Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Streetcar battle about to heat up

Fresno CA - An effort by Fresno Mayor Alan Autry to bring streetcars to the streets of Fresno for redevelopment reasons is about to get ugly.

Fresno City Council voted on Tuesday, October 23rd not to invest city time or money into the idea. The Mayor, of course, plans to veto the City Council's decision and move forward with a study of having streetcars in Fresno.

From what I can see so far in this, it is just another legacy line that Mayor Autry wants. He's so desperate for this streetcar line that he has bypassed the City Council and submitted his proposal for funding of the study to the Council of Fresno County Governments directly.

Of course, when the Mayor presented the plan to the Council of Governments, the impression was made that everyone was "on board" with the idea. To the contrary, many are not.

While the City Council voted to scrap the streetcar study, there may not be enough votes to override the Mayor's pending veto but that doesn't mean that the Mayor won the battle. The Council of Governments is going to review the funding request again based on the new evidence of the Mayor's staff misrepresenting the support for the streetcar study. The Mayor may not have the funding to do the study for his legacy line if the Council of Governments decides to revoke the funding.

This really doesn't surprise me. It happens all the time. A similar thing happened in Pittsburgh with the North Shore Connector last year. The transit system lied through their teeth saying everyone wanted the useless rail line under the river to obtain the funding. The FTA came close to revoking the funding once they found out that the line was not wanted by anyone except the transit system and a handful of politicians.

The people of Fresno need to keep up on this and do the research to learn that the Mayor's streetcar line will do nothing but cost them money. It won't revitalize the city nor will it solve any other problem. All it will do is give the Mayor a legacy line which will have a brass plaque somewhere along the route with his name on it as being instrumental in building the line.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Cincinnati ready to bet it all

Cincinnati OH - Cincinnati City Council is all set to hop on the streetcar bandwagon but has already had a power failure. The City Council, eager to show how business will support their plan, found out that businesses aren't quite as eager to participate as they had hoped.

Chris Bortz, a member of council, stated earlier that Duke Energy could pay to build the power grid needed for the city's streetcar plan but Duke Energy quickly put a stop to that idea. Duke Energy stated that it would not be the "sole funder" of the power infrastructure.

Not deterred, Bortz spinned Duke's refusal to go along as insignificant. He stated that "even without Duke, the streetcar line is such a good investment that other companies will put up money to make it happen."

Excuse me while I stifle a laugh.

While Bortz may find support from other businesses as he claims, that support will primarily be symbolic, not financial. The City Council wants private business to pick up the tab for about a third of the cost of the proposed $102 million dollar boondoggle. That proposed cost will surely be $200 million or more by the time all is said and done. Businesses, while supportive, have their own worries and making sure the city can build a streetcar line isn't one of them.

What is even more worrisome about the project is that the city is jumping on the streetcar bandwagon while already facing a $29 million dollar deficit without the project. Taxpayers of Cincinnati, hold onto your wallets as your about to get rolled big time if this streetcar idea isn't stopped now.

The streetcar line is being proposed strictly for developmental reasons. A virtual guarantee of financial failure. Taxpayers will be picking up the tab for decades to come for a project that won't even come close to doing what it is being promised.

Development will not occur unless the taxpayers are forced to fund tax breaks, sweetheart deals, grants and low interest loans (which are rarely ever paid back). This will cost hundreds of millions more on top of the cost to build and operate the streetcar line.

What is going to happen if this unneeded streetcar idea moves forward is this. Businesses will not even come close to contributing a third of the cost. If the city is lucky, they might get 5 to 8 percent from the private sector. Taxpayers will have to pick up the rest of the tab. Development will not happen for decades and then only on the backs of the taxpayers. Ridership will come nowhere close to projections and at the proposed 50 cent fare, a year's worth of farebox revenue will barely make a dent in the cost to operate the line for a week.

I give the Cincinnati City Council a big Lance for going out of their way to find new ways to spend money while already facing a huge deficit. The streetcar line is unneeded and the city clearly can't afford the luxury.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

MTA drops the signal on cell phones

New York City NY - The New York MTA is about to drop the connection when it comes to connecting up the subways and stations to allow calls.

The MTA entered into an agreement with a new start up company to connect the subways and stations to allow riders to use their cell phones. The problem is that the company, Transit Wireless, has no track record and the deal shows many of the signs of being too good to be true.

What I see happening here is that the MTA has set itself up to be screwed. They allowed the awarding of the contract without initially requiring that Transit Wireless was properly funded and bonded. After some pushing by city council, the MTA is now requiring Transit Wireless to get funding and bonding by its major contractors.

The deal the MTA entered into is supposed to cost the MTA absolutely nothing and it has the possibility of earning the MTA a little bit of cash. I doubt that will be the case. The deal has already cost the MTA money. Conveniently, the money spent to investigate, write up the specs and bid the contract are ignored. Money will continue to be spent to monitor performance once the wireless network in in place as well as additional indirect costs.

Personally I think the MTA rushed this cell phone plan through. Bit on the first bid and ran with it. That move may turn around to bite them back.

Additionally related to the upcoming wired subway network, New York City Council is urging the MTA to have "quiet" cars where riders could go to get away from their fellow travellers who insist on yakking away on their phones. It won't be officially enforced but enforced by the fellow passengers. Yeah, that will work well. It's just like passengers stopping other passengers from committing vandalism and littering.

I sense problems ahead in the MTA's rush to wire up the subway system given what I have seen so far. This plan really should have had more time to properly investigate as well as properly choose a provider that at least had a track record of delivering what they promise.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

UTA doing the old "Bait & Switch"

Salt Lake County UT - Yesterday I posted a quote from John Inglish, general manager for the Utah Transit Authority. The quote was simply "What's wrong with this picture?" regarding the transit tax repeal effort that is happening in Charlotte NC.

Today, it looks like Mr. Inglish may be facing his own fight to keep a voter approved transit tax. The Utah Transit Authority (UTA) is now trying to change the terms of the voter approved tax from a 30 year tax to a 50 year tax, with the possibility of it becoming a never ending tax. This without voter approval.

Needless to say, politicians in Salt Lake County are quite angry over this move by the UTA because it wasn't what the UTA said the tax would be. I'm more than sure the voters aren't happy about this either.

What happened was that the UTA misrepresented the original sales tax proposal to make it more palatable to the politicians and the public in order to secure funding to build, what else, a light rail line. Now that the tax was approved, the UTA has decided to change the terms so that it can pick the pockets of the public for another $5.5 billion dollars if it goes to 50 years and much more if it becomes a tax that never goes away.

The sales tax was approved to help fund building the line. That was what the UTA represented the tax as. Now it says that once the line is built, they need the tax to continue so they can operate it, basically a tax that will never go away. Technically, that additional operating funding should require another vote when the time comes to actually operate the line but the UTA decided to play dirty and change the rules after the tax to build the line was approved so that they wouldn't have to face the taxpayers at the polls.

That is exactly the kind of arrogance that led to the transit tax repeal effort that is currently happening in Charlotte, Mr. Inglish. To hell with the taxpayers who foot the bill for the spendthrift transit systems. If the UTA doesn't watch itself, Mr. Inglish will find himself in the middle of a tax repeal effort squarely directed at his transit system.

I do question why these same politicians that are mad about the bait and switch that the UTA is attempting didn't question how the UTA was going to pay to operate the line once built. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand that it would cost money to operate the line and the UTA would be begging for money to run it. Perhaps they did ask and were too confused with the answer as the UTA tap danced around the question. It wouldn't be the first time a TA baffled the public and politicians with bullshit because they couldn't dazzle them with brilliance.

While I generally am not in favor of transit tax repeals, as I mentioned in an earlier blog entry on Charlotte, I am changing my mind. The transit systems need to understand that they aren't getting free money and need to be responsible. Tricks like the UTA is trying to pull show the total lack of understanding of where the money really comes from. If the residents start fighting back by pursuing a tax recall, it might start waking some of these arrogant transit systems up when their revenue source dries up.

In the UTA's case, they obviously couldn't sell the rail line with the true costs to the public. So they lied. That tells me that they really didn't need the rail line in the first place. If the rail line was so desperately needed as the UTA claims, it would have sold itself to the public even with a never-ending sales tax to fund it. Having to pretty up the figures in order to trim billions off the cost of the rail line for public consumption says a lot about how the UTA perceives the taxpayer.

The UTA earns a Lance for the bait and switch tax move they are pulling on the taxpayers who were generous enough to approve the original tax that the UTA wanted. To try and change the terms after the fact without voter approval to grab more money may end up costing them much more than they think if a tax repeal effort happens and is successful.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Transit leaders getting worried

Charlotte NC - The American Public Transit Association (APTA) is holding its annual meeting in Charlotte this week. While not officially on the agenda, the transit tax repeal effort going on in the host city is squarely at the forefront of discussions at the meeting among transportation agency leaders from across the country.

Why? They are getting worried that the repeal effort could become a national trend.

These officials should worry. For decades, public transit has come up with new ways to squander public money. Led and urged on by APTA, which is nothing more than a Washington DC lobby group, transit systems across America have abandoned the concept of providing service and jumped on the numerous unneeded transit project bandwagons that ply the nation.

APTA president, Bill Millar stated that he can't recall any transit tax repeal vote like what is happening in Charlotte. Well Bill, get used to it as it will be happening more often as time goes on.

Many people are tired of the waste that generated from transit systems. Beside the waste generated from the TA's who have lost focus on what they are there for, cities use the transit systems more or less as prostitutes to further their goals such as development. APTA often acts as the pimp by pushing for rail or other unneeded transit projects that do little to serve the public and everything to waste money.

"What's wrong with this picture?" asked John Inglish, general manager for the Utah Transit Authority. What's wrong John is this; Charlotte's transit system can't afford to run what it has now, has lost focus on the basics of providing service and hasn't been a good steward of the taxpayer's money that it already receives.

The tax was originally passed for the system to help fund the operation of the rail line. Before the first rail was laid, CATS was already aggressively planning more rail lines. The original rail line needed to prove itself first before people were willing to pay even more for additional rail lines. CATS couldn't grasp that simple concept and thus the tax repeal effort was born.

Perhaps if the people of more cities across the nation adopted efforts to slap down their spendthrift transit systems and force them to fix what they already have in place before building more, public transit could become a viable option for many people again.

Clearly the APTA way of expensive transit projects isn't working well towards getting butts in seats. Its methods have helped push many transit systems over the brink yet the TA's continue to blindly follow.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Transit Tax Opponents Touch A Nerve

Charlotte NC - While I still believe that repealing the transit tax in Charlotte will ultimately hurt public transit more than it will help it, I am leaning more and more towards siding with the tax opponents based on many recent events.

The focus of the transit tax repeal effort is focused on the light rail line in Charlotte. An expensive line that many believe isn't being built for transportation but for developmental reasons and I completely agree. A commentary piece in the Charlotte Observer by two Mecklensburg County commissioners helps back that point up as well as shows the rabid response they received from the pro-rail crowd for opposing the line. Mecklensburg County commissioners Karen Bently (R) and Dan Bishop (R) penned the piece that appeared in the paper, primarily in response to another commentary piece in the paper by Observer columnist, Fannie Flono.

Flono calls for a "serious debate" without the exaggerations. Exaggerations such as that the line is being built for development rather than transportation is one of them. Ms. Flono, that is the point. I don't believe that you want a "serious debate" as when a well documented fact is presented to you it is brushed off as an exaggeration and you claim "What's next? The mass transit tax is a conspiracy to steal our babies?"

The simple fact of the matter is that the Charlotte line is being built for development purposes. It has been stated as such in many news reports as well as in public meeting that development is the main focus of the line. Moving people is just a side benefit and therefore it isn't placed where it should be for moving the most people.

The Commissioners bring up an important fact in response to the pro-tax critics. That fact is that the transit plan has been hijacked. It isn't focused on improving public transit. The plan is really a development plan but needs to have a rail line to help the development goals move forward and to get the rail line, you have to classify it as a transportation plan.

"The first aim of transportation spending should be improving transportation, not creating lifestyle choices." A good quote by the Commissioners. That is exactly what is being done with rail under Charlotte's transportation plan. I would also go a bit further and add that the plan also is designed to displace the poor so that they are forced to move elsewhere and become another community's problem. That is also another well documented fact of light rail placement when done for developmental purposes.

The commentary I made in this Laurels & Lances article states it well: "What is often overlooked in these deals are that the poorest residents, the same ones that the politicians claim they want to help, will be displaced. The poorest residents will be pushed out so development can occur. This little fact is one of the most glossed over items of revitalization efforts in any city. The politicians and pro-side activist groups will end up getting the residents all excited about having their neighborhood and life quality improving so that none of them will question anything until they get a court order to move out so a developer can build a condo. Rather than actually improve the lives of its residents through proper education and proper investment in the community, cities opt for unneeded capital projects which ultimately force the "problem" out of their area and into another area."

In addition, CATS can't afford the luxury of a rail line that hauls a few percent of the population while sucking down more than half of the budget needed to run the entire system. The transit tax will help there but only to a point as the tax will not generate enough money to even remotely offset the losses generated by the rail line. CATS also needs to work towards fixing what it already has in place rather than rushing out to plan many more rail lines, with city leaders who steering the proposed lines towards areas they want to redevelop.

The more I learn of the Charlotte transit tax fiasco, the more I favor the efforts of those that wish to repeal it. CATS hasn't learned much at all over the negative response nor have many of the politicians. Perhaps losing a precious revenue source might be the only way to wake them up.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The push is on for streetcars in Tacoma

Tacoma WA - The push is on once again for streetcars to ply the streets in Tacoma. The Tacoma Daily Index has a story on one of the activists pushing to saddle the city and its taxpayers with the expensive toy. Now that the city is once again considering the plan, the activists are coming out of the woodwork.

Tacoma resident (at least he's a current resident unlike the Kansas City meddler) Morgan Alexander has been leading the charge at the grassroots level to bring back streetcar. The article on him stood out to me based on a quote from Alexander which was: "I guess it's just one of those ideas you either get right away, or you don't get at all."

Based on the rhetoric Alexander uses for his support of bringing streetcars back, I don't think he gets it.

Alexander of course uses the standard boilerplate argument that developers will flock to Tacoma. What Alexander won't tell you is that it can take decades to get developers in and then the vast majority will only come after hundreds of millions in tax concessions and other taxpayer funded sweetheart deals are offered up.

The line is clearly being considered strictly for development with transportation secondary. Alexander so much as states this in the last part of the article. "The advantage of a streetcar over a bus is that it's a real visible, physical improvement and investment in the city that developers will build around. Plus, they are just fun. I think it's key for the City of Tacoma because there's really not a lot the city can do to really impact economic development itself. The current model is to have developers and business owners do it. I think it's a great way for the City itself to build a community, and the system be a visible outgrowth of the city's spirit."

Alexander also won't tell you that the local transit system, the Spokane Transit Authority, will suffer. Where does he think some of the funding to run the streetcar will come from? That's right, a swap of funds from the STA to the city or non-profit entity set up by the city to run the operation. More than likely, the STA will be stuck running it while the city coughs up only a small portion of the true operational costs. That ultimately translates to fare hikes and route cuts down the road.

The STA is a rather well run system and I even honored them with the MOD Award on January 12, 2007 for their back to basics approach to public transit. Tossing in a streetcar will throw that agency into a tail spin. Even though the STA is well run, they still are on a precarious perch financially and don't need a fiscal black hole sucking down the money needed to run the entire bus system.

His explanation of how this streetcar line will be financed is confusing to say the least. It does involve the "tax everything" philosophy however. While he admits that the private sector must be involved in helping to finance the building of the line, he doesn't relate the fact that it will be hard to obtain the private funding and that offsetting taxpayer funded tax incentives to the private entity will need to be done.

Of course, the obligatory trip to the Holy See of the streetcar movement, Portland Oregon, was done and the city tossed up as an example of how great Tacoma could be if they only listen and build the streetcar line. Again, Alexander fails to state how many billions of dollars Portland truly spent on their rail lines through making taxpayer funded sweetheart deals that will cost taxpayers for decades to come.

Alexander also goes on about how much public support there is for a streetcar line in Tacoma. Of course there is. When the question is worded in such a manner that it paints the streetcar as the saviour of the city, people will say they support it. I've seen the same thing in Pittsburgh. The North Shore Connector, when originally brought up, was widely supported by the general public in various polls until the cost of the project was discovered in addition to the fare hikes and service cuts. People then realized that the system couldn't afford it but it was too late to stop the project.

While I am the first to admit that a streetcar is nice, I also realize that it is expensive and doesn't do what proponents such as Alexander claim it will do. What Alexander is doing is literally akin to the old snake-oil salesman of the past. Selling a product based on totally false claims. Development, solving traffic problems, cleaning the air, etc. are all dubious claims that are routinely used to promote rail.

Tacoma really needs to rethink the streetcar plan. It won't do what they think it will and will ultimately end up making the city much more expensive to live in due to all the increased taxes that will either directly or indirectly be needed to pay for the building and operation of a rail line that really isn't needed. For once at least I can't use the argument that they need to fix what they have in terms of the STA since that agency is one of the shining stars in the otherwise bleak cosmos of public transit these days but they still don't need the fiscal black hole known as a streetcar.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

More on the free ride problem at PAT

Pittsburgh PA - In reference to a Laurels and Lances article I put up earlier in the week, I was informed yesterday that the free fares at Pitt and CMU are not only for the students but any university employee. Janitors, secretaries, professors, etc. This makes the situation much worse than it was previously reported as these two universities are major employers in the Pittsburgh area.

Thousands of people are employed between just those two institutions alone and makes the fact that PAT must absorb 80% of their travel even more critical to deal with. It's one thing if it was just student travel but the situation in Pittsburgh is totally unacceptable. PAT can't continue absorbing this cost and if these universities want their employees to have free rides, they better start coughing up the cash to pay for it.

The University of Pittsburgh has been whining the most about how much it has to pay now to PAT for the free ride program and has been angling to pay less. The simple fact here is that PAT can't afford to subsidize Pitt's program, especially at 80% subsidization, just so Pitt can use the program to help lure in students as well as employees.

I'm not against free transport for employees and students at a university but I am against providing it when the university doesn't want to pay the full freight for it. The college and/or university is the one that benefits from such an arrangement, not the transit system. The supporters of the program claim it will encourage transit use which is true but on the flip side, it is also helping to bankrupt the transit system so that all the encouraged use will be for nothing.

Pitt, CMU and other institutions and businesses that have such plans need to pay for it. The transit system can't continue to afford subsidizing these free rides to the tune of 80% of the cost of each rider, as is the case at PAT and the Pitt/CMU arrangement.

As mentioned in the earlier article, PAT isn't innocent in this mess. They failed to charge enough on the first contract so the precedent is set price wise. The universities have been balking at the cost from day one and want to pay less but they really need to be quadrupling their payment for the free transit perk for their students and employees. PAT officials, trying to help encourage transit use as well as polish its image, were too eager to acquiesce to demands for smaller contract fees initially.

What I see happening in Pittsburgh is that PAT will get the universities to pay a bit more but nowhere close to the amount required. If PAT is lucky, they'll end up subsidizing each ride to the tune of 65% to 70% rather than the 80% they currently do. PAT is painted into a corner on this one.

If PAT were to not re-up the contract where it continues to heavily subsidize the free rides, students would be protesting on the street over the callousness of PAT's actions while being urged on by the university. University officials would be sending out press releases blasting the decision and claiming PAT is turning away riders and trying to make the cost of education even more expensive. The Liberal leaning Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (who totally ignored this story by the way) and campus newspapers would be blasting PAT from all sides in both news stories as well as in editorials. Few would hear PAT's side under the din of protest which is that PAT is losing tens of millions of dollars subsidizing a free ride service that the universities should be subsidizing since they are the ones that want it.

Even if PAT ends up getting a bit more money, universities will lambaste PAT by increasing tuition under the excuse of having to pay PAT their blood money. It's a public relations nightmare PAT faces in addition to the fiscal problems they already have. As I have long said, "once the government giveth, it can't taketh away easily". PAT is basically in a lose-lose situation over this while the universities hold the trump card.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

There's Snow Worries at OCTranspo

Ottawa ON - After a mess in 2005 with heavy snows stranding many buses, OCTranspo has been looking for snow tires to place on the buses. To date, they haven't found any.

What happened in that city, especially with the articulated buses, happens everywhere there is snow. Ottawa is acting like this is the first time ever that buses had problems in the snow. Here are a few options.

In Pittsburgh, with it's hills and every type of weather imaginable, they used sanders for decades to help buses get around in the snow. With the advent of low floor buses, sanders can't be used any longer as there is no place for the sand hoppers and sander apparatus. Chains are also an option but only for a short period as they break and can chew up the wheel wells of the buses.

One other option OCTranspo might look into is keeping a decent set of tires on their buses rather than baloney skins. A set of tires that actually have some tread can do wonders for getting a bus moving in bad weather. These tires aren't called snow tires but regular tires that aren't worn out.

Given some of the problems OCTranspo has during winter with its buses, it really makes me question the quality of the tires they use as well as even question if the drivers know how to drive in the snow. Again, in Pittsburgh, buses traverse hills in snow on a routine basis without special snow tires. They do this by having a decent set of regular tires as well as drivers that know how to drive in the snow.

As far as articulated buses go, of course they will have more problems in snow, especially those articulated buses that use a pusher turntable with the engine in the rear. The answer there not to send them out on routes that aren't clear in bad weather. OCTranspo is expecting the articulated buses to behave exactly as a standard bus and that's like expecting an 18-wheeler to behave exactly like a small Chevy S-10 pickup.

Then there is ice. The ice that forms under the snow on the road surface. No snow tire will help there unless they are studded. Studded tires are much more noisy than regular snow tires which are noisier than regular tires. If I recall, in the 2005 fiasco in Ottawa, there was plenty of ice in addition to the deep snow.

OCTranspo really needs to refocus its efforts from trying to find a new way to spend money by getting snow tires to making sure the tires that are on the buses to start with are good, drivers are trained properly and the city gets out and plows and salts the roads. Snow tires wouldn't have helped very much at all with the 2005 mess and chances are they won't really help much in the future. In heavy snows, few things move and buses are one of the things that usually don't move except on snow routes that are primary roads that get attention first.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Discounted fares and the transit funding deficit

Pittsburgh PA - It's been a while since I had the available time to comment on various activities that effect the transit industry. When I came across this story regarding how discounted fares are effecting my local system, I made a little time to say something on it.

The primary issue in many of the reduced fares in every transit system is that it fails to generate revenue. Say that again RDC? OK, in simple terms, reduced fares should actually increase the bottom line. That's why stores have sales. It generates additional money. In transit circles, those sales are in the form of reduced fares. Some reduced fares have become unfunded mandates such as those dealing with disabled and senior fares and lose money since they are dictated price controls. Others, such as monthly passes actually do generate more income in the long run than not having them since more people buy them and that helps cement the use of transit so they can get their money's worth out of the pass.

The big issue in Pittsburgh however are the student fares for college students. Colleges and universities are contracting with the Port Authority (PAT) to provide free transportation for the students. That sounds fine and dandy until you realize that the colleges and universities aren't willing to pay anything except a small fraction of the actual cost of providing the transit service for their students.

What wasn't covered in this story is that the local Pittsburgh colleges and universities are whining and complaining about the proposed cost increase to provide free transit service for their students. They don't want to pay more and actually want to pay even less. This situation has been going on for a few years now in Pittsburgh but is coming to a head finally due to PAT's finances.

Part of the problem with providing college students free rides lies with PAT in failing to initially charge the colleges and universities a realistic rate. Now that the low price to these institutions has become precedent, they are balking at a proposed increase in the contract price. At the same time however, it is not PAT's responsibility to absorb 80% of the college student's transportation costs just so the college or university can use free transit as a selling point to get more students to attend their institution.

To be honest, I think the college students should be paying just as I have to pay. I'm tired of hearing about the "poor college student" who has little money but still has enough of money to go out to bars and clubs to party when not in class. I'm also tired of hearing many of the college students claim that free transit to students is a "right". I brought this subject up once several years ago on another forum and was bombarded with e-mails from college students trying to make the case that free transit for college students was a right under the US Constitution. Ah, that entitlement mentality brought to you by the Liberals and preached in the pathetic public school system rears its ugly head once again.

If these colleges and universities want to provide free transit for their students then they need to start coughing up the money to pay for it. Yes, educational costs are high but so is the price to provide transit service. It is not the transit system's responsibility to absorb the the bulk of the cost of providing student transportation (80% in PAT's case), it is the colleges and universities that need to absorb that cost since they are the ones that want and benefit from it.

The bottom line here is that between the mandated discount/free fares and the student transportation free ride, transit systems across the country are taking a big hit that they can't afford. In PAT's case, a hit of $30 million which is the vast bulk of the deficit. Colleges and universities need to cough up the money if they want the free ride for their students to continue. As the cost to provide transit service continues to climb, transit systems can't afford the luxury of providing free service just so the colleges and universities can use the perk to help boost their enrollment.