Saturday, February 24, 2007

Transit Matters

About a billion things affect your business. You notice a lot of them on a daily basis. Others you don't notice and may not even think matter. At least not until something goes wrong with them.

Transit matters to your business, and the closer you are to an urban core, the more it matters. There isn't enough parking downtown for all employees and customers to drive there, so they need other ways to get there, such as buses and trains. This is true even in the suburbs, and college campuses are transit junkies. Your business needs effective mass transit whether you realize it or not.

Why do I bring this up? Because the Usual Gang of Idiots (sometimes referred to as "The Utah Legislature") is trying to merge the Utah Transit Authority into the Utah Department of Transportation. Never mind that UTA has won every award there is for it to win for good service and good management and UDOT couldn't win an award if it handed it out itself (Anyone remember Syncrete? We like to blame the supplier, but some bunch of fools had to buy the stuff, and all those fools were in UDOT.). Handing transit over to road builders is not good for transit, and I have a large and well-established example.

The State of Washington owns an extensive ferry system. It was originally owned by several private companies, but after WWII they couldn't maintain service, and the state took it all over. For want of an alternative, the ferries were given to WSDOT. The problem was that WSDOT did not want the ferries; it considered the ferries to be a distraction from its sole purpose, building roads. Predictably, WSDOT has treated the ferries like the red-headed step-child. If you're a tourist and just want to do some sight-seeing, the ferries work well enough. If you need them for a business purpose such as commuting or moving product, though, they're a nightmare. Over a half-century of underfunding, understaffing, mismanagement, and malignant neglect have made the ferries far and away the weakest element in Puget Sound transportation. That's what happens when you give transit to road builders.

And that's what the Utah Legislature wants to inflict on us. Why? They say it will make things more efficient and save money, although they can point to no figures to back that up. The real reason is that a lot of them consider transit to be a socialist plot that needs destroying, and this is the surest way to do it. I say that it's a funny sort of socialist plot that helps businesses get employees and customers where they want them, not to mention such fluffy benefits as reducing the aerial junk that forces many employees and customers to stay in their homes when the inversions pay us extended visits.