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.