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A lesson for Park City from the country’s airports

One of the ideas you hear from time to time is that Park City should be make it so painful to drive a car that we’ll all jump into buses. I envision parking on Main Street at $30, comparable to what you’ll find on the Magnificent Mile in Chicago. I envision one lane traffic on 248, with the other lane dedicated to buses. I envision painfully unfortunate ideas that someone thinks will force drivers off our roads.

Frankly, making something so painful that others don’t want to do it just never made sense to me.

With that in mind, you may have read or seen news reports about recent issues at airports where TSA checkpoint lines can be almost two hours long. It appears the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) had to reduce their budget, so they reduced staff and hoped that travelers would go through the TSA-PRE process. The PRE process requires travelers to submit fingerprints, go through a background check, pay $85, and go to the airport for an afternoon of interviews. For that inconvenience, you get to keep your shoes and coat on when going through security. You also get to go through metal detectors versus the RAPI-SCAN Machines (that’s actually what the body scanners are called).

Unfortunately, it appears enough US citizens weren’t willing to trade their personal information for convenience. So, not enough people signed up with TSA-PRE. So, the feeling is that the TSA further reduced staffing and changed rules to PROVE how painful it can be to go through the airport, unless you get TSA-PRE.

Sound familiar? We are going to make something so painful that it will cause change!

Will it work? It’s probably too early to tell. Early reports are that TSA-PRE are up a bit. However is that because every single media source in the US is now suggesting you sign up for TSA-PRE (oh the power of media connected to government). Does it cause long term changes? It’s too early.

However, what it has done for sure is paste pictures of 2000 person airport lines on the front page of every major paper in the country.  All you read is about how BAD the TSA is. TSA Sucks. TSA horrible. TSA is ineffective. For instance:

There is obviously a difference between the TSA and Park City. However, our paths likely converge if our city follows the same route as TSA.

Hypothetically, if Park City decided to remove half of its parking spaces, would people happily conclude, “Wow. We should ride buses” or would they complain to their friends, neighbors, and anyone that will listen about how hard it is to visit Park City? I’m betting on the latter… if we were successful enough in making Park City such a hard place to get around.

I know we are not at the point where we are implementing these type of ideas in some sort of wide scale fashion yet … but you can never start too early with raising awareness in Park City. Hopefully our leaders won’t consider tarnishing our city’s image in order to (likely unsuccessfully) convince people to ride buses. If they do, they need to know the consequences.

People don’t always like being treated like a rat in a maze.




The TSA story is a little more nuanced. To whit:
-It’s security theater. We all know (especially after all the fake bomb/gun tests that got through 97% of the time) that TSA is not actually doing anything useful.
-Budget cuts, rather than bureaucratic malevolence, were the primary driver.
-The precheck/clear stuff isn’t as onerous as you make it out to be at all. It’s actually very easy. Whether it should cost any *money* is an open question, but it’s not hard to get the prechecked/CLEAR/whatever certification if you want it.

Second, traffic and parking are almost perfect tragedy of the commons scenarios – unlike the TSA/airline security case in almost every way. They’re free, but limited resources. It’s in everyone’s interest to use as much as possible, but collectively insane to act that way. You can agree or disagree about solutions, but *charging money for a service commensurate with it’s value* is the definition of how free market economies work so well. If you want to defend socialized roads/parking/etc, feel free. But the bottom line is that it’s a demonstrably stupid way to set things up.

It would be pretty easy to give everyone an RFID tag for their car, then charge them per mile/hour of parking. It would simultaneously be easy to understand, not limiting of individual freedom (you can walk, bike, take the bus, etc), and help prevent collectively stupid decisions like 500 people sitting alone in their 1500 pound vehicles idling. If you think that’s a smart way to get around… I don’t know what to say.

Me, I’ll be on my bike. I scoff at traffic. So do whatever you want. But don’t complain to me about traffic, because the solution is pretty obvious.

brian feltovich

Agree with Walt that the main culprit for the long lines we’re seeing now is actually Congressional budget-cutting. TSA workers are in a union and we all know how the political party in power feels about unions.

From an article way back in 2014:

“The legislation funds the TSA at $4.6 billion, a cut of more than $300 million to the agency compared to current funding levels. That includes a $26.3 million cut to TSA personnel, and a $39 million cut to funding for TSA headquarters. In total, TSA would be cut more than 6 percent under the bill.

It also reduces the cap on full-time airport screeners to 45,000, from 48,000. Appropriators say that reduction would force the TSA to shift to risk-based screening.

Republicans have recently sought to reduce the total number of TSA screeners, in the hopes of eventually privatizing the job. Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), for instance, has been pushing for fewer TSA screeners as a response to complaints that they are rude to travelers.

While TSA would see cuts under the bill, other parts of DHS that focus on border security would see increases. It boosts funding for U.S. Customs and Border Protection by nearly $220 million, in order to maintain the record-high number of border patrol agents now in place, and increases funding for border security technology.”


Before the movie Bikes Vs. Cars at the library the other week, someone from the county (sorry, don’t remember his name), got up and said that we can add more bus routes, increase frequency of buses, and make it much easier to ride a bus, but nothing will change unless people change their habits. COME ON PEOPLE!!

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