GRE Practice Argument Topic 5: Balmer Island Mopeds

ESSAY PROMPT

The following appeared in a letter to the editor of the Balmer Island Gazette.

“On Balmer Island, where mopeds serve as a popular form of transportation, the population increases to 100,000 during the summer months. To reduce the number of accidents involving mopeds and pedestrians, the town council of Balmer Island should limit the number of mopeds rented by the island’s moped rental companies from 50 per day to 25 per day during the summer season. By limiting the number of rentals, the town council will attain the 50 percent annual reduction in moped accidents that was achieved last year on the neighboring island of Seaville, when Seaville’s town council enforced similar limits on moped rentals.”

Write a response in which you discuss what questions would need to be answered in order to decide whether the recommendation is likely to have the predicted result. Be sure to explain how the answers to these questions would help to evaluate the recommendation.

ESSAY

The introduction of a strict daily limit on moped rentals from 50 to just 25 per day on Balmer Island in order to achieve a 50% reduction in moped accidents is a policy that raises a number of important questions from both the point of view of economic viability and feasibility given the specific features of the Balmer Island community and its potential differences from its model neighbor, Seaville. There are also a number of specific concerns with regard to the efficacy of such a policy implementation across both communities.

First of all, there is the question of population. Balmer Island’s population during the summer months balloons to 100,000. But what percentage increase does this represent with respect to that community’s population during the off-season? And how does that compare with Seaville’s population? On the topic of demographics, the average age of moped users would be another useful factor to come to take into account since it is common knowledge that younger drivers are more predisposed to traffic accidents.

In addition to these demographic concerns, such infrastructure issues as the quality of each community’s roads and multi-modal transportation infrastructure might also come into play. For instance, a high rate of bus or taxi usage in Seaville may have tacitly contributed to or helped catalyze the effects of that town’s moped policy. Plus, the sheer quality of roads and bridges may have accounted for some of the accidents on Balmer Island. That is, it might be pertinent to know the relative age of these two communities’ roadways and their relative levels of maintenance.

Beyond these concerns, it would certainly be helpful to know precisely what sort of policy Seaville implemented that saw such a drastic decrease in the number of accidents from one year to the next. We are told that it was similar to the one under consideration on Balmer Island, but in what respects is it different? And how was it enforced? Were any fines issued to rental companies? Were there any costs associated with increased levels of vigilance or policing? What was the reaction to the policy by all the relevant stakeholders? In the prompt, Seaville’s moped policy measure seems to be viewed as a positive or strived-for model by the denizens of Balmer Island, but policy makers would do well to investigate the longer-term effects of the policy both on public safety as well as the local tourist economy. How was it successful apart from the reduction of accidents? Limiting transportation options for visitors may indeed decrease noise levels and add to the overall beauty of the island, but what unintended negative consequences might there have been?

Most obviously, I can’t imagine that the moped rental sector of the town’s industry was very enthusiastic about the mandated cuts. Then again, this may have allowed for price cuts. So, one final, crucial line of questioning would go to the core of the matter itself—what were the effects on the rental companies? Were Seaville moped rental services able to charge more for their newly scarce commodity? Or on the contrary, were their businesses undercut by new public awareness of the environmental nuisance of the bikes?

These are some of the centrally important questions that Balmer town council would need to address in their deliberations over this policy.

REFLECTION

I wrote this essay after watching 2 episodes of Breaking Bad.  It’s not clear how this timing affected my writing.  But I feel more confident about this ESSAY than about yesterday’s “ISSUE TOPIC.”  I just asked myself, “What would Gus Fring do in this situation?”  And the answer came tapping from the tips of my fingers: poison Don Eladio, take your revenge on the Cartel, and score a 6 on the open-ended section of the test.  So, that’s probably what I did.

But don’t take my word for it!

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