that, I say this- Mr. Jenkins, you are advocating for an unsafe plan that ultimately hurts your county more than it does help it.

From previous encounters with aerial spraying, we know that it is not safe in general. Perhaps the best example of this is the spraying of DDT. Basically, while DDT did its job as a great pesticide, it also harmed the environment by killing many populations, which ultimately ended up causing irreparable environmental damage. Pyrethrin has the potential to also have similar effects when used in large quantities, and it could end up killing the flora and fauna of Dallas. Judge Jenkins clearly doesn't understand what he is doing to the environment, and he needs to reconsider.

Anther interesting point is that aerial spraying to kill mosquitoes has been proven by the CDC to be ineffective. This implies that not only is Judge Jenkins advocating for the use of aerial spraying, but he is also advocating for the use of an ineffective solution to his county's problem. In my opinion, the best solution would be to just wait. Mosquitoes can only continue living as long as they have still water in which to lay their eggs. There has been some rainfall lately. I think that there is no point wasting precious resources in order to accomplish absolutely nothing. Only a small percentage of these mosquitoes carry West Nile Virus, and when the rain eventually stops, many of those that do will be killed. The virus is not always fatal, and wasting resources to deal with this situation just does not make sense, in my opinion. The last point I want to make is one that I hope will reemphasize just how controversial this decision is: the last time Dallas County has employed aerial spraying was in 1966, because it simply has too many negative impacts to warrant its use.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Response to Opinion on ACL festival extension

In a post from Robin's Texas Government Blog, Robin states that we should extend the Austin City Limits music festival to a two week event. I fully agree with his assessment of this situation, despite the fact that he did forget to consider one important drawback. The overall price of tickets would likely go up since artists would now have to be paid extra to stay in Austin for an extra 7 days. It could be argued that since the price of tickets has to increase, consumers might be dissuaded from attending the event.
While Robin did forget to factor this into the equation, he did point out all of the incredible benefits that a two week festival could have on the city. His arguments are, and at the end of the day, I do not believe that the price increase would have a large enough impact on the number of consumers willing to buy tickets to the famous festival. The city of Austin would benefit from the added tourism, music buffs would have an opportunity to see every musician they wanted to, and schedule conflicts could be fixed.  When these factors are considered, it is clear to see that ACL should be extended to two weeks, just as Robin has suggested.
If critics of this plan feel that Robin's logical arguments are not enough, I would refer them to the Coachella music festival in California. Coachella has been utilizing the two weekend method for many years, and they have been incredibly successful. This should be used as a model to strongly affirm Robin's stance on this matter.