Thursday, February 1, 2007

Let them eat cake at the taxpayers expense

Santa Clara CA - The InsideBayArea news site had a little article showing how the taxpayers are further being fleeced by wasteful transit agencies.

In the report, we hear of the Santa Clara Valley Transit Authority (VTA) using tax money for cakes for various parties at the agency.

I must ask this. Why are taxpayers paying for cakes for various office parties? Let me tell you how it's done in the private sector. Employees make a voluntary collection and go out and buy a cake. The traditional manner of doing this seems to be lost on the bureaucratic leeches in government agencies.

While 20 to 30 cakes a year may not add up to very much in the big picture, they shouldn't be paid for with operating money or any other tax money. This is a transit system, not Party Central which it seems the VTA is turning into.

What is funny in this article is the complicated bidding procedure to get the cakes. The bidding procedure was a whopping 33 pages long!

What ultimately happens is that a $20 cake that could be purchased by taking up a collection among the employees now can cost thousands of dollars due to the bureaucratic red tape and staff needed to put the cake up for bid, review the bids and award the cake to the lowest bidder. The process also involved a "tasting panel" who's job it was to determine the best tasting cake.

The only high point is that there were no bidders so the VTA has to run out to get a cake now when needed, most likely with taxpayer's money however. At least it will reduce the cost of the cake to the taxpayer since there won't be miles of red tape to wade through to get one like before.

The VTA earns a Lance for wasting tax money. If you want to have a cake, take up a collection among the employees like is done in offices across the country and stop sponging off the taxpayers. People at the VTA obviously have way too much time on their hands and not near enough work to do if they can come up with ridiculous regulations like this one. And Liberals think we need even more government involvement in our lives...

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Too many riders...Not

Las Vegas NV - The Las Vegas monorail that officials said would be so popular is continually losing ridership and has posted it's all-time low ridership numbers in December.

The Las Vegas Sun reports on this and the fact that Clark County is planning on pumping more tax money into the troublesome monorail to extend it in hopes it will increase ridership.

In a poor attempt to pass the buck on why ridership is low on the monorail, the Las Vegas Monorail Company (a private entity that is funded by public tax dollars) is blaming a fare hike and the local bus system for the ridership decline.

Now wait a minute. I thought nobody wanted to ride in smelly old buses. People only want to ride in expensive toys like rail lines, maglevs and monorails. Well that's what we always hear isn't it? Then why doesn't the monorail have record high ridership levels then?

So now, the push is on to make the taxpayers foot the bill to expand a rather useless monorail line in hopes it will attract more riders. It's the typical liberal way of doing things, if it doesn't work then it didn't have enough tax money pumped into it.

Some in Miami are determined to spend money

Miami FL - The Miami Herald had a story on 01/30/07 telling the saga of trying to get streetcars in Miami. Apparently there were some sane people on the City Commission that have stalled Mayor Manny Diaz's (of course it's a Mayor who wants a legacy for himself) plan for streetcars.

Like most of the other streetcar proposals out there, this is strictly for development purposes as well as for a political legacy for the Mayor.

I'm beginning to wonder if there are any places in the United States that doesn't have some form of streetcar plan. There hasn't been one plan I have seen yet that uses the streetcar for actual transportation purposes. Every plan I've seen is designed to use it to fuel development at the cost of taxpayers who have to pay for both the streetcar as well as the development.

I've written so often about this subject that you can easily find more cities that are scrambling to jump on the rail bandwagon on this blog.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Take a look at the past to see the future

Pittsburgh PA - The Port Authority of Allegheny County (PAT) has more advice coming in from people than it can handle these days, myself included in the offering of opinions.

One thing I have noticed in many of the various commentaries on what PAT should do is this. Everyone is busy looking at how other cities run transit and nobody looks to PAT's past to see that their advice has already been tried and it failed, multiple times.

There have been many "proposals" from concerned citizens that PAT should use a multiple hub and spoke system with local community routes feeding main trunk routes to maintain local service while cutting down on the perceived duplicate service along major corridors. It sounds logical but guess what? It's been tried at PAT for decades and the concept has never done well.

Bellevue, Coraopolis, Monroeville, McKeesport, the LRT line and the list goes on. From the first day of operation in 1964, PAT has had various routes that were feeder routes that circled the local community to feed the main trunk routes yet most are history today for one simple reason: Few people would ride the local community routes.

A recent article in the Sunday Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (file is in PDF) that was more or less made into a cartoon strip urged PAT to adopt a circular route set up to save the system and presented it as though it was some kind of new idea. The authors of this strip failed to look back to the past. If they did, they would see that it has been tried in Pittsburgh many times and failed just about every time it was tried.

The Pittsburgh area has a unique topography and road layout that literally funnels everything through narrow corridors. It is impossible to eliminate the duplicate service on the main trunk routes within the city limits. The city residents are the main complainers about duplicate service within these corridors and that is because they fail to understand that once out of the city limits, these "duplicate" routes branch out to various suburban communities.

I will always maintain that PAT needs to look at each route uniquely. They need to extend running times between various trips on many routes and eliminate individual trips if they are not being utilized. The topography and road layout of the region makes it so you can't just eliminate a route because the next nearest bus is only a half mile away as the crow flies. In reality, that half mile translates to miles when having to walk to the nearest route due to the twisting and winding roads.

So please, all of the people that trumpet what works elsewhere as the cure-all to PAT's problems, do some research on PAT's history first. In most cases, you'll find that it has already been tried and failed.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Smartcard a flop, says bus industry

Sydney Australia - The Sydney Morning Herald has a story on the problems of the roll out of the Smartcard technology in the Sydney area. Much of it mirrors the roll out issues for US transit systems.

US systems have been plagued with issues related to Smartcard technology as well. From card readers simply rejecting the card to glitches that effect how much money is on the card, I really believe that this is another attempt at rolling out technology before its time.

While the technology has become more reliable, it still is problem plagued and costs the US transit systems millions of dollars annually.

I do see the need for such technology but I will always maintain that it was introduced before it was ready to be introduced. Most every transit system that implements such a system ends up with years of delays in implementation and years of ironing out the problems once it is introduced.