Friday, January 06, 2012

So, Will They Buy Gas For My Car? Plus, A Modest Proposal

The shiny bill to overhaul the "Central Indiana Transit Task Force" includes jacking up my income tax -- and yours, if you lay your head down in dear ol' Naptown -- to help pay for IndyGo buses (the buses I see go by, an hour late and at a staggering 10% occupancy) and light rail between Indianapolis and Noblesville akin to the interurban service that went broke sixty years ago.

Oh, there's a clever idea! Y'know, if a service can't earn enough money to pay its own way, maybe it's time to scale it back to a level where it can. If it's to be considered a public utility and there's no hope of making a profit, then set it up like our gas company -- a Public Charitable Trust, which only needs to break even (and pays back or reinvests any overage).

But don't pick my pocket to pay for your bus ride or excursion to/from Noblesville.

Ah, but there's good news tonight! You can thank House Democrats for it: as long as they're hiding from the Right To Work bill, this bit of extortion is stalled. Stopped cold along with all the other tomfoolery the state legislature likes to get up to.

Hooray! You keep on keepin' -- er, away, Democrats. Sit out the whole session!

(I do have one minor change to suggest: let's amend the state constitution so that a quorum is not required to repeal laws. It's a tiny modification, really, but I think it would make a huge difference.)Link


Anonymous said...

Ah Roberta, have you ever considered going into politics? Could I persuade you to run for Prime Minister of the UK, you'd get a landslide victory (especially since 70% of the electorate who have given up voting for any of the incompetent idiots we get offered would jump at the chance).

No. You have too much common sense for that I guess :-( (you're automatically excluded from political office, just like having married parents excludes you from being an officer in the military here).

Still, you're my super hero:

Tango Juliet said...

A principle a day keeps the Democrats away?

Fuzzy Curmudgeon said...

Let's amend the state Constitution so that a quorum is 50%+1.

Or that the quorum is satisfied on organization day when the session is opened, which is one way to read the section where quorum is currently defined. If you leave after that, and prior to adjournment, it's your loss. Plain and simple.

Dave H said...

"But don't pick my pocket to pay for your bus ride or excursion to/from Noblesville."

Wait, your lawmakers actually ride the bus? What a novel idea. I'll bet it saves a ton of money on government cars and fuel stipends.

Blog Admin said...

While I'm cautious about the "actual" cost of expanded public transit (I'm all for support of extending it to serve Marion County residents who have trouble getting around. The upper-middle class folks in Noblesville seem to be doing just fine in getting to Indy as it is, the 1 or 0 car families on the east side of Indy, not so much)...I don't personally like the argument that "If it can't break even, don't do it!"

Because the reality is that transit by cars are HEAVILY subsidized in other taxes. Yes, the gas tax goes back into roads and related infrastructure. But so do all other types of taxes unrelated to transit (property, income, etc...). And honestly, even with all those taxes, there is a massive backlog of needed infrastructure repair especially when it comes to this nation's bridges.

So there's plenty of reasons to be against public transit. But it being subsidized? Eh, most government services, including roads, are.

Joe said...

Worse, the geniuses want the "donut" counties to pay for the bus and or rail that no one will use. If the people of Noblesville/Fishers/Carmel want mass transit they should pay for it. Morgan and Shelby counties will not ever see a light rail or bus, why should they pay for it?

You said it and I have too, the interurban failed for a reason, and there was not even a good highway system in place 60 years ago.

Shermlock Shomes said...

Here's one where I must disagree with Roberta. I've commuted to work using IndyGo (the city bus service here in Indianapolis) for the past five years. The buses for the most part do run on time and at least around the rush hours are full. Many buses are in disrepair, though. But on to my point:

We shouldn't look at mass transit as a "cost recovery" system. It's an amenity. Indy has decided that our tax dollars should be used for the amenities of professional football and basketball teams, facilities to host them, and stipends to the billionaire owners are more important that infrastructure improvement and mass transit. In my mind it shouldn't be, "Move yourself and your business to Indianapolis because you'll be proximate to the Colts and Pacers!" It should be, "Move yourself and your business to Indianapolis because you can park you car in your garage and never have to use it! Your employees can easily commute! Etc, etc, etc."

And allowing that there may be occasions of empty/late buses, If IndyGo ever gets the appropriate funding what it needs to do is increase the routes and frequency and prime the pump. Again, looking at the service as an amenity.

Fuzzy Curmudgeon said...

I agree with Bobbi on mass transit. Waste of money.

I also agree with Sherm on sports subsidies. Waste of money.

Finally, and going back to the question of quorum in the legislature, how does a 2/3 requirement for quorum square with the fact that you only need a simple majority to pass the bill?

If I were Brian Bosma and the Pubbies, I'd "deem" the bill passed. Like that Pelosi creature did with Obamacare, but with more popular support and reason for doing so.

But I'm not Brian Bosma.

Borepatch said...

Light rail is a persistently bad idea, and by itself is pretty much sufficient to disprove the "Progressives are smarter than everyone" meme. Costs *average* 50% over plan, maintenance costs drain resources away from bus routes, and per-passenger-mile energy use is higher than in single passenger SUVs.

Bus routes don't pay for themselves, either, but they're more flexible (you can add or subtract buses as demand shifts, and add or change routes). From a "Social Justice" perspective, the reduction in bus service after the construction of light rail (because the money's all been spent) hurts the poor.

So, expensive, inefficient, and bad for the poor. Hey, at least there's some SWPL ego boost for people who think they're smarter than us!

Roberta X said...

IndyGo buses may be running on time -- it's been ten years since I knew any bus commuters well enough to hear tell. I still don't think I should subsidize them. Scale 'em back until they can pay for themselves. Drop the frills.

I look it mass transit as something that should be revenue-neutral. As for spots teams, don't give them a dime. The pandering to them here is sickening. Geez, the city could have hired every homeless person that would work and have them keeping the streets and sidewalks spotless for a fraction of the cost.

As for private cars being "subsidized by taxes," Indy Student, show me what tax subsidies the infrastructure gets that are not covered by gasoline taxes and license/registration fees. (The .gov makes considerably more on every gallon of gas than the oil companies!) I can accept the maintenance backlog; it sucks but that's part of cost control.

Nathan, I like requiring a supermajority to declare a quorum; bugging out has a long history, especially for State governments. But I do think a simple majority ought to be able to repeal laws even when there's no quorum: it raises the stakes a little. Maybe it should require a unanimous vote of the members present, to keep them from getting too clever.

Borepatch said...

@Indy Student: The gasoline tax not only pays for the entirety of the road system, but also provides subsidies to mass transit. The gas tax breaks down this way:

11 cents/gal: Allocated to highways

2-3 cents/gal: States are allowed flexibility in spending this on transportation.

3 cents/gal: Allocated towards mass transit.


Interestingly, one of the biggest threats to mass transit funding in the future is the Fed.Gov's new CAFE standards for mileage. You double the average miles per gallon of the American auto fleet, and you cut the tax paid in half.

I'd be much more impressed with the supposed intelligence of the Progressive movement if they didn't keep running into this sort of unintended consequence. Probably that's just me.