12 July 2008

Road to Nowhere

The bus is an option for my commute. I could walk a couple of blocks from my house, hop a bus, make 2 or 3 connections through one of the two downtowns or Bigmall (neither being my destination) and arrive on time to work about an hour and 45 minutes later. My other option is to take my paid-for car or motorcycle, without stopping, and make the trip in 15 minutes. Sorry, bus folks; there is no way to justify quadrupling the time I spent commuting by playing bus.

Yet public transportation is still fed to us like a mother pushing the food pyramid. After ridership of the money-losing bus system declined to decade lows, we were hit up for a billion-dollar train, a shiny new thing, that takes nearly no cars off the road and will never come close to paying for its operation. We're also going to get another one that'll cost more, disrupt traffic more, and neuter the only bus route that came close to breaking even.

Among the many reasons the train systems sucks is that it's forever locked into slow mode. There's only one track in each direction. If you are at Bigmall or MSP and want to go downtown Minneapolis, it takes nearly an hour because every train stops at all 17 stations both ways. Since trains cannot pass other trains, the system cannot accommodate any express or limited-stop service.

Avoiding downtown for a Twins game by taking the train north to the Hubey Humparena is pure hell. You save the $6 you'd pay for parking in a ramp, but you're still paying $3.50 to ride the train, and far worse, you'll wait for up to an hour as thousands and thousands try to pack onto the southbound trains that are incapable of running with any more frequency to accommodate special events.

Here's a similar tale of crapola service on the same system's bus offering.
I showed up at the bus stop at Washington and Hennepin for the number 6 bus at approximately 11:15 p.m. There were a lot of angry revelers waiting—apparently the previous 6 had no-showed. Because skeletal holiday schedules were in force, it had been an hour without a 6 when ours arrived, jammed to the gills before it even hit downtown. The next 6 was an hour later, so no one wanted to wait for a bus with a seat. But by the time we hit 6th and Hennepin, the bus was full, so the driver left dozens of people standing on the lonely streets of downtown and points south until the next bus at nearly 1 a.m. There was no explanation from the driver, no call to the operations center to ask for assistance. That’s all too common among the blasé transit force, many of whom can’t even answer basic rider questions about how to get from point A to B.

More to the point, there should have been extra buses available. On special event days such as these, there’s an opportunity to make a great impression on one-time riders and get them out of their cars and into transit or at least increase transit’s support in a transit-ignorant community.
Folks here on the tundra love to squeal about some imaginary cost barrier of riding transit, but the truth is that if the service wasn't so slipshod and the experience such a downer for those used to the freedom and practicality of cars (black smoke, creeps and thugs, can't get there from here) there would be far more acceptance of public transit.

Unfortunately, it seems that instead of attracting more riders by making public transit more appealing and possible, governmental agencies seem to prefer the easier route of make driving less appealing and sometimes impossible.

Only slightly off-topic is this:

MBTA general manager Dan Grabauskas is spending tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars urging suburban commuters to “Dump the Pump,” brave the heat and take the T, yet the transit boss continues to drive to work from Ipswich to Boston in the cool comfort of his T-owned SUV.

The T chief also drove his roomy, air-conditioned ride to a June 19 event in Lowell promoting his new $52,000 “Dump the Pump” ad campaign aimed at getting people to take public transportation to conserve gas and help improve the environment.

“I do try to set an example by using the T within the city, but my schedule tends to be erratic. I need to be able to go anywhere at all times,” he said.

Who doesn't, Dan?

No comments: