In the closing days of the 1986 Senate campaign in California, then Senator Alan Cranston asked if there was anything else he could do to insure his reelection. A young brash aide retorted, “is there anyway 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. Even elections that required 2/3’s of the vote were attained by promising the electorate that BART would come to San Jose and help relieve future traffic congestion.
High Speed Rail was 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 site.
NIMBY’s regularly use the traffic issue to defeat potential projects be they residential or commercial. Many developers are required to improve traffic as a part of their project; even then the NIMBY’s don’t believe the science; it’s sort of like climate change to the FOX News audience. If there are new homes, traffic must get worse–regardless of the improvements a developer proposes–just as when it is this cold in New York in the winter, there can’t be any climate change.
So woe to any politician who deliberately causes a traffic jam. Hence, the Chris Christie scandal in New Jersey. The George Washington Bridge is the most heavily travelled bridge in the nation. To close it in an effort to damage a political opponent is stupid. Imagine the short lifespan of any California politician who would purposely shut down the Bay Bridge for no reason–and simply note the public reaction to a potential BART strike. It isn’t pretty.
It is true that the public has a short memory regarding scandals. You can cheat on your spouse, smoke crack, instant message your genitals (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 numerous other sins. But there are three transgressions voters will never forgive; stealing from the public, engaging in the sexual exploitation of children and purposely causing a traffic jam.
The presidential race is still not until 2016, but one prediction that could be made with relative certainty today; there won’t be a President Christie.