Efficiency vs. Expediancy

Sep 27, 2013 by

For a few years now, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad Company has been trying to expand the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach by expanding one rail yard and building two new rail yards.  This will allow for more traffic to flow through both ports, creating more jobs and making the ports more competitive in the international trade market.

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Long Beach, California

This is a wonderful example of the difference between ‘efficiency’ and ‘expediency.’  To be efficient according to the Free Online Dictionary, one must be “acting or producing effectively with a minimum of waste, expense, or unnecessary effort.”[1]  In contrast, being expedient means “serving to promote one’s interest.”[2]  The two can be confused when a person thinks that his own interest is the most important interest.

Opponents of the BNSF Railroad Company’s plan say that this expansion isn’t as necessary as the Company makes it out to be.[3]  But the most important issue for community members of Long Beach is that it will further negatively impact an already overtaxed population living in the west side of Long Beach.  This community already suffers from high rates of lung disease, high amounts of traffic, and few parks to relieve the industrial impact from the Port of Long Beach.

Instead of demanding the expansion project be completely scrapped, City Fabrick, a nonprofit organization “dedicated to improving the physical environment of Long Beach through design, planning, policy and engagement,”[4] has come up with a new plan to divert the expansion away from the community and create hundreds of acres of park land while at the same time allowing for industrial growth to take place.  The plan is laid out in detail here.

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a map illustrating City Fabrick’s plan to create park space in West Long Beach

The plan of the BNSF Railroad Company is expedient.  Of course they want to expand the rail yards surrounding the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports, because they would be able to make more money off the increased trade and transportation.  But they are ignoring the interests of the community and instead subjecting them to more pollution and more traffic.  City Fabrick’s plan on the other hand seems to be very well thought out, keeping both the interests of the railroad company and the community in mind and trying to use the land as efficiently as possible, rather than as profitably as possible.

Job creation and preservation is important, especially in this day and age.  But jobs are supposed to be a means to an end, not the end goal itself.  The end goal is supposed to be happiness, and if we aren’t pursuing happiness in communities like Long Beach, then we aren’t pursuing the right goal.


[1] efficient. (n.d.) The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. (2003). Retrieved September 24 2013 from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/efficient

[2] expedient. (n.d.) The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. (2003). Retrieved September 24 2013 from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/expedient

[3] Jennifer Medina, “A Busy California Port Seeks to Grow, but a Neighbor Objects,” New York Times, published April 11, 2013, Retrieved September 24, 2013. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/12/us/rail-project-for-port-of-los-angeles-sparks-anger-in-long-beach.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

[4] City Fabrick, “About,” Retrieved September 24, 2013, http://www.cityfabrick.org/about-us-2/

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