Friday, May 15, 2015

Public Transportation And Empty Buses

The Tax Payer Is Being Taken For A Ride
 In the city where I live the bus system that carries us about goes by the name of Citilink. The Fort Wayne Public Transportation Corporation that controls this system has a rather slick detailed website that gives a fair amount of information and some I hope you will find very interesting. If you do not think a taxpayer-subsidized entity would be incredibly efficient in accomplishing its mission then you will not be disappointed. The whole point of the following article is to highlight how a quasi-government entity needs little accountability to be accepted into a community as a positive force. The article below is comprised of real numbers directly from the PTC annual report and these are numbers that are easy to get your head around.

Darkened Windows Mask Lack Of Riders
On the average day buses with darkened windows dart to and fro with the intent to provide safe, courteous, dependable public transportation, and at the most reasonable cost to our community. It is not uncommon to sometimes see as many as three or four buses in a small area. Citilink considers itself much more than a ride. In their words "more or less" it's about getting us where we want to be on many levels. They see as their claim and goal to contribute to the community in many ways including but not limited to revitalizing our neighborhoods, helping with developing the downtown area and contributing to economic development.

PTC brags and carries on about how local dollars are leveraged to match federal and state resources that are invested in mobility for Fort Wayne residents.  Annually, over $3.5 million dollars from outside our community support Citilink services. In addition, millions of dollars in discretionary federal funds help pay for new buses and transit facilities. They say on their website under the "about us" section listed as, board of directors and mission, that whether you ride it or not, public transportation benefits all of us. This point is driven home by a YouTube video. It is only when you look a little deeper into the annual report that shows the numbers behind this operation that reality begins to filter through.

Yes indeed, the picture painted by the numbers of the annual report is not pretty or impressive. With total expenses of $11,562,713 the revenue summary shows only $1,378,905  or about 12% comes from fare revenue. This means as shown the bulk of its operating money comes from the taxpayer and is listed as Local Assistance $5,515,212, State Assistance $1,971,789, Federal Assistance $2,141,288. When considering the city has a population of 256,496 people, this means assistance from each man, woman, and child represents $37.54. Again, it must be highlighted that when someone cannot or will not pay their portion the burden is transferred to those who will. Again, if you paid attention to the numbers most the money comes from close to home.

A glaring problem becomes apparent and clear in the report and that is these buses are not darting about full of paying riders or non-paying riders receiving a free service, it is far worse than that. The numbers prove the buses are empty even after all the massive efforts to encourage ridership few people in the city have ridden a bus in decades. With a total vehicle operating expense of  $6.21 per mile operating expense per passenger trip comes in at $5.68. This becomes clear when they state the number of passengers per vehicle mile traveled as a mere 1.09 or in layman terms this means a Citilink bus on average carries only one passenger and its driver, this means if one bus has three passengers most likely two others have none.

It should be noted that many of the buses act as traveling billboards and are covered in advertising as a way to garner a few pennies of additional revenue, The most common theme sports the strength of a certain bankruptcy law firm, the city recycling program, a positive message related to local government or another entity subsidized in some way by taxpayer money. Colleges receiving state funding, local subsidized sports teams or their arenas, hospitals, and even the groups like Airport Authority tend to pony up money in this incestuous demonstration that they too care about the city.

Also, revealed on the website is the ugly reality as to just how badly the PTC spends our money. For example, I followed through to view one of the several recommended videos Citilink had produced and put on YouTube over three months ago. The 19-minute video prepared in Spanish told someone how to ride the bus, since being placed on YouTube it had been viewed only four times. This means I boosted its audience by 20% when I kicked it on. Sadly, the bulk of the other viewers were most likely the producer or some in-house close associates of Citilink checking out their little gem before showering themselves with praise. It is clear this highly orchestrated production had to have cost thousands of dollars to produce. 

PTC through Citilink goes to great lengths to spread the myth they are helping to make the city "green" and is ecologically friendly, but this claim quickly goes out the highly tinted windows of the buses, I contend the windows have been darkened more to mask the lack of riders than for their comfort. The fleet of buses consumed 332,570 gallons of fuel and traveled 1,682,072 miles. This is a whopping 5 miles per gallon or 5.07 to be exact. If this is any indication of the state of mass public transportation across much of the nation it would seem the word mass should be dropped as a misnomer. When looking at all the numbers it seems some scheme to subsidize payments for private taxi service for those needing transportation might cost us far less. As far as claims that jobs would be lost a case can easily be made that more taxi drivers would be needed if we had fewer buses.

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