YOU MAY HAVE noticed the franchised bus companies clamouring loudly at a Legco transport panel meeting on Friday against plans by the MTR Corp to build two lines to the south side of Hong Kong island. It could result in up to 3,000 jobs being lost, they said. There would no longer be the same demand for bus services in the area and bus operators would have no option but to cancel routes and lay off employees. You may also have read that about 50 public transport workers staged a protest outside the Legco building at the same time. They largely represented taxi and minibus associations. Do not think of the protest outside as the less significant of the two. There is a very good reason for thinking that these people swing more weight with our politicians than the big bus companies do, leave alone than the MTRC does. Let us put the public transport picture into perspective. The first bar chart shows you average daily passenger journeys over the first three months this year split by transport operator. Kowloon Motor Bus is the biggest, followed by the MTRC and then minibuses and taxis. The rankings here should be no surprise. The surprise is in the second chart. It shows you a breakdown of the number of eligible voters to the Legco functional constituency seat for transport. They are all corporate entities and there are 191 in total, which is more than the 151 actually registered for the transport constituency, but then I suppose that some of them have not bothered to register. I have classified them by the same category as in the first chart. Yes, you have it. Kowloon Motor Bus, which carries 2.86 million passengers a day, gets one vote. The MTRC with 2.39 million passengers a day also gets just one vote. But minibus operators get 23 votes and the taxi constituency, with less than half the passenger count of KMB, gets 35 votes. Look down the list and there is a vote for almost every taxi lobby group you could think of. There is the Chuen Lee Radio Taxis Association, the Fraternity Association of NT Taxi Merchants, the Happy Taxi Operator's Association and the list just goes on an on. Same thing goes for minibuses. This is not to mention at least 24 more votes for various vehicle lobby groups and that is without taking into account goods vehicles. For the flavour of these 24, try the HK Right Hand Drive Motors Association. In fact if you treat the debate about these two MTRC lines as one of road versus rail, then by my count you have at least 88 votes for road (without goods vehicles) in the transport constituency and only one for the MTRC. It is sandwiched in the list between the Maritime Affairs Research Association and the Merchant Navy Officers' Guild-Hong Kong. Figure those two out if you can. I cannot, but each of the two gets just as much clout in the constituency. Perhaps the MTRC could get some support from that one vote for the Kowloon Canton Railway Corp but then there is no love lost between these two at the moment. The franchised bus companies will have much less trouble lining up the taxi and minibus votes. And all of this goes for more than the transport constituency alone. The same lists of voters show up in the electoral committee for the chief executive, a much weightier one than for the Legco transport seat. So before we can even begin to talk about whether commuters on Hong Kong island are better served by rail or road or whether an efficient economy can expect to make up for job losses in one sector with job gains in another, and I have plenty to say on that score, it seems that the debate is likely to end before it starts. I shed no tears for the MTRC. It has done its own share of raiding the public purse for support and, to my mind, has been more than just a little offhand in blithely assuming that it can continue to do so with these two island lines. But the way the vote has been stacked here is one of the best arguments I could ever muster against this strange political concoction we call the functional constituency.