Free ride

A few days ago a Herald article was quoting some survey about how too many people drove to work with only one person in the car versus riding the bus or carpooling. For the life of me I can’t find the article again, but it doesn’t really matter. I wanted to find the article because I commented on the cost of the whole WTA program. Part of the point of the article was figuring out a way to double ridership from 3% up to 6%. I did a quick search for records hoping to find out how many people that meant and how close 6% was to WTA paying for itself. I kind of suspected that it wasn’t close to paying for itself as I see a lot of virtually empty fixed route buses and my wife drove a dial-a-ride bus so I know about the waste in that program. I found some WTA records up to 2005 online at the WSDOT site

The jest of it is that in 2005 the fixed route service cost taxpayers $10,000,000 dollars in rough numbers and doubling ridership would have only decreased the cost to taxpayers down to $9,000,000, again in rough numbers. If you crunch the numbers a bit more you find that even doubling the ridership only make the bus commute per passenger mile about the same as each rider driving their 20-mpg car. As most commuter cars do better on gas than 20-mpg and most do better on pollution than a city bus, I really wondered why we spend the money. The dial-a-ride program that serves mostly the elderly and those incapable of driving themselves, lost only $5 million.

So today I read an article which I will quote here in case I can’t find it later.

WTA reviews community van program

A program that provides vans for residents to use around Whatcom County is under review by Whatcom Transportation Authority staff, who are studying whether the service is cost-effective for taxpayers.

As part of the program, people set schedules and drive the vans, and WTA pays for fuel and maintenance. Last year, WTA paid an estimated $125,000 for the service, about $1.13 for each mile traveled, according to WTA statistics.

“That’s why I feel it’s my responsibility to look at this and say, ‘Is this a service that’s worthwhile to the taxpayers?’ ” said Kim Cederstrom, customer information and rideshare coordinator.

This isn’t the fixed route buses nor the dial-a-ride that I wrote of above. This is the normal size vans that you see every now and then. At a cost of only $125,000 versus $5 miillion or $10 million, it seems that it would be the last thing investigated.

Another annoying tangent to the article is that of the $125,000 cost most was spent in one place.

Lummi Nation van 16,707 total boardings 48 boardings per day $85,844 annual cost

I really don’t care if someone wants to call me a racist over this one, or tell me the nation deserves this because they were conquered. This is one of many classic cases of sovereign nation one minute, ward of the state the next, that is costing us our quality of life here in Whatcom County.

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