Friday, May 21, 2010

When Economic Reality Steps In

IndyGo, Marion County's government owned and operated bus line, is not immune from dealing with fiscal reality. This is a remarkable statement when you consider that generally, IndyGo gets some 80% of its operating budget not from rider fares, but from government subsidies.

I'll give credit to IndyGo on this: With tax revenues down, and therefore their operating budget short, the bus line has decided to cut routes and hike fares. This is a sensible reaction, unless you can have a stable of unicorns pull the busses or fill the gas tank with fairy dust.

IndyGo has been holding public meetings, and the riders showed up in force to bitch. Reading the Indy Star account kind of reminds me of hearing my 4-year-old whine when I turn the TV off.

But in the end, emotion -- not figures -- seemed to rule the day.

Several riders shared stories about how they depend on the bus to get to work, school, grocery stores and doctors' offices.

"It took me an hour and a half to get from my house to Washington (Street to catch the bus)," said regular IndyGo rider Nora Wright, her voice shaking with anger. "I don't think that's right."

Another asked in amazement: "You expect us, the poor and disabled, to pay more while you actually make the service worse?"

I remind my little girl, "You just got a gift of watching some TV. You should be saying 'thank you', not stomping your feet and pouting".

The vast majority of citizens do not ride the bus, yet all pay taxes to subsidize the rides of a few. I don't think I've ever seen an example of a bus rider acknowledging the gift they get from the taxpayers. Not a gift? Pay for the full cost of your fair share of the operation, and it ceases to be a gift, when the riders pay a fare such that the operating budget requires zero tax dollars. Here's the telling quote:
They explained that the door-to-door paratransit service, known as Open Door, is far more expensive to operate than fixed-route service -- $35 per passenger versus about $4.

So, what are the fares for these rides? Per IndyGo's website:

Single ride: $1.75 (free ride of $2.25 per ride)
Half fare for those over 65, disabled, or under 18: $.85 (free ride of $3.15 per ride)
Open Door: $3.50 (free ride of $31.50 per ride!)

So, IndyGo is proposing to raise the fares? Great! It's about time. IndyGo loses money every time somebody hops aboard. Time to go the whole route towards fiscal solvency and sustainability. Pay for what you take.

Either that, or acknowledge the gift the taxpayers are giving and quit acting like 4-year-olds. This entitlement attitude is killing our country.

No comments: