Monday, May 12, 2014

Public transport, less regulation would reduce DWI arrests

The Austin Statesman on Saturday published an item touting expanded public transportation options as a remedy for DWI. The article opened:
In the wake of several high-profile deaths in which pedestrians were hit by suspected drunken drivers this year, an Austin council member is seeking to expand the city’s transportation options during hours when the most people need rides.

Council Member Chris Riley wants the city to create a pilot program for so-called transportation networking companies, such as Uber and Lyft, and for the city to work with the three taxi companies that operate in Austin to figure out how to meet peak taxi demand.

Many residents have recently expressed concerns about transit options, Riley said, largely because of problems with drunken driving.

“They don’t feel there are adequate alternatives to driving home after a night of drinking,” he said. “If we had better cab service, if we had options like transportation networking companies, and if we had a well-known and convenient public transportation service, then that would go a long way toward providing more alternatives to drunk driving.”
I couldn't agree more. Grits has long held that such structural barriers to getting drinkers home from the bar districts play a big role in preventing more substantial reductions in DWIs. Austin has failed to invest in public transportation on anything remotely like the scale required to accommodate its recent, fantastic growth rates. And our antiquated taxi regulations are more about protecting a local oligopoly than maximizing benefit to the public. Again from the article:
Sara LeVine, founder of ATX Safer Streets, a group aimed at reducing impaired driving through late-night transportation options, said she’d like to see the city issue more taxi permits and legalize transportation networking companies while protecting existing cab services.

But Ron Means, general manager of Austin Cab, said both ideas have the potential to decimate the taxi industry in Austin and endanger residents who might get in a car with a unvetted driver working for a transportation networking company.
I don't know about you, I'm far less afraid of a sober, "unvetted driver" than a drunk one. And the idea that rideshare services like Uber, Lyft or Sidecar "endanger residents" more than traditional cab companies is dramatically overblown.

The website for ATX Safer Streets, a group begun after the horrific crash at this year's SXSW event, has a good number of interesting research and proposals for expanding transportation options to reduce DWI. IMO they're very much onto something: There's a limit to how much an enforcement-only approach to DWI can affect the problem when structural design, regulatory and zoning issues encourage the problem police are trying to solve through arrests and jail threats.

See prior, related Grits posts:


Anonymous said...

Believe it or not but in houston the problem with public transportation goes back to the original R sin--Racism. So many of the suburbs in houston specifically prohibit public transportation to keep out "criminal elements". On its face this sounds like a very noble goal but to some of us who older, we know exactly what that means, and so should you.

sunray's wench said...

Issue clear permits and licences to the taxis so that even a drunk man can see it's a bona fide cab, and things will work. Paint the taxis a specific colour that no one else would want to have their vehicle painted. Have a strict and regulated scale of charges that is clearly publicised.

I really don't understand the resistance of Texans to trying things that work perfectly OK everywhere else.

TriggerMortis said...

And Houston just announced a "get tougher" attitude because nothing they do there works.

Anonymous said...

Cops will then board whatever mode of public transportaion you are using and charge you with public intoxication. A lessor charge, but again, no escape. Give us the money...NOW!

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:41,

What has always astounded me is the idea of public intoxication in a bar of all places! TABC was infamous for just those types of arrests. :~)

Anonymous said...

Equally astounding is the idea of cop cars parked near the exits of bars.

This Bars-to-Bars campaign is where the money is. It's financial war between the Cops & Cabs, first come, first served.

Sadly, when you are focused on the easiest targets, the drunks leaving the houses & aprtments easily mix into the traffic and pass within a few feet of the pray & prayed on. (Why in hell,they feel comfortable performing stops on the shoulder is a WTF? in itself)

Solution(s): (BARS / Clubs / Entertainment Venues)

*Mandatory Sober-Up-Lobby (waiting areas set up to serve free coffee, colas and breakfast tacos with 100% of proceeds from the S-U-Ls Tip-Bucket designated for those assigned via rotating lotto to wait on exiting patrons, supplies & membership program).

*Mandatory - Exit interview with discrete / complimentary BAC Exam. Quiet Phone Booths set up for complimentary calls for friends or family to come retrieve patrons.

*Mandatory - Patron Taxi / Ride Service Membership Program for those deemed "OVER-THE-LIMIT" with no one to contact. Bar / Club Owners receiving: unlimited service calls during regular business hours, including up to 1 hour after closing. Patrons not charged for rides but being allowed to tip.

*One Hundred Thousand Dollar Fines - for those shown to have either - thrown, pushed, chucked, tossed, flung, patrons out onto the streets with no record of offering to contact a ride service.

*Mandatory - Digital recording of all Entrances, Exits & full view of parking lot(s) and restroom doors.

Solutions: Residential (all forms)

*DWI Attorneys / Lawyers being allowed to take out Ads in cities & towns that appear as 'Inserts' in Utility Bills. 12 times per year, residents being alerted to the personal and financial consequences of home owners & renters alike regarding drinking and driving and / or allowing someone to leave a party or event after drinking without a sober up opportunity.

*Medical professionals being allowed to take out Ads revealing the personal & financial consequences of introducing alcohol into the human body. HD photos of liver / kidney damage and crumpled vehicles with blood stained crash sites.

Anonymous said...

Last time I was in Houston, I remember a highway that was lined with bars that had full parking lots and wondered how any of those people got home. One bar I went to there at closing the entire bar stumbled out drunk and just drove home wasted. No busses anywhere

Here we have numerous programs like 'saferide' where a bus drops off drunks at home, plus there is always taxis and bus stops near bars