Thought of the day: Can public transport be run by a nonprofit?
President-elect Obama has instituted something called the Citizen’s Briefing Book. On the website his administration is promoting the ideas of the common citizen, looking to them to raise their thoughts on the important issues in their lives.
Today, I was looking through the book and came across an idea from someone about mandating the use of public transportation. This isn’t an old concept, every American interested in the environment or community matters has probably thought about this at one time. As I was reading the paragraph in the book an idea kind of struck me. What if nonprofits ran public transportation? Yes, the public institutions that run them sometimes act like nonprofit organizations, but I am talking about nonprofits in the pure sense of the word.
Here’s what I am thinking. In all cities in the United States the federal government gives grants to nonprofit organizations to start or expand the current public transportation in the city. If a nonprofit runs it that means no profits are being distributed to a wealthy board and executive or transferred to other city programs. They have a self-governing board, they are working for public benefit, and are able to take donations from people in the community. The nonprofit will work closely with the community, creating community action networks to enhance the public transportation, and the organization will institute volunteer hours to clean the tracks and fix up the trains. I feel like more community members would rally around the idea.
My idea isn’t fully thought through, but it feels like a possibility. I have always thought government should rely more on the nonprofit sector, and provide more support without creating more of their own programs. What do you think, could nonprofits run public transportation? Are there other programs nonprofit organizations could run that public officials are currently running?