Wally Wonders Why No editor, no publisher, you get what you get

February 21, 2011

Know when to walk away, know when to run

Disturbing WTA related article in the Herald today, WTA plans to launch online trip-planning software this spring.   Seems that a few years ago WTA purchased software for over $90,000 and signed on to an annual maintenance fee of over $15,000.   Now WTA is on the brink of launching the software package that according to the article will allow “people to type in their location and destination, and it’ll show them where to catch the bus, which ones to catch, and when.” 

routing informationI’m disturbed because what WTA says they are paying for is already available through Google.  And even though they say their new software will also feed the Google database, I wonder why they feel justified spending our taxes on a duplicate and after 3 years perhaps antiquated software?  And check out this nonsense:

After launch, the trip-planning software won’t immediately be accessible with smart phones, he said. The IT staff can write software to allow use by those phones, but the department has had staffing cuts.

"It’s on our to-do list," he said.

How much is this going to cost?  Another $90,000 and 3 years?  I just took that image on my smartphone.  Google is already to do your trip planning by foot, bike, car or transit and on PC, Mac, Android, Windows Mobile, or IPhone.  Google doesn’t need us to pay an IT staff to write software, they just need WTA to provide them routing information.

The way I see it, WTA needs to spend money uploading it’s database and that’s it.  Nothing else!  Know when to walk away and know when to run.

Wasting taxpayer money is one service I’d like to see WTA cut.

June 9, 2010

Don’t Panic!

Filed under: Local Issue — Tags: , , , , — wally @ 9:19 pm

I know I read this in the paper also and then it was on the radio and on Facebook, and on KGMI’s website and on Facebook again

Local governments in Whatcom County reacted with shock Tuesday, June 8, to an announcement from the Washington Department of Revenue that British Columbia residents will soon be entitled to an exemption from state and local sales taxes on merchandise.

Read more: Bellingham Herald

Local governments reacting with shock?  Pooey.   Relax, there is absolutely no reason to worry. 

I’m not in shock and my feet are not elevated above my head.  I know that our state and much of local governments are both well equipped and well practiced at the art of taxing the bejesus out of anyone with a penny in their pocket.  After all, we live in the state with $30 tabs don’t we?   Let’s see, how many miles will they drive on our roads?  How many people are in their car?  Is their car a gas guzzler?  Impact fee for getting out of their car at Bellis Fair?  Additional impact fees for large people?  Our legislatures will do their magic and before we know it they’ll be getting more than ever from the Canadians and if they’re worth their salt they’ll manage to take more from us and blame it on the Canadians.   

And the Herald article points out that “The Whatcom Transportation Authority might feel the most pain,”   so I wouldn’t be surprised to see a  0.2% tax on all Canadians who stop and look at what pretty buses they have running around the Transportation Benefit District ;).

June 5, 2010

Where there’s a Dan, there’s a way

Filed under: Local Issue — Tags: , , , — wally @ 7:31 am

Word around town is that Mayor Dan Pike of Bellingham is looking again/still to raise taxes.  I first read the announcement in the Herald blogs,

Mayor Dan Pike wants the city to form a citywide Transportation Benefit District and increase the sales tax by two-tenths of 1 percent, which would generate about $3.8 million a year.

He’s already talked with City Council members who like the idea, but the council is scheduled for formally discuss the proposal for the first time on Monday, June 7.

…He’d like to see money go toward annual repaving, building bike lanes and sidewalks and, through a contract with WTA, providing bus service that would otherwise be cut.

Read more: http://blogs.bellinghamherald.com/traffic/?p=3863#ixzz0pzBhzCx7

and then saw on Facebook that he was going to be on KGMI’s PM Bellingham to peddle his new tax scheme. 

KGMI News/Talk 790  Ready for higher sales taxes in Bellingham? Mayor Dan Pike is proposing an increase to pay for transportation projects. Would you vote for such an increase?

Wasn’t it just a month or so ago that the people of Whatcom County told WTA Board member Dan Pike that they weren’t willing to spend this same amount?   Now we have Mayor Dan Pike asking the people of Bellingham for the same amount.  Is it a coincidence that it will take the exact same amount to improve transportation issues in Bellingham or is it that the WTA vote was used as a poll to see how much the people of Bellingham would cough up without choking?  

If I lived in Bellingham that’d be the question on my mind.  Do we need this, or is it Mayor Dan Pike who wants it, and he’ll find a way?

I won’t get to vote on this because I live outside of Bellingham.   However those of us who live outside of  Bellingham should have the same concerns, because we likely spend a good portion of our money in Bellingham where we will be paying this tax.  Consider trips to Costco, Walmart, Fairhaven, Bellis Fair, go see a movie, buy a car, do business in town?  The people of Bellingham will be voting on this tax, but given the commercial layout of the county we will all share in the paying.  

So if this vote were to go through, Mayor Pike would essentially get a good portion of the taxes that he was just denied in the recent WTA vote.  He also gets to contract with WTA to provide additional bus service in Bellingham and gets extra for other transportation related spending within the city.   I wonder if as both a WTA board member and the Mayor of Bellingham, he will withdraw himself from contract dealings with himself? 

Oh, and let’s not forget that whether we are in Bellingham or not, as State & Federal taxpayers we foot the bill for new WTA buses that get worn out in the City of Bellingham.  

I haven’t decided whether this is shrewd, conniving of both?   Hopefully it won’t matter as much as people awake to the fact that so many of the politicians in office are looking for too many ways to spend and too few ways to save. 

Isn’t it time to give tax increases a rest?

April 28, 2010

What is WTA to do?

Filed under: Local Issue — Tags: , — wally @ 8:08 pm

It looks like the people of Whatcom County have voted down WTA’s proposed 33% tax increase and as the last votes are being counted, the million dollar question is… is on Facebook of course.  Isn’t everything?

What should WTA cut if the transit tax does actually fail?

Facebook KGMI News/Talk 790

We would think that WTA would already have the answer to that question.  No, not the pouty, scary, angry answer.  I’m hoping for a reasoned, logical and well thought out answer about how to best meet the needs of Whatcom county with the money at their disposal.  You know if I thought that was what they had been doing all along, I might have actually voted for this increase.   But from reading this in the Herald today, I’m still not thinking that any real contingency plan has been in the works.

WTA is wasting no time planning for cuts. Its board will gather in a public meeting at 8 a.m. Friday, April 30, in County Council Chambers, 311 Grand Ave., to determine which cuts to present at a May 13 public hearing.

Read more: http://www.bellinghamherald.com

So then, is that what WTA is to do, gather more public opinion?  I put that in the waste of taxpayers money category because there has been so much public opinion on this subject lately that you’d have to be an idiot not to know what people are thinking.    People don’t want to be told by the drivers union and bus manufacturers that they need to foot the bill for an ever expanding bus system.  People like our bus system, but want WTA to provide the most service for the money they have.

And the formula for accomplishing that is simple and well known to WTA.  It is the opposite thought process that is apparently used when route expansion requests are submitted to WTA.  I found the process described by WTA’s Maureen McCarthy last July.

All requests are considered within the context of the overall system. Once a request has been determined as an unmet need, there are many factors by which we evaluate it. Questions we consider include ‘how crucial an unmet need is this?,’ ‘how many people will potentially benefit?,’ ‘how efficient would it be to meet this need within the existing system?’, ‘what would be the increased cost-per-new-rider based on the number of riders we could expect to attract?’

Read more: http://www.bellinghamherald.com

So by reversing the process, WTA should evaluate each route in the current system with the same criteria.

What needs will be unmet if a route is eliminated?

How crucial the unmet need will be if a route is eliminated?

How many people will be affected if the route is eliminated?

Considering the existing system how efficient is the route  that would be eliminated?

How would the routes elimination affect the cost per rider based on the number of riders effected?

And that leads us right to what WTA should do.  WTA should eliminate routes based on this evaluation until a stable system is predicted to run in budget.   Boom! Done!

Well, except WTA should update their Strategic Plan to incorporate budget projections and all the recent public opinion that has come available.   We don’t want the same hole to be dug again.  And while they are doing this wouldn’t it be nice if they would try some progressive (i.e. efficient) ideas for moving people instead of hitting every route with a gargantuan, fuel guzzling sledge hammer of a bus?

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