Tuesday, March 10, 2009

We need leaders with vision

Eloquent article by John Grooms, Charlotte, NC - U.S.A.

...During bad economic times, local government still provides police protection and garbage pickup, and it still purifies and delivers water. And so it should be with public transportation. No transit system anywhere pays for itself, nor should it be expected to. Public transportation isn't a business venture that's obliged to turn a profit; it's an essential service, one of those things, like the fire department, that falls into the category of communal responsibilities, something we owe and provide each other as fellow citizens. Simply put, cutting bus service because sales tax revenue is down is like Duke Energy cutting off power an hour per day because its stock value has dropped.

What the city desperately needs are leaders with vision. Big-picture leaders who see problems as opportunities, and act on them. Something like this -- Problem 1: Our roads are clogged with traffic and as soon as we build more roads, those become clogged, too. Problem 2: Because of the large number of vehicles on the region's roads, our air quality stinks, and we're still not doing enough to lower the area's output of greenhouse gases. Problem 3: Our mass transit system is under-funded and scattershot. Solution to all three problems: fare-free mass transit.

That's right, free mass transit. It's not a far-fetched idea anymore; a number of cities in the United States and other nations are having success with fare-free public transit as a way to really entice commuters to leave their cars at home. Clemson and Chapel Hill, in fact, offer fare-free rides for all standard routes; needless to say, ridership has increased dramatically. Other places offering standard fare-free transit include cities in Colorado, New York, California, Utah, Washington and several European countries. The figures are in, and the good news is that if it's done right, fare-free transit works. What's more, there's plenty of information available on how to make it work... read more