There is a certain happiness sighted when your bus comes along. It is of course a small specialized form of happiness and will never be a great thing.

-Richard Brautigan, The Old Bus

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Inadequate commentary on inadequate transit

The Sacramento Bee has an editorial today, "Light-rail parking fees: Sensible, alas," about Sacramento Regional Transit's plans for a $1 daily charge at park-and-ride lots. It's an unfortunately typical editorial, an uninspired regurgitation of the district's press release and The Bee's slothful news story.

A paper that can't publish news until two days after an event
can't be expected to produce much in the way of inspiring commentary, but what is really troubling are the comments attached like so much litter to the document.

Rip out the tracks, pave over the railbeds and convert them to high speed express bus lines. High speed bus can be quickly adapted to meet the changing commute patterns. Wherever Light Rail has been introduced in this country it has never paid its way. Another anchor on the local taxpayers neck...
Why do tax dollars that could be used elsewhere provide subsidized transportation? If light rail was a benefit I would think it would be returning a profit to the investors (the taxpayer)??
Transit is no less important than parks or libraries. Shall we require that all parks meet self-sustaining budgets with mandatory fees? In January, RT recouped 28 percent of its operating costs with fares. (You can read the report here.)

The post-WWII infatuation with suburban sprawl would have died decades ago were it not for the massive federal subsidy in the form of the federal highway system. In these tough economic times, people realize the value of transit. That's why ridership continues to increase even after fare hikes this year.

If The Bee wants to advocate for something, it should advocate for a secure funding source for transit that would enable Sacramento Regional Transit to meet the needs of residents within its service area.

The American Automobile Association, not exactly an unbiased observer, puts the cost of operating a vehicle at between $7,100 and $9,160 a year on average.

Imagine if RT were able to expand service enough to make it possible for families to get by with just one car, rather than today's much more common two and three cars per family? It would cost a fraction of the $7,100 to $9,160 a year that these families would save.

The need for expanded RT service and the requirement for reliable funding are what The Bee should be advocating, not resignation to the inevitability of nickle-and-dime charges necessary to prevent a woefully inadequate system from collapsing into irrelevance.


ranma9037 said...

In case that day's edition is already in the recycling bin,is anyone else wishing that editorial's author is victimized by whichever layoff round comes next at the Bee?

John said...

When I was laid off I was simply stunned. I realize now that I had an exaggerated opinion of my value to the company, but the paper wasn't exactly fat with staff when the first layoffs hit. Now they are saying a minimum of 26 more newsroom people will go and maybe more if the Guild doesn't rollover like a good puppy.

Just as RT threatens to shrivel into irrelevance if it is forced to reduce already inadequate service, The Bee is rapidly sliding down the boat ramp into the lake.

Every major city with two daily papers will probably have just one by the end of the year. It's already happened in Denver. San Francisco and Seattle are likely next.

Can you actually have a state capital without a daily newspaper? It seems so unbelievable. But when cuts hit bone in the newsroom and they keep hacking, prospects for the future dim.

Saturday's editorial on RT was irrelevant -- just filler. Soon that's all that will be in The Bee. There won't be anybody left to do the work.

The Derek said...

Someone needs to look at RTs monthly performance reports and check out how much the cost per passenger is for light rail compared to bus. THEN see who wants to rip out the tracks.