ARG-047

The following is a letter to the editor of the Waymarsh Times.

"Traffic here in Waymarsh is becoming a problem. Although just three years ago a state traffic survey showed that the typical driving commuter took 20 minutes to get to work, the commute now takes closer to 40 minutes, according to the survey just completed. Members of the town council already have suggested more road building to address the problem, but as well as being expensive, the new construction will surely disrupt some of our residential neighborhoods. It would be better to follow the example of the nearby city of Garville. Last year Garville implemented a policy that rewards people who share rides to work, giving them coupons for free gas. Pollution levels in Garville have dropped since the policy was implemented, and people from Garville tell me that commuting times have fallen considerably. There is no reason why a policy like Garville's shouldn't work equally well in Waymarsh."


Write a response in which you discuss what specific evidence is needed to evaluate the argument and explain how the evidence would weaken or strengthen the argument.


The author suggests that a policy implemented in Garville to improve traffic and reduce commuting times should work equally in Waymarsh. According to the letter, the traffic condition in Way marsh is worsening, evidenced by the doubling commuter time compared to three years ago. Although some town council members proposed building more roads, the construction is expensive and disruptive, so the author suggests following the example of the nearby city of Garville. By rewarding people who share rides to work, the author concluded that the pollution level and commuter time in Waymarsh would both decrease. Although it may be reasonable to adopt the positive policy, this is not a conclusion that can be safely arrived at given the amount of information presented by the author. More evidence is needed to determine whether such a proposal will be effective.

In the first place, the author mentions that traffic in Waymarsh is becoming a problem, since the typical commuter now takes 40 minutes to get to work. By comparison, commuting took 20 minutes three years ago. Yet, it is not necessary that residents in Waymarsh live in the same place for the past three years. It may be the case that the city has expanded, and people tend to live farther away from their work places. To test the veracity of this claim, we need a report about the distance of a typical commute today and the commute distance three years ago. If the report shows that the typical distance for people to go to work is much longer than it was three years ago, it would mean that people spending more times in their cars is not because of the heavy traffic. In that case, the author’s claim would be weakened. On the other hand, it’s possible that the report shows that people still live close to work nowadays. In this case, it might because the traffic is heavier now, and the author’s claim would be strengthened.

Granted that the traffic condition in Waymarsh has worsened and requires improvement, whether the policy implemented in Garville should be followed demands more considerations. The author first suggests that the pollution levels have dropped in Garville since the policy was implemented. However, we are not informed about other policy changes in Garville and the the improvement of the environmental quality might be caused by other factors. Hence, we need to know whether Garville implemented other policies that can potentially contribute to improving air pollution at the same time. If it turns out that Garville has not done anything that can contribute to improving air pollution other than the ride-sharing policy, it is likely that the new policy might help reduce the air pollution level in Waymarsh, and the author’s argument would be strengthened. In contrast, if it was strict policies such as restricting factory’s emission of polluted dusts that reduced Garville’s pollution levels, the author’s conclusion would be less convincing.

Additionally, the second purported benefit of ride-sharing in Garville is a falling commuting times. Nonetheless, it is possible that residents are changing their schedules to avoid heavy traffic in the morning. To test the validity of the claim, we need a survey asking whether people reporting that their commuting times have fallen is due to other reasons; for example, do they still go to work at the same time as they did before? How much ride-sharing have people done? On one hand, showing people tend to leave to work earlier than they did before would explain the less time for commute, which has little to do with rewarding ride-sharer, and the author’s argument would be weakened. On the other hand, an unchanged schedule and a high participation rate in the ride-sharing program would strengthen the author’s conclusion.

Finally, granted that Garville’s ride-sharing policy did solve the pollution and commuting problems, more evidence is needed to evaluate the claim that such a policy would work equally well in Waymarsh. This conclusion is built upon the assumption that Garville and Waymarsh have similar urban geography. And yet no supporting evidence is presented. To solve such uncertain questions, a detailed city map is highly desirable. It may be the case that Garville’s working area are clustered, and it is easier for people to share rides to workplaces. The author’s argument would be bolstered if the map shows both city have clustered working areas or business areas. In contrast, if the map reveals that companies in Waymarsh are scattered, then it would be difficult for people to share rides. In this scenario, implementing Garville’s ride-sharing policy in Waymarsh may not be effective at all.

To sum up, while it may be logical to implement positive policy in Waymarsh, the author does not convincingly present evidence to support its claim. We need more information to make a rational judgment on whether such policy will be effective in Waymarsh.

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