In the closing days of the 1986 U.S. Senate race in California, then-Senator Alan Cranston asked if there was anything else he could do to ensure his reelection. A brash young aide replied, “Is there any way you can reduce the voters’ commute time by 15 minutes?” The Senator laughed out loud. If he could, he would.
There are few issues that move voters more than traffic. In Santa Clara County, voters have continually supported new taxes if the money would go to reduce traffic. Promising the electorate that BART would come to San Jose and help relieve future traffic congestion led to the passage of measures that required 2/3 of the vote.
High-speed rail passed because of the number of people it would take off the 5 in Los Angeles. Google, Apple and other Silicon Valley firms provide their own buses. Corporations subsidize their employees who take BART and CalTrain, and many provide shuttles to their job sites.
NIMBYs regularly cite traffic issues to defeat potential projects, whether they’re residential or commercial. Even though many developers are required to improve traffic as a part of a project, the NIMBYs ignore this truth. The theory that traffic must get worse if any new homes are built—regardless of the improvements a developer proposes—is close-minded.
So, woe to any politician—ahem, Chris Christie—who deliberately causes a traffic jam, such as. The George Washington Bridge in New Jersey is the most heavily travelled bridge in the nation. Closing it in an effort to damage a political opponent is beyond stupid. Imagine the short lifespan of any California politician who would purposely shut down the Bay Bridge for no reason. Simply take note of the public reaction to potential BART strikes. It isn’t pretty.
The public has a short memory regarding scandals, but there are three transgressions voters will never forgive. You can cheat on your spouse, smoke crack, instant message your junk (just don’t do it again), drive drunk, duck military service, not vote in previous elections, go bankrupt, lie on your resume, plagiarize another’s work, cheat on an exam, blatantly lie to voters, smear your opponent and commit numerous other sins. What you can’t do is steal from the public, engage in the sexual exploitation of children or purposely causing a traffic jam.
The presidential race is still not until 2016, but here’s one prediction that can be made with relative certainty: There won’t be a President Christie.
Rich Robinson is an attorney and political consultant in Silicon Valley.