Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Public v. Private and Need v. Necessity

On a recent trip to St. Pete Beach Florida I noticed an interesting phenomenon, the use of privately-owned "smart cars" as modes of FREE transportation to and from restaurants, beaches and watering holes.  Jake and I have been visiting the St. Pete Beach area going on 15 years now and the normal mode of transportation outside of your private or rental car has been the standard taxicab.  The taxi was certainly an option but it entailed waiting for unspecified amounts of time, astronomical tabs for short distances and less than stellar interior ride conditions.  As years progressed and need demanded, the city saw a niche that it could fill while adding to the "small beach town" ambiance and thus the trolley was introduced.  Novel at first to ride a vintage-looking trolley up and down the 5-7 mile strip for less than a dollar each way, the trolley soon wears on your patience.  It is nothing to wait 15-30 minutes for a trolley to get to a stop and then the attendants are less than helpful recommending things to see or where you need to get off for a particular venue.  For example, one foggy night, we told the trolley conductor that we were headed to Corey Avenue, which is an on-the-water crossroads for restaurants and live music.  Did he stop, did he ask, did he indicate that we were close by,even though we were the only ones on the trolley? Nope.  Just kept gettin' it down Gulf Boulevard.  As I stated, it was unusually foggy and we had a 3 year old to distract us, so we ended up just outside of Treasure Island, some 3 miles from where we wanted to be and the trolley had no plans on coming back to the St. Pete side that evening.  Well, let's just say at that point, thank God we had cash and thank God for cabs!

Well, fast-forward to my last few trips this past year and the advent of the entrepreneur has arrived on the Gulf!  Little, open-air "smart cars" adorned with advertising, zipping up and down the road and best of all they are FREE!!  Restaurants and bars call them, they arrive on time and guess what?  They really are FREE, taking tips only, but making the  majority of their money off of the advertising.  The drivers are great tour guides and remember to pick you back up at specified times from specified places because guess what?  They work for tips and their service has a direct impact on their take home each night.  So once again, the private sector proves that they do it best and most effectively and at less burden to the tax payer.  This service has even upgraded to "green" vans for larger groups.

Looking at the virtually empty trolley crawling lazily up and down the strip may have been nostalgic but one's thing for sure, I for one, am glad it was replaced with something that is effective, efficient, clean and entertaining.  A great example of how American ingenuity can take and discern the demands and expectations between a need v. a necessity and capitalize on it...What do you think the next BIG need is, that private business would be better at serving as opposed to public/taxpayer funding?