Isn’t there a better way to save lives than a Golden Gate suicide net?

October 11, 2008

I’m not pro-suicide.  But $40-$50 million dollars + $78K/year to build a net under the Golden Gate Bridge in order to dissuade just a few dozen jumper a year seems outrageous, on so many fronts.

First, anybody who actually does jump is probably pretty serious about killing themselves — serious enough that they’ll find some other way.  So probably the most absurd part is it being a completely stupid and pointless plan on its face that will probably end up saving zero lives.

But ignoring that — after all, I’m willing to endorse symbolic plans on occasion — the price for this meaningless gesture is astronomical.  $40 – $50 *million* dollars?  To encourage only 39 jumpers a year to go somewhere else?  Who can possibly suggest it’s a wise expenditure of money, especially in this economic climate, to spend over a *million dollars* to stop just *one* jump a year?

To put that in perspective, if we kept that same money as cash, we could spend over $100,000 per jumper per year for the next century.  We could hire 50 full-time-people to just stand there, 24/7, and watch the bridge — perhaps talking down anybody who looks like they might jump — until 2108.  Even just investing $50M dollars at a 5% interest rate would earn $6.5 *billion* dollars in 100 years. 

Even if it were “only” the $78,000 per year maintenance fee (that’s right, once built, it needs to be maintained), that’s like $2000 per jumper per year.  Even that “paltry” amount could be better spent saving actual lives, or even just hiring another full-time member at a suicide prevention line.

So the cost is outrageous and simply indefensible, especially given it will completely fail to accomplish its objective.  But on top of this, the Golden Gate Bridge is a historic landmark that probably brings in billions of dollars a year in tourism to San Francisco.  We’re seriously going to be some huge frickin’ ugly net under it?  What kind of effect will that have on tourism or even our international reputation?

Who is in charge of this boondoggle of a plan, and is there any time to breathe sense into the process?  I’m down with spending money to save lives.  But this is just such a ridiculous waste of money it’s infuriating.

-david

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