With nearly empty buses, GVT’s extended hours don’t make sense
Maybe it was my remark about the empty buses looking like mass transit versions of “The Flying Dutchman” or maybe it was just a sense of fiscal responsibility. In any event, I received a number of responses to last week’s column, commenting on readers’ observations of the dearth of riders on Grand Valley Transit buses during much of the day.
I took a quick look at some figures from the end of 2011 that showed the operating costs of the transit service as being about $2.6 million and an estimate for 2012 with some expanded hours of operation as being about $3.1 million, with an average cost per ride of $2.51 in the first case and $2.71 in the second.
Cost would mean expense to the transit provider, not the cost to the rider, which is presently $1.50.
This is what is known as a heavily subsidized operation.
Now let’s get back to those expanded hours of operation for a minute. I’ve been told that Grand Valley Transit has been eager for some time to expand hours of operation on some of its routes from 5:15 a.m. to 10:15 p.m.
Recently, as result of some money-saving from the negotiation of a new management contract, the transit company opted to expand hours along eight of its 11 routes rather than use that savings to offset the subsidized operations budget.
The justification for this was repeated requests from the community to run the buses later into the evening. I’m not surprised at that. I’m certain there are a lot of requests, such as having the bus wait until you get your hair combed or idle patiently outside Target until you finish shopping. While these are a bit extreme examples, they apparently aren’t much less profitable than the expanded hours.
Subsequent figures, or as near as I can tell, best guesses, are that between 200 and 250 people are riding the buses between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., which means about 8 to 10 people every hour per route are riding the expanded bus service. Given the size of many of these buses, that leaves plenty of room for an impromptu ping-pong game or Frisbee toss, but it hardly seems justification to continue the expanded service. However, this being the sort of enity that it is, the response has been to increase marketing and give away free passes to encourage ridership.
What happened to all these people who wanted or needed the expanded service? Where are they?
Perhaps it was just a bad survey or a lot of folks who thought they would do something but didn’t.
Were this the result of expanding hours of any regular business, there would simply be a realignment and return to less financially burdensome operation. Is this likely to happen willingly? Doubtful, because this is not just government, this is mass transit government.
The thing about mass transit is it rolls a majority of the progressive left’s agenda into a single funding mechanism. It encompasses a dislike for the personal automobile, petroleum products and a fundamental tenet of individual freedom that is the ability to go where one wants when one wants with whom one wants to travel.
It’s a collectivist way to get around, but is at odds with our American free-range instinct.
It does have some utility, and in major cities has become a necessity in the more congested downtown areas that were often built around mass-transit philosophy. Most, though, are pits of monetary despair into which various government monies are hurled, partly to assist in the transportation of the population but mainly to purchase the support of myriad environmental and collectivist causes.
While it is a noble impulse to have some sort of public transportation in an area the size of Grand Junction and useful to some extent, the impulse to build fiefdoms is strong in government and almost overwhelming in mass transit. You start off with a few routes that meet most of the need but that is never enough. You seek more and bigger buses and so forth until you wake up one day with a light rail running from Fruita to Grand Junction, so people can watch foreign-language films at the Avalon.
Good job at noticing all the empty bus windows. It’s a step in the right direction.
Rick Wagner writes more about politics at his blog, The War on Wrong.