Saturday, December 23, 2006

NY Congressman calls for bus takeover

Staten Island NY - The Staten Island Advance reports on New York State Congressman Vito Fossella's (RINO) attempts to force a takeover of two South Shore bus routes that are currently handled by a private carrier.

The problem with Fossella's attempt is that the two lines, run by Atlantic Express, have a good track record and very low rider complaints. Why then force these lines to be taken over by the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA)?

The answer is simple. Fossella thinks the Government Transportation Monopoly, aka the MTA, can do a better job regardless of the fact that it has been blasted for years over poor quality service.

Based mostly on a handful of complaints he received over Atlantic Express service, he came to the conclusion that everyone feels the same as the few critics do. Rep. Fossella needs to realize that you can't please all people. Atlantic Express could run every 5 minutes with 5-star service, spotless buses, never be late and offer free fares and some critic will still find something to complain about. A few complaints hardly warrants pulling the two routes from Atlantic Express unless Fossella is of the belief that Government can always do things better than private industry.

Given the fact that Atlantic Express has run the two South Shore routes well, ridership is increasing and hundreds of daily riders support Atlantic Express running the service it appears clear that Fossella can only see Government as the answer.

Fosella stated: With MTA-operated buses, he said, "there's reliability; there's accountability. I think that has and continues to be denied to the people of Staten Island" because of the MTA's refusal to take on these routes in the past.

Give me a break Rep. Fosella. The MTA's reliability is far less than Atlantic Express' reliability and don't get me started on accountability to the public. The MTA has a very poor track record when it comes to being accountable to the public.

Public transit is hard to operate to start with, public or private. When you have something that is working well, leave it alone. The problem is that politicians can't leave well enough alone. They just have to meddle and usually make things worse. Rep. Fossella is doing just that with his proposal to force the MTA to take over the routes run by Atlantic Express.

New York State Congressman Vito Fosella (RINO) gets the Lance for his attempts to force a takeover of the two bus routes run by Atlantic Express. It is not in the best interest of the public to do so and only serves to punish private industry for daring to do what the Government Transportation Monopoly can't do.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Bend's new transit system has more problems

Bend OR - Bend Area Transit (BAT) has more problems with their new transit system besides just buses that are breaking down. The Bend Weekly reports that a lawsuit has been filed against the transit system stating that the bus stops are not accessible for the disabled.

The Oregon Advocacy Center (OAC) has filed a complaint in the United States District Court alleging that the City of Bend and BAT have not made the system's fixed route bus stops accessible.

Even though BAT blew it with the bus order which was chronicled here earlier in the week, I find this particular lawsuit as more of a nuisance suit and here's why. The transit system is less than a year old and not every stop in the service area can be "brought up to ADA standards" that quickly, In addition, some stops probably can't be brought up to ADA standards without spending millions to redo the roads and sidewalks.

There is not one city that has 100% of their bus stops fully accessible. The transit systems and city government will deal with such issues if complaints are made to them. The problem is that advocacy groups such as the OAC want things done yesterday and it doesn't matter how much the cost is as long as someone else pays for it. Further wasting taxpayers money on nuisance lawsuits isn't going to bring these changes any faster. All it will do is raise taxes and further hurt the fledgling transit system.

BAT has been trying to work with the disabled community since before service started but as usual, advocacy groups have to complain about something. Within the disabled community, legal ADA standards aren't sufficient for some.

While there is room for improvements, the OAC lawsuit tells me that there were options given to them by the city and BAT which didn't meet their demands. As advocacy groups tend to use the position of "it's our way or else" in working with public transit systems, past history tells me more about what is going on here than the news story ever could.

This story has made me think on one issue. That one issue is my position on moving service from areas that don't utilize it to areas that will. If advocacy groups like the OAC will file lawsuits over every bus stop in a brand new system, why would transit systems want to utilize service efficiently. To do so means they'll get sued by some advocacy group that is having a slow day.

The Lance goes out to the Oregon Advocacy Center. By filing these nuisance lawsuits, they are doing nothing but helping to price public transit out of the marketplace.

Christmas Samaritan surprises Spokane bus riders

Spokane WA - A touching story for the Christmas season comes out of Spokane Washington. The Spokesman Review tells of a good Samaritan who has given away several thousands of dollars to the riders of the Spokane Transit Authority's North Division buses.

A woman in her 50's or 60's, along with a child helper, quickly pass out Christmas cards and say "Merry Christmas" to riders of whatever trip they happen to be riding before quickly exiting the bus. The anonymous benefactor disappears off the bus before anyone realizes there is small gift included in the card. Inside of each Christmas card was a $50 bill.

Such acts of random kindness are rare these days. A special Christmas Laurel goes out to this woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, for thinking of others.

LA's Orange Line is crumbling

Los Angeles CA - Two news stories, one in the Los Angeles Times and the other in the LA Daily News report that the pavement on the recently opened Orange Line busway in Los Angeles is deteriorating.

The problem is stated to be related to the specifications used in the asphalt mix that paves the 14-mile long busway. Currently there is a lot of finger pointing between the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority and the contractors.

Between cracks in the pavement and rutting of the surface, the busway surface is in poor shape. Nobody can seem to figure out why the pavement is deteriorating.

I really question the use of asphalt in projects like busways. I am very curious as to why they didn't use cement. Three busways in Pittsburgh were built with cement and there has been little problem with the roadway surface and the busways are holding up well.

The noise factor from tire noise between asphalt and cement in the low to medium speed Orange Line would be minimal. The MTA tried to limit the noise further by paving some sections with a rubberized asphalt coating and found that it only lowered the noise by 2 decibels, a minimal amount that is barely noticeable. The same would be true for cement versus asphalt, a minimal reduction in noise. The busways in Pittsburgh are no more noisy using a cement roadway than they would be with an asphalt roadway.

Asphalt is not really good for applications like busways in my opinion. Sure, it's cheaper in the short term but in the long term, it ends up costing more due to more frequent maintenance and repaving.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

A free marketing campaign? Where's the champagne!

New York City NY - The Newsday.com site has a story of a nice little courtesy campaign for the Christmas season being run by the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA).

Partnering with the folks on Broadway to bring Dr. Seuss' Grinch character to the subways, the MTA is using the Grinch to remind people about simple common courtesy on the subways.

The people who run the "How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical" are offering a $10 MetroCard with purchases of tickets to the show and the MTA is offering free promotional mention of the show on the subway courtesy ads featuring the Grinch.

The lyricist of the musical provided three transit related rhymes in the Seuss style to be used for the MTA courtesy campaign.

What is extremely nice about this campaign is that it costs the MTA nothing as it is a trade of advertising between the MTA and the Broadway show. It is also a fun way to remind people to show some courtesy during the holiday season.

At most, any costs which are incurred by the MTA for the logistics of the campaign (printing costs and costs to place and remove the ads) will be a small fraction of the cost of doing this without partnering with the people at the musical.

The MTA earns itself a Laurel for this innovative and low cost courtesy campaign.

Broward County Transit - A Perfect Storm

Broward County FL - A perfect storm has hit Broward County. No, not a hurricane but a whole slew of problems which are causing the Broward County Transit (BCT) to literally fall apart. From the Miami Herald, a report on the BCT problems tells of mechanic shortages, a quickly breaking down bus fleet and rider complaints.

Much of the problem stems from BCT having close to 25% of the mechanic positions opened. This has caused an aging fleet of buses to become backlogged with various problems that need repaired and because of that, the bus service is becoming very unreliable.

The mechanic issue appears to be two fold. First is that the current contract with BCT has been expired for 14 months and the new contract is still in mediation. Second is that BCT is being out priced by other public and private firms who pay more for mechanics. These two issues combined and created the mechanic shortage

BCT has an older fleet of buses, with some being 14 years old compared to the Federal recommendations of 12 years old. While this normally shouldn't pose much of a problem, the mechanic shortage has stalled needed maintenance on the older fleet which now finds many of the buses broken down.

Now, add into the mix that a new bus order is tied up court due to a dispute between the county and bus supplier.

Then add in that BCT is increasing service when it can't meet the schedule now.

What you get is a perfect storm that is ultimately hurting BCT. From employee moral to ridership moral, the current BCT problems can take years to overcome the bad image the system is gaining. The effect in the mean time will be ridership losses and higher costs to operate.

While BCT is exploring obtaining second hand buses from Miami and is expecting 6 new buses to arrive in February, their problems are far from over. The maintenance backlog will continue to grow as long as there is a mechanic shortage at the agency and these additional buses will soon be lines up waiting their turn to be repaired. With new routes slated to start in the first quarter of 2007, BCT will still be experiencing late and no-show buses due to the maintenance backlog.

While I'm not a fan of increasing costs for public transit, the BCT seriously needs to do a quick study of the starting wage rate for mechanics in the Broward County area. Assign someone in the office to start calling various garages and other government agencies in the area to see what they start new mechanics off at. Considering that the local school district in the county starts its school bus mechanics off at $24.45 an hour and BCT starts mechanics off at $16.64, I am pretty sure BCT pays on the low end of the scale for qualified mechanics.

If such a quick study was done and it's determined that the BCT is underpaying the mechanic wage based on the current wages paid elsewhere in the county, they need to bump the wage up to remain competitive. What I sense happening here is that the BCT can't attract mechanics because the mechanics can get a far better wage elsewhere with another employer. The 14 months of working under an old contract also isn't helping the BCT attract new mechanics.

With route expansions just around the corner, BCT officials are further cutting their own throat. A handful of new buses and some second hand buses will not solve the ultimate problem of not having enough mechanics to service the buses. They are doing the typical government method of slapping a Band-Aid on the problem without treating the problem to keep it from festering into a larger problem.

BCT needs to put the route expansion on hold until they address the real problem. If they don't, the route expansion will be pointless as they will just be rolling out an inferior product to potential new customers. It will also be a big waste of money to start new routes when they can't run what they have now.

The BCT has a long road to travel to repair not only the backlog of buses waiting for maintenance but to repair the bad image the system now has from the poor service it currently provides due to the lack of buses to meet schedule.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Translink testing power modes for next bus order

Greater Vancouver Area BC - A news story out of the Peace Arch News from White Rock and Surrey show a battle over what mode of power buses should have. While leaning towards hybrid technology, politicians battle over the results of a round of tests performed by Translink.

There is a contingent of politicians pushing for the use of natural gas as the power choice for future orders of buses for Translink. Even though Translink did try natural gas in the past, the results were less than spectacular. A common problem for transit systems that have tried natural gas vehicles in cold climates.

While the news story doesn't release the mileage or emission reports, the article states the following regarding Translink's testing:

  • Hybrids did better in fuel economy and emissions than diesel and natural gas powered buses.
  • Diesel buses were the cheapest to operate and maintain.

Without the results being available, it is hard to determine how much better one mode is over the other in terms of fuel economy and emissions. Based on past examples, the differences aren't that dramatic. The big difference is the cost to buy and operate the different modes.

Some Translink directors want Translink to explore fuel cell technology in the next round of tests that is just getting underway. Translink is also going to test a hydrogen/natural gas fuel mix in the second round.

While I applaud Translink for doing its homework before making another bus order, I hope they don't go too eco-crazy and rule out consideration of the clean air package diesels which will save them much more money in the long run than any of the currently available alternative fuel options.

The big issue that overshadows these tests is the push for natural gas when previous experience with the vehicles proved to be a "dismal failure" according to Burnaby Mayor, Derek Corrigan. When Translink placed 50 natural gas buses in service back in 2002, there was some controversy over this move due to the heavy lobbying done by the natural gas industry and that some who had a direct say in the choice having a financial interest in the natural gas industry.

From Surrey Councillor Marvin Hunt comments in the news article and his position on natural gas buses, it sounds as though the lobbyists are pushing again to make natural gas the fuel choice for Translink, even though Translink's experience with the natural gas buses has been less than stellar.

The tests need to be conducted without bias. The decision on what will power future orders of buses need to be decided without bias. To have directors of Translink and other politicians trying to push one mode over another will not result in a fair decision based on the results of a fair test. It will result in a decision based on lobbyists and personal preference of the politicians, not what mode is the best for the transit system.

This type of situation is a big problem throughout the public transit industry and is one of the many causes of why public transit is in such dire financial straits these days. Decisions made by directors and politicians which make their decisions based on personal preference or having been influenced to choose the lobbyist's choice. Many times, results of tests as well as warnings from manufacturers are ignored in the name of politics.

The bottom line is that decisions with such an impact on the operation need to be made in the best interest of the transit system and the public. To not do so only further hurts the transit system and drives the costs up for everyone.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Transit systems shouldn't be in the tourist business

Atlanta GA - The Atlanta Journal Constitution* reported on the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) and the struggling tourist bus operation that they run.

MARTA's two route shuttle service, introduced last spring, has been struggling since its inception. The problem? MARTA runs standard city style buses with appliqu├ęs to distinguish the bus from a regular route on the lines rather than cutesy motorized trolley style buses that tourists want.

Now MARTA is trying to save the money losing shuttles by proposing that they partner with Central Atlanta Progress, a local downtown business group partnership, which has been working on starting its own shuttle service.

The shuttle services connect many of the tourist attraction in the Atlanta area. The fare is $1.75 which is the same fare as regular route MARTA buses.

First off, MARTA shouldn't be running "tourist" buses. Yes, they are a transportation agency however these shuttles are a specialized service which A. is losing a lot of money, B. is not even remotely close to its ridership projections, C. requires specialized equipment if the line is to even stand a chance at succeeding and finally D. such a line can be run by a private entity.

Looking at the four points which I listed, it is clear that this service needs to be eliminated from MARTA's direct control. MARTA, like all transit systems in the United States, is screaming over insufficient operating funding. To hang onto these shuttle routes strictly to promote tourism in the city is a bonehead move.

MARTA estimated that the two shuttle routes that run every 30 minutes from 8 AM to 8 PM would carry 1300 people a day. A recent ridership count showed only 338 per day on average. Almost 1,000 people a day short of projections.

Tourists as well as city politicians have been complaining that they were disappointed having the bus looking like a regular bus. They wanted something along the lines of a "charming sight-seeing bus". City council has blasted the service as "poorly conceived and executed."

Given the fact that a downtown business group was planning its own shuttle, MARTA needs to just let them do it. They could run the line far cheaper than MARTA however MARTA is determined to save their shuttle routes.

This type of specialized "tourist" service is best left in the hands of groups like Central Atlanta Progress. The problem is MARTA doesn't want to give up control since they were the ones that dreamed up the service and have already invested heavily in the shuttle lines.

MARTA avoided a possible lawsuit from private charter companies since they purchased 30 foot Opus transit coaches rather than the cutesy trolley style buses for this shuttle line. Setting it up as a bus route rather than a tourist line, MARTA was able to side step Federal regulations regarding providing specialized services which a private carrier was able to do. MARTA did this strictly because they wanted control over the shuttle lines.

MARTA gets the Lance for trying to hang onto these failing shuttle lines. It is costing them money daily and providing no real service.

* The AJC site requires you to be registered to view the item. Try using this link from Google to the AJC story if you can't see the story directly from the AJC link provided at the top of the story.

Health care costs hurting PAT

Pittsburgh PA - The Pittsburgh Tribune Review has a story related to the rising health costs and how it is effecting the Port Authority of Allegheny County (PAT). The article tells of an attempt by some Pennsylvania politicians to try and reign in the costs but as usual, the political approach doesn't address the issue of the problem.

The cost of providing health care costs has gone up 15% a year on average and is one of the largest chunks of the operating budget. This cost doesn't just pay for current employees but it also pays for the retiree health care package. Health care costs actually effect PAT more than rising fuel costs do in the long term.

This health care issue stems from some very generous contracts from the 1970's where PAT was offering some very lucrative benefits. These benefits are now saddling the cash strapped agency with an ever growing expense because more benefits were added through the years during contract negotiations.

State politicians want fix this problem by literally "stripping the vote" from PAT's retired employees so that retirees can't vote in union elections for union leadership. Some politicians believe that if the retirees have no say in the leadership of the union that still represents them that the union leadership will be more willing to accept changes in health care benefits.

As usual, the politicians have it back assward. Instead of dealing with the source of the high costs, they go after the end user. This proposal will do nothing to reign in the rising costs of health care at PAT or any other unionized transit system in Pennsylvania.

What will happen is that health care costs will continue to rise and any relief from the costs by union concessions will be temporary at best. Private employers have their employees pay a good portion of their salaries for their health care and the employers health care costs are still going through the roof. Given this fact, I fail to see how this proposed law will solve the problem.

While I agree that the union needs to wake up to reality and accept the fact that the days of low cost health care coverage are over and they need to start coughing up for a portion of the cost, the political approach being applied in this case won't do anything to solve the problem of rising cost of health care for PAT.

From information I have, PAT union employees currently pay 1% of the health care costs. While it's a start, the 1% barely makes a scratch in the overall cost of providing benefits.

I do understand the union's position on not wanting to give a concession on health care given PAT management's past behavior of wasting money. Many members of the union have stated similar sentiments in the past that basically state "before they ask us for concessions, they need to stop the waste in the administration". When you have key officials of PAT that double dipped into the already strained pension plan through a Deferred Retirement Option Plan or DROP, it makes asking the union to make concessions even more difficult.

No law barring the retiree vote for union officials will suddenly get the union to vote for concessions. What is needed is for the management to cut the waste and take the same concessions they ask of employees before the union will even begin to entertain making concessions to the contract.

While I'm hardly a fan of PAT's union, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 85, what politicians are suggesting be done to control health care costs at PAT is just plain wrong. This attempt reads as more of a way to break the union rather than dealing with the rising health care issue. Until PAT management shows they are slashing themselves to the bone, I don't see much in the way of concessions on health care by the union forthcoming.

The core issues of high health care costs aren't because retirees have a say in their union leadership. The core issues are completely unrelated and too numerous to deal with here. This proposal needs to be called for what it is, an attempt by government to break a union as it sure isn't a way to reign in health care costs.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Turn that ringtone off on TheBUS

Honolulu HI - Poor Maile Spencer, she's going to turn off her cell phone ringer when she's on the bus. The Honolulu Star Bulletin highlights her sob story in a news story regarding a new law requiring cell phone ringers and other electronic noises be silenced on public transit vehicles.

"It sucks" and "That's not fair..." are some of the feelings the 18 year old had regarding no longer being allowed to have her cell phone ringer on maximum volume so she can hear it. I have an idea, how about putting it on vibrate like the many out there that realize how annoying cell phone sounds and ringers can be in public.

What people like Miss Spencer refuse to understand is that the driver of the bus needs to pay attention to driving to get you safely to your destination. Sudden loud sounds can be and are very distracting. Most cell phones just don't ring anymore, they are complete with a preponderance of annoying noises such as screams, gun shots, loud music and other distracting sounds.

I personally have been on a bus where some idiot had a gun shot ring tone. The driver almost wrecked when the cell phone of the idiot (who was sitting behind the driver) started ringing on maximum volume with the pleasant sound of a gun being fired.

Wake up Maile. You'd be among the first to file a lawsuit against TheBUS if you were on a bus and the bus driver was involved in an accident over suddenly being distracted from someones loud cell phone ring tone. The law is for everybody's safety whether you realize it or not.

People yakking loudly on their cell phones, as well as the loud ring tones, is among one of the top reasons people cite regarding why they don't take public transit unless absolutely necessary.

What is sad about this whole thing is that nobody has any common courtesy anymore. This law probably wouldn't have even had to be created if people actually showed some common courtesy towards each other. In the "it's all about me" mentality of the general public these days, it's a wonder there aren't more cities looking at this type of law.

Hybrid buses - Not the ticket

Just quickly scanning over this news story on hybrid buses I noticed many problems. There are many questionable tidbits in the article which makes one question the accuracy of the piece. It sounds more like a public relations department release than an actual news story.

While I don't dislike the hybrid technology, the claims of high fuel savings have always come up far shorter in reality than claimed by the proponents. Many of the same proponents that make these claims usually are the same groups that do the studies. This goes for hybrid cars as well as hybrid buses.

When Seattle Metro received hybrid buses, it didn't see this big spike in fuel savings that proponents claimed. What they saw was that many of the older buses were getting better mileage than the hybrids were. Many other systems also reported similar disappointment in the hybrid's fuel economy.

The US National Renewable Energy Laboratory did a study on New York City's transit fleet and determined that the NYMTA was getting 1/3 better mileage than the diesel buses. Let's look at the agency that did the study. The US National Renewable Energy Laboratory. I'm supposed to trust a study by a government agency which is itself pushing for such technologies?

The main push for the hybrid buses are from politicians that are bending to the pressure of various environmental groups. The same environmental groups that have more or less made it their mission to price transit out of the marketplace while at the same time claiming they support transit. From pushing unneeded regulations to requiring transit systems to spend millions more to support new technology, these group have done little to support public transit. Most of the upper hierarchy of these environmental groups that push for these things wouldn't ride public transit if their life depended on it either.

The simple facts are that even if you instantly convert every bus in the country over to hybrid or even pure electric operation, it won't have a measurable effect on the air quality or on the fuel consumption of the country. The push to require transit systems to adopt much more expensive technology doesn't do much besides drive up the price of providing service and giving the manufacturers of these hybrid buses more of taxpayer money for less product. Clean Diesel technology is just as "clean" and efficient as the much more expensive hybrid technology.

The whole push for hybrid buses in the public transit market is strictly political. The manufacturers are only supplying what they know will sell and the hybrids will sell because of political pressure from weak willed politicians that cave to pressure from groups that represent far less than 10% of the population.

Being about 60% more expensive to purchase, hybrid buses are currently nothing more than another way to further separate the taxpayer from their money, give the environmental groups more power than they should have and to help drive another nail into the coffin of public transit through forcing higher operating costs onto the agencies.

Hybrids are much more expensive to maintain through their 12 year service life. Anywhere between 76% to 150% higher as presented in a report from the City University of New York (CUNY). The CUNY report also showed a 46% to 92% higher operating cost compared to existing diesel buses. While the CUNY report showed less emissions and higher fuel economy for the NYMTA venture into hybrids, the higher costs to buy, run and maintain the buses far outweigh the fuel savings benefit of 9% of the hybrid buses.

While transit should be environmentally effective, pricing the industry out of the range of the ridership isn't the way to improve things nor is forcibly fleecing the taxpayer to pay for this nonsense. Sadly that's exactly what is happening. With each new rule, regulation or mandate pushed for by the environmental groups, public transit becomes more expensive to operate and the taxpayers have to pick up a bigger portion of the cost. Getting 30 cars off the road for each bus in service is far more effective in helping to clear the air than pushing people off the bus and back into their cars because environmental groups have priced public transit out of the market.

NJ Transit to study bus routes

Newark NJ - After 24 years, NJ Transit is finally going to take a look at it's routes according to a news report found in The Jersey Journal.


While only looking at 5 counties, it's a start and something that is long overdue. Just about every transit system in North America needs to do such a study so that the system can be adjusted to changed ridership and demographic patterns.

The one thing I wish to comment on specifically on this story is that this study should have been an ongoing process from day 1. Too many systems have legacy routes that haul few people today but have always been around. By continually keeping after the routes and ridership patterns, this particular study wouldn't have needed to be done.

Public transit usually scores poorly when it comes to quickly adjusting to ridership trends. Waiting 24 years literally means that NJ Transit will need to do a major overhaul of the route structure. Ridership and demographics of the area should be, a minimum, reviewed at least once every 5 years to keep the entire route structure somewhat on track with the population.

While NJ Transit should get a Lance for waiting 24 years to do what they should have been doing all along, I'll be nice and award them the Laurel for finally recognizing that they need to work on the routes and started the ball rolling with the long overdue study of the routes.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Bend Oregon's new bus system "breaking down"

Bend OR - Bend Oregon recently purchased 6 used buses from Transit Sales International (TSI), a third party vendor of used buses, to start up its new bus system. The problem was that Bend's transit officials didn't do their homework according to a news story from the Oregonlive.com website.

Bend purchased second hand buses for much more than they were worth and literally let TSI hand them the stereotypical used car salesman lines to cover over the problems of the buses. The buses were sold as having about 1/3 less miles than the buses actually may have had. They also had a multitude of mechanical problems which were unreported to Bend officials.

The mechanical problems are what is causing the headaches for the transit system. As the system is dependent on the 6 buses that make up Bend's fleet, having buses breaking down can literally grind the entire operation to a halt.

While second hand buses are routinely used in smaller transit systems across the United States due to being a fraction of the cost of a new bus, they usually don't all come in at once and are scattered over various years to avoid what is happening in Bend, an entire fleet failure. Bend's entire fleet is comprised of the 6 used buses which were all built in the same original order for the Utah Transit Authority.

What happened in Bend was that city officials started a transit system on the cheap and are being burned for it now. Bend was in such a hurry to get a transit system running that they didn't think of the problems they may encounter. They rushed out to buy buses and quite literally grabbed the first buses they saw on the lot which were cheap and looked halfway decent.

Not doing the needed research is what got Bend into this mess. City Purchasing Manager, Bob Griffith, admitted "We normally don't research vendors. It might be something we should consider, particularly out of state like this and this much money."

That admission, on its own, is scary considering that the city is spending other people's money which is ultimately obtained through taxes. It also shows that the city isn't a good steward of the taxpayer's money if they'll give it away without doing the needed research to show that the money is being spent wisely. The statement also shows that Bend officials haven't learned their lesson as the statement clearly states that they "should consider" researching vendors rather than saying they will research vendors from now on.

Now, Bend may face spending much more of taxpayer money to initiate legal action as well as buy replacement buses in addition to the extra money already spent to make a multitude of repairs on the existing buses. While the city residents can and do utilize the transit system, Bend another example of a city that can't afford to run a system but has one. Given the number of cities that are like this, I really am expecting to read in the media soon that Bend is planning a Light Rail Line or a downtown trolley line. It would fit in perfectly since they can't afford to run what they have now.

While TSI is hardly blame free in this situation, the city officials in Bend get the Lance for not doing the required research needed to spot potential problems before entering into a purchase agreement. By not doing their homework, they now have the task of repairing the bad image their already struggling new transit system now has. In addition, the extra costs associated with the poor decisions made by city officials will ultimately hurt the transit system.