Friday, April 16, 2010

Not Getting It

Why am I even surprised? Our Paper, on Our Bus Line:
The demand for mass transit in Indianapolis appears to be well ahead of the supply. Ridership on IndyGo's inadequate lines was up 5 percent in the first quarter from a year ago, [...].

Finances, however, remain a challenge. The key to building a strong transit system is to decouple funding from property taxes, which now account for 25 percent or more of IndyGo's money.

Although it's reasonable to expect riders to pay for a portion of the cost of bus and rail lines, taxpayers will have to continue to underwrite the mass transit budget, just as they do now for most other municipal services.
It's reasonable for me to subsidize a service I never use? How's that? The editorial goes on to point out that Charlotte, North Carolina runs over twice as many buses on half the budget, which suggests (to me; certainly not to Mr. High-Minded Editor*) that IndyGo can follow their lead, reduce their budget of a quarter of what it is now, and not need taxpayer support.

If mass-transit operators can't make money (or at least break even; I could probably be argued into supporting the Citizen's Gas "non-profit public trust" model), then they need to get of the mass-transit business and let another entity give it a try. For editorialists who point to a system four times as efficient as IndyGo an example of why us taxpayers should be deprived at lawpoint of even more money (he wants to shift the source from property taxes to sales taxes, presumably to add revenue from that all-important homeless-bum demographic, given that they are the only folks who don't end up shellin' out more when property taxes go up), I have no easy fix. Tax-funded brain transplants? I'd rather see that State-extorted money go to something semi-useful, like a cheap-bikes-for-ex-bus-riders program, or a study of the hive-like lifestyle of the naked mole rat -- which brings us right back to to topic of editors, come to think of it.
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* Not that I would ever, ever imply the typical Editor is even high. Not in a million, zillion years. Never. --Well, hardly ever.

10 comments:

Tam said...

Moscow-on-the-Catawba is probably cooking its books.

George said...

Cato just did a seminar on this that is worth listening to.

Summary:
No mass transit system makes money, they are all subsidized to one degree or another, but rail is subsidized to the point that it is just cheaper to buy a new car for each rider every year.

Oh, BTW...Charlotte just diverted a big chunk of the transit budget to build and operate our...wait for it...light rail system. And they want to build MORE lines.

Sure it makes no sense, but now we are a big boy city.

George said...

Drat, forgot the link.

http://www.cato.org/event.php?eventid=7113

Nathan said...

Dennis Ryerson is definitely high.

And he's high on some really bad stuff.

The folks who originally owned the bus lines (after they were converted from streetcar lines, which in my continuing opinion was a damn shame) were geniuses: They foisted their failing Indianapolis Transit System off on the city by the simple expedient of going limp and leaving the city busless. And the city, bless its heart, took the bait.

This is rather disingenuously glossed over on Wikipedia as "The city of Indianapolis took over public transportation in 1975 and established the Indianapolis Public Transportation Corporation to administer bus services."

Yeah. You don't say.

Probably the best thing that could happen to IndyGo right now would be to go out of business. Again.

perlhaqr said...

This seems like a good place to mention. I dunno if y'all are getting the same Census "advertising" billboards, etc, out there that we are here, but I have to say that the one in the form "If we don't know how many X we have, how will we know how many Y we need?" really get up my left nostril.

Where, in at least one instance, the X was "people" and the Y was "buses". My response, of course, was "Well, presumably a competent private company would be able to scale their service to demand!"

*sigh*

It makes me sad that my responding impulse is "Well, it's an advertisement from the government. Of course they're going to take the central planning line on things."

Just bugs me, is all. :(

Rob K said...

Indianapolis (and every other Hoosier city) just does not have the critical density to support public transit. Urbanists can't fathom that you have to have a high density of people over a large enough area to support that sort of thing.

Downtown Lafayette has this problem. They want to pretend they're New York City, and that all the customers for the businesses down there are going to walk or use mass transit. They go around and around about how to draw people down there, but steadfastly ignore that Lafayette serves not an urban population, but a mostly rural and suburban one who have no practical choice but to drive their own vehicles. The business that provides a handy place to park those vehicles wins.

D.W. Drang said...

"Mass Transit" is one of the great collectivist dreams. Economic realities aside, most Americans are not willing to make the adjustments to their lifestyles that depending on mass transit for all their transportation needs would require.

Me, it's cheaper gas-wise for me to park in the park 'n' ride and take the bus to work. My hours are probably going to change soon, though, and the bus doesn't run then, so I'll be back to driving ion and paying to use the employee lot. And I rode our brand spankin' new money pit, AKA Link Light Rail, in to the Tax Day Tea Party yesterday because trying to find parking in downtown Seattle is a bitch, and the irony appealed to me...

reflectoscope said...

Brava, Roberta!

Jim

Anonymous said...

neuvo ran an exelent article a few years ago about Indianapolis transit. Stating that with the street cars of the past other cities in the U.S. and abroad came to study our system as it was just that good. until in the 1950s we wen't to busses. If the neuvo has an archive it would be worth the efort to resorect hte article. It is eye openig.

Borepatch said...

The Antiplanner specializes in the effectiveness of mass transit.

Unsurprisingly, he finds that it is typically used as grandiose "status" projects (e.g. high speed rail), mostly at the expense of the working poor (bus routes get cut to save money when the rail line turn out to be - SURPRISE! - way over budget).