Friday, March 19, 2010

The Censeless Universe

The U.S. Census Bureau certainly has spent a lot of money getting the word about its once-a-decade operation this year, with promotional materials in just about every known language and a presence at all the ethnic festivals in San Francisco, including the St. Patrick's Day Parade last Saturday.

One of their national ad campaigns, however, is unintentionally ironic in the context of San Francisco. "If we don't know how many people we have, how do we know how many buses we need?" reads a huge billboard on the side of every other Muni bus these days.

This sounds as if the MTA (Municipal Transportation Agency) actually cares about its ridership and crowded buses, which as any Muni rider knows is a cruel fiction. In fact, the agency has just proposed yet another reduction in services along with another raise in fares after instituting the same counterintuitive policies just a few months ago. "How do we know how many buses we need?" seems to have less to do with actual ridership than how much money can be milked for six figure management salaries and multi-million "work orders" for other city departments such as the police. These ads are a perfect illustration of adding insult to injury.


affinity said...

We watched Gary Locke, the Secretary of Commerce in the Obama administration, found himself opposite Jon Stewart on The Daily Show Thursday night.

The subject of his appearance: the 2010 Census, mandated by the Constitution and targeted by right-wingers. With good humor, Locke defended the Census Bureau against charges that Big Brother government doesn't need to know how many folks live in your house.

I know I am naive but I was pretty impressed, and I did not know that the Census was so old....

AphotoAday said...

My god, who's the nincompoop who came up with that sign on the side of the bus? --But yeah, seems simple enough -- just divide the population of San Francisco by some magic number and you come up with the number of buses needed. Who knew it could be that easy?

Roy said...


Yes, it is that simple, if you know the population of San Fransico. Those numbers come from the Census.

The Census is tasked with finding out how many people are in the country, states, and cities. It is up to the people in those political subdivisions to make rational policy.

The Census has been doing this as long as we have been under this Constitution, 220 years.

We are still a Democracy so if you want more Buses, you got the information you need, lobby for more.

sfmike said...

Dear Roy: Welcome from Alvin, Texas. Donald (photoaday) was being sarcastic, actually. Everyone who is a public transportation rider in San Francisco has been lobbying for better service and more buses while the powers that be have been doing just the opposite, the actual population be damned.

I'm currently working for the Census Bureau this year, and am also a local bus rider, so the irony was doubly acute.