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

February 26, 2010


WTA is coming to the taxpayers for more money.  In their words, they say they need the increase to “maintain the existing amount of bus service or expand service.” My belief is that WTA is overspending it’s public funding right now, so I’d certainly hate to see them expand their overspending.

featureroutes WTA is not self supporting by a country mile and I see no indication that they are trying to move that direction.  Whether you use WTA or not, tax payers cover roughly 90% of WTA’s revenue, while actual riders only cover 10% for a service that they use.  For perspective, consider that the even the often maligned Lummi Island Ferry collects fares which cover half of their expenses.  WTA’s financing strategy is outrageously out of balance.

Expanding WTA service will only cost taxpayers more money because the routes with the highest ridership and therefore, most effective use of taxpayers money are already covered.  Additional routes will have less ridership and therefore be the most heavily subsidized routes.  WTA should be favoring the most ridden routes if they truly wish to both serve the public and be good stewards of our taxpayer dollars.

Our state and federal tax dollars also help prop up WTA. That’s right. While rider fares account for only about $2-$3 million per year towards operating expenses, we taxpayers are kicking in another $20 million or so for expenses and we are also paying another 5-6 million in state and federal taxes for capital projects like new buses and transit stations.

WTA is not an essential service in the same respect as Fire, Police, Medical.  I’d say that for the elderly and disabled, WTA’s Para Transit is leaning that direction, but in general though, not having bus service poses no threat to our immediate well being and there is no 911 option to have a bus dispatched to your home.  Yes, as much as WTA and many of their supporters would like us to believe, there are other ways to get around.   Scooter, friends, family, taxi, biking, walking and let’s face it, your car.  For many in Whatcom County a car in the driveway is way more essential than a bus that passes a mile away from your home.

snos WTA is not servicing the average person in Whatcom County.  Recently WTA conducted a survey which was to “measure the satisfaction of the general public and riders with services.” Yet the Herald article covering the survey failed to mention that half of the “general public” they surveyed live in Bellingham and almost half the riders of WTA were found to be WWU students.  If more money is to be sought for operating costs, WTA should look to those who are using their service.

WTA doesn’t have any publically stated goal of reducing their financial burden on the average Whatcom resident and they have no track record.  So, in a time when we are all taking a critical look at how we are spending our limited resources, WTA is asking us to dig into our pockets and pull out a  33% increase for them.

I am in no way opposed to WTA nor public transit systems in general, but my intention is to vote NO to this measure on April 27.

link to WTA budgets

June 28, 2008


Filed under: Scooterism — Tags: , , , , — wally @ 8:08 am

06-27-08 fillup

I guess I love my roots in the British culture because I can appreciate their humor and life perspective. Take joyriding, usually where someone young, stupid or drunk, or young, stupid and drunk, steals a car just for the pleasure of driving it. Some end in joyriding tragedies like jail time, injury or even death as witnessed locally with teens joyriding a steamroller. Amusingly, the British don’t call joyriding theft as we do here in the colonies, they refer to it mildly as twocking, from the acronym TWOC for Taken Without Owners Consent. Your not stealing, your twocking. Twocking kind of, sort of puts the joy back in joyriding.

Well today another sort of joyriding needs to have some fun put back in it. Rising petrol prices, as we all are certainly aware of, are making even legal joyriding (aka the Sunday drive) difficult to enjoy. How do you justify the cost of a purely for fun 100 mile excursion. Especially living out in the county where even our shop local buy local options are 20 mile round trips. It’s a matter of managing resources, i.e. money. Although, as a resourceful family we could twock someone whose just filled up? but with kids, booster seats and the dog, I just don’t think we would make a clean getaway.

We could take a Sunday drive on WTA, after we walk 5 miles to the nearest transit center, but that doesn’t sound at all joyful. And what about the freedom to just turn left or right and see where a road leads; how’s the driver or fellow riders going to deal with you saying “hey, what say we hang a left here and just see where it takes us.”

What’s a guy to do when there is no more joy in joyriding? Scooter!

What a great evening we had yesterday for taking a joyride, for no other reason than joy. And with a scooter it’s all joy. There isn’t the petrol price spectre looming over you, or a little red faced Al Gore sitting on your shoulder giving a carbon-footprint lecture. I filled up my trusted Chinese steed with mid-grade oats for about 5 bucks. I’m now good for another 80 or 90 miles of joyful joyriding.

** And it’s a joyful bonus when I see a passerby do a scooter double take on my Rossi sticker.

June 16, 2007

Free ride

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — wally @ 5:46 am

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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