Are buses a priority?

At a recent candidate forum, Ozzy Angulo, who is running for the District 3 seat, said that for a single mother with no car, buses are a core service. That is true. And to an avid golfer, I guess Ironwood is a core service. But when prioritizing the expenditure of tax dollars, you must take the whole city into account. And what I have seen with my own eyes, every day, are large, empty, or single-passenger buses making their rounds. Yes, that single passenger needs a ride, but could we not accomplish that at a far lower cost than using a vehicle the size of a small single-wide trailer?

From time to time I get corrected by some champion of the status quo who insists that the cost is covered 60% by riders, and that the rest of the money comes from somewhere else. And as long as “someone else” is paying for it, there is no problem. Actually, there is no “someone else”. All taxes are paid by us, the consumers of all products and services in which these costs are passed on as a business expense. And some of these taxes are more direct than we realize, just as the city gets over a third of its general fund budget as a direct transfer from GRU. If you pay for gasoline, you pay a tax that pays for buses.

Not only is this an expensive and wasteful means of transportation; it’s dirty, too. Our buses burn over 2400 gallons of diesel fuel per day. Is this the commitment to Green Energy that our commissioners say is so important?

What is really worrisome is that our city and county commissioners have big dreams for these big buses. They not only believe that a day is coming when these buses and more will all be filled. They want to make it happen. They want to discourage automobile travel by making it unpleasant. That is why we are looking at narrowing 16th Ave. with bike lanes. This busy road will become more congested by decreasing car capacity.

City Commissioner Tom Hawkins said last night that our buses have 9 million riders that we didn’t have 10 years ago. Does he mean that our ridership increased by 9 million riders in 10 years? Did we go from zero to 9 million, or 4 million to 13 million? And what kind of fuzzy math do you have to do to report 9 million riders in a county of less than a quarter million total residents? If I took the bus every day, for a week, to and from University, and had to transfer to another bus in the process each time, would I be 28 riders? Multiply that by 52 weeks, and I am 1,452 riders!

I am open to suggestions…

4 thoughts on “Are buses a priority?”

  1. Here is one place where I have to disagree with you. At least partially. Suburban sprawl has caused transportation service to become a core service. To compare transportation to golfing is comparing apples to oranges. A golfer will not have to walk for two hours to get food if the public golf course is closed. I was without a car for 6 months due to a poor car purchase. It would have taken me over an hour to walk to work. In the Gainesville summer heat, showing up to an office job pouring sweat is not acceptable to employers.

    Do I think the current bus routes are the most efficient? No. Could smaller buses (vans?) be used for routes less traveled? It’s something to look into. Do I agree with the current commission’s anti-car policies? No. But I think there is a compromise in here somewhere. Let’s talk about how to “make this service more cost effective” rather than “should it be a service”?

  2. I actually think we agree. I’d like to replace these enormous monsters with taxi company minivans that bid on the routes. This way, no one is denied service on those routes that are more sparsely traveled. Keep the monsters only where there is monster demand.

    Best of all is a private sector solution. When my wife and I were vacationing in Mexico, we were staying at a resort between Cancun and Playa del Carmen. There was one bus that ran between those two cities, but it made its runs hours apart. But if we stood by the side of the road, in only a couple of minutes a minivan would stop and take us where we wanted to go for 3 pesos. Because I was an American tourist, I am sure we were paying more than the working class people we shared a ride with, but I didn’t care. I was getting where I wanted to go right away. You gotta love free enterprise…

  3. Hi Don!

    To my knowledge, folks with UF Gator One cards never pay to ride the bus. I see no reason that they couldn’t pay on Saturdays and Sundays…when many are going places like the mall, to the movies, out to eat….in other words, using disposable income.

    I also like the idea of more size-appropriate vehicles. Would be interesting to find out how the size was originally determined – friend of a friend got the contract?

    But don’t cancel the buses, please, it’s a really long bike ride for my hubby to get to school! Or we’d have to get a second car – and forego much of our “charitable giving”. (Yes, I know, not exactly a “bleeding heart” story… :))

  4. I have never said I wanted to cancel routes. I only want to service them more cost-effectively. Then I would like to open it up to competition so that there is actually more frequent service on more routes. If it were not such a waste of time to use the bus in so many cases, more people might actually use it. As it is now, unless the route’s service happens to coincide with your own personal schedule, it is likely to keep you from getting to places in a timely manner.

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