Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Routes should serve public, not politicians

San Jose CA - In an editorial from The Mercury News, editors have said things I have been saying for years: Transit service should serve the public, not politicians.

The writers of the editorial appear somewhat surprised that transit service today is political. Sadly, that is exactly what it has become and one reason I have spoken out often about taking the politics out of transit. The political issues with transit have done little except to increase the cost of providing service and have done much to push transit systems to the wall.

From being forced to hang onto routes that haul few because of political threats to the countless bad decisions made based strictly on political pandering, public transit today is a mess.

In this situation, the editorial is based on the plan that the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) came up with to change many routes to better serve the public. The VTA Board of Directors wishes to play politics instead and have been reluctant to approve the plan. Why? The VTA route restructuring plan would eliminate many of the political routes that few people ride but politicians just have to have.

It's time to stop the political pandering to brain dead politicians that wouldn't be caught dead riding a bus or streetcar unless it afforded a photo-op. The political pandering hasn't solved any transit problem in this country nor will it in the future. All it's accomplished is to make it too expensive to provide service.

The political issues of transit is the main reason I often state that transit needs a dedicated source of funding that isn't doled out by the politicians. If you take the politicians out of transit decisions, you ultimately will end up with a better operation that is more efficient.

I know a few transit fans and transit insiders that want more government involvement in public transit. They think it will solve the problems. I just laugh at them and show them the mess the political pandering has gotten transit into already and ask them if the politicians have screwed it up this bad already, what makes you think having more involvement from them will solve it? They usually see the light after that.

Although transit has always had politics involved in it, the impact wasn't too bad until the politicians began to meddle in the day to day activities. This started in the 60's but reached current levels of political butt kissing back in the late 1980's and early 1990's. That period was when I noticed many politicians jumping in and meddling with operational decisions at various transit systems as well as threatening transit systems, almost annually, over funding unless their ideas were incorporated into the operation.

Transit systems across the US need to put an end to this and refocus the operations. They need to become efficient and that will never happen as long as they have to pander to the egos of politicians that have no clue what transit is about.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In my town Minneapolis-St Paul the pols know exactly what transit is about. They caused a transit strike, raised fares and cut routes to drive down ridership and get rid of the system. To no avail, because rising gas prices and a failing economy are driving people to use transit no matter how bad the system is.
Google "transit usability" for more articles on the politics of transit.