Sep. 13th, 2007

On buses

Sep. 13th, 2007 09:28 pm
melstav: (Default)
Yesterday, on my way home from work, we got stuck with a short bus. By "short" I mean that it was an older bus, and not as long. Compared to the buses that they normally run, it's got seating for maybe 20 fewer people.

We get about 1/3 of the way home, and the driver broke the bus. He stopped to let someone off, went to start driving, and then there was a loud *THUNK*. After that, the bus refused to go any faster than ~5 miles/hour. I'm guessing that the transmission died. He drove a bit, tried a few things, then called the dispatcher. They made him do a few more things, none of which fixed the problem. Finally, they agreed to send a new bus out for us, and we had to wait for it to arrive. When it did, we all switched buses, and we were off. All told, it added >30 minutes to my trip home.




This morning, the bus pulls up to my stop. I reach for my wallet as I'm walking towards the bus to get on.... and my wallet isn't in my pocket. I realized that I never picked it up from beside the bed. I start to walk away, thinking I'm going to have to go home, get my wallet, and drive to work, and the driver stops me. I tellhim what's going on, and he says to get back on the bus -- that unless I needed my wallet for this afternoon, I didn't need it for the bus. He'd let me ride free.

I didn't need to buy lunch today. All I expected to need my wallet for was my ID (which I didn't expect to really need) and my bus pass. So, I figured "what the hell." Get to the office, and I'll borrow a dollar from someone to catch the bus back. Pay it back tomorrow. No big. I bide my time until we get to the stop I get off at, and as I walk past the driver, he says "here" and hands me a courtesy pass for one free ride. He says, "It's for the ride home."

That's what drove home the realization that the bus system really isn't paid for by the bus fares that people pay to ride -- it's the property taxes (and probably other taxes) that people pay to the cities and counties that the bus lines go through that *really* pay for the buses.

I had been of the impression that the fares paid for most of the expenses of running the bus lines, and that they were subsidized by the taxes. It's really the other way around. The bus lines are subsidized by the bus fares, but it's the taxes that cover the lions' share of the costs.

If I recall correctly, of the thousands of dollars we pay per year to the City for the property taxes on our house, approximately $62 per year goes to SMART -- the company that runs the bus lines. It's figured as an infinitesimally small percentage of the taxable value of the property.

Granted, I pay considerably more than $62/per year in terms of bus fares. Actually, I go through $62 in bus fares in about five weeks. (Figure $2.70/day if I buy prepaid bus passes) But look at it a different way. Every house in my subdivision has some tiny percent of its property taxes going towards the bus contract. I can count on my hands the number of times I've seen somone get on or off the bus at any of the stops even near my subdivision. So, as far as I can tell the entire subdivision is essentially paying so I can ride the bus.

I know there are a number of fallacies and over-simplifications in that above statement. Just because nobody gets on or off at the same time that *I* get on or off doesn't mean that other people on other schedules aren't getting on and off the bus near my subdivision, for example. But still....

I'm not complaining, by any means. I *like* the fact that the buses exist. I'd like to see them run more often, and I could see arguments for adding additional routes. I doubt that I, personally, would gain any benefit from either of those changes, (except for having less time to wait should I miss my bus) but if it were decided that additional capacity was justified, I'd be glad to chip in that little bit extra to help pay for it.

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melstav

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