“If you helped them get across the border then your problems would be much more manageable.” Jose said.
“If they don’t want to be here, then why don’t they just leave?” Denice asked.
“It is like the song, ‘Welcome to the Hotel California, You can check out any time you like but you can’t every leave.” Jose answered. “The government has made it incredibly hard for people to emigrate out of Cali.”
“It is a hundred and fifty miles from here to the border. That is too far to walk and, until recently, it was impossible to find room on a bus. Even now, bus seats are reserved for critical employees.” Jose said.
“Let me get this straight,” Denice rephrased, “most of my unemployed immigrants want to go back to Mexico or where-ever and my government policies are preventing them. And that is what you are telling me is dragging down the economy?”
“Exactly.” said Jose.
“Hmm. I have some very smart people working for me. Let me see what I can come up with.” Denice said.
At which time the main course arrived and all business conversation stopped.
“And so you see I need to get even more buses running.” Denice was telling Tony Martinez, the Chairman of the union representing most of the employees of the Transportation Department.
Tony said, “I don’t agree. For one thing all of the ones that had problems that were easy to fix are back on the road. The remaining buses are going to take a lot longer to fix. Oh, ‘Thanks’ by the way. My mechanics and drivers are a lot less stressed now days.”
“I cannot accept ‘No’ if the only reason you can give me is because it will be ‘hard’.” Denice responded.
“I am not done talking.” Tony said. “You know you have a bad habit of interrupting. Oh, yeah, the rest of my thought…”
“You probably did not know that half of the time our buses are running dead-head, that is, with no passengers.” Tony said.
“That is stupid. Why would you run buses without passengers?” Denice queried.
“Don’t have a choice.” Tony said. “In the morning we pick up passengers in the suburbs and bring them downtown. The bus has to go back to the suburbs to pick up more passengers. Almost nobody is traveling from downtown to the suburbs early in the morning. The buses are nearly empty when they travel back out to the suburbs. The pattern is reversed in the late afternoon and evening.”
“You have capacity. You just have to figure out a way to make it available to people who cannot pay.” Tony mused.
“Any ideas on that?” Denice asked as she sipped her vending machine coffee.
“I have one but it is pretty radical. What if you charged a double-fare for the leg of the trip that took the rider farther from the Mexican border and let them passengers ride for free on the return leg. So passengers would pay for the inbound leg on routes south of downtown and passengers would pay for the outbound leg on routes north of downtown.” Tony said.
Denice shook her head. “That runs the risk of displacing the few workers who are keeping the economy afloat. Try again.”
“OK, what if those free fares only applied during the time windows when the buses run dead-head on those legs. Would that work?” Tony asked.
“How would you justify that?” Denice asked.
“Well, drivers would not waste as much time at each stop while people messed around digging up their change.” Tony said.
“OK, supposing we go with that, how would you roll that out?” Denice asked, “It is not like I can go on the radio and announce that Cali was a failed state and cannot feed her citizens. That isn’t going to fly in Sacramento.”
Tony shook his head. “You know, for a smart lady you are really stupid about some things.” he said.
“Ya, ya, ya.” Denice said. “You union pukes always say that about management. But you don’t have to deal with the kinds of politics I do.”
“Cut to the chase. What is the best way to roll it out?” Denice said.
Tony said, “The best way to spread information is to swear somebody to secrecy and then tell them the information is confidential. There is no surer way to have the world know.