New IPhone App Fails Government Transportation Funding Support Criteria

Steven Polzin's picture
A friend of mine who's a biophysicist popped in to see me the other day.  He was all excited and showed me his "patent pending" letter for his newest invention.  He was seeking help in deploying his new iPhone app.  He had inquired about government grants, but was summarily dismissed as he explained his new transportation solution would eliminate thousands of transportation jobs.  And the whole concept of shovel ready didn't make much sense to him as his project only required some software and a new low cost computer chip. 

He said he explained to the bureaucrat that his iPhone app would revolutionize transportation and provide phenomenal increases in productivity and improvements to quality of life.  No emissions, no GHG, no accidents, but no jobs either.  It wouldn't stimulate development around stations because there would be no need for stations. 

No jobs, - the bureaucrats weren't interested – therefore no money.

He couldn't understand the infatuation with jobs - everybody knows the most efficient and productivity enhancing transportation investments require less jobs, not more jobs.  So why would evaluators be equating benefits with job creation?

I explained to my colleague that we are in a strange new world. The fundamental benefits of mobility have faded in significance as our metrics for evaluating transportation investments are more focused on responding to the political issue du jour.   If he wanted any help in deploying a transportation solution he'd somehow need to create lots and lots of jobs.

He briefly pondered my advice and said he would be back with an alternative strategy.  He had an idea that was snow shovel ready, would be very good for everyone's health and would create lots of jobs. 

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. 


Steven Polzin is the director of mobility policy research at the Center for Urban Transportation Research at the University of South Florida.




Carticipate? Huge potential in that idea, like the open source of transit.

Michael Rodriguez's picture

will an iPhone app "revolutionize" transpo.? Really?

I take issue with this post for a few reasons. First, the idea that an iPhone app can "revolutionize transportation" is a bit of hyperbole. I find it difficult to believe that any app can have this impact. Not everyone has an iPhone; even the iPhone owners aren't guaranteed to use the app; and what can the app possibly do? Remember, the Segway was also supposed to "revolutionize transportation."

Perhaps Mr. Polzin could elaborate on that, rather than expecting us to have faith in the magic transportation silver-bullet app that will revolutionize the way we get around. Is it made with pixie dust and unicorn tears too?

Also, what level of government was he dismissed with a grant from? Federal, state, local? If this app indeed is so "revolutionary," then why couldn't the developer find private capital and talent to create it? There are developers who spend time and money creating iFart apps; I'm sure he could find someone to do something so worthwhile.

Can Mr. Polzin explain how an app would possibly eliminate so many bureaucratic jobs? The whole thing might be a tiny bit plausible if this post did that.

And yes, governments calculate benefits to transportation investment, and that includes job creation. Its part of a standard cost-benefit analysis. This app wouldn't be an infrastructure investment though. But yet, it remains curious, elusive, and not specified. Our interest is piqued, but I for one don't buy the story or the notion that there was something so revolutionary that the government conspired to keep it down to save jobs. Lets not accuse government employees of such malicious intents and then not present the full facts of the case.

Also, perhaps if the readers here were illuminated as to what this app is about, they could aid in advocating for it; in questioning why it wasn't supported; in demanding it be deployed because it supposedly will "revolutionize."

So can we have some more facts and details? If not the story sounds like,

"Oh, my buddy came up with this like amazing new thing thats supposed to fix traffic and forever and ever, and like, the man, he only cares about himself right? So then he like totally kept him down because, like, his thing was going to make his job go away. But I can't tell you what the thing is cuz its totally super secret and only his mom knows about it cuz she saw it in the basement. But its like, totally awesome and will like, boom, blow you away. But the man, he's a jerk and kept him down because, like, hes dumb and only wants his job and stuff."

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