Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Cutting bus service is a terrible idea

Posted By on Tue, Nov 18, 2008 at 2:39 PM

Funding is down for CATS, and all too predictably, they're already talking about cutting service. As if Charlotte was snaking with thousands of buses rather than suffering from the inadequate, piecemeal inconvenience we call a transportation system. Revenue from the half-cent sales tax that pays for CATS is down and so, like Pavlov's dog in a suit, CATS director Keith Parker reacts immediately by proposing possible service cuts. Look for the forthcoming debate to focus on whether to raise the sales tax, raise fares, or cut services, and nothing else.

Here's another idea: treat public transportation as a necessary public service and set up the system so it's guaranteed enough money to increase service around the city. It's time for local officials to get creative for a change, rather than thinking like robotic bureaucrats. How about a luxury car tax? A gas guzzler tax? Or how about coming up with something new, an overhaul of the system that could be proposed to local governing bodies — come on, Keith Parker, have you got that in you? Maybe even look into an idea we brought up in October 2007 — something a number of cities in the US and other nations are having success with: fare-free public transit. Think of the drop in congestion and gasoline bills, not to mention air pollution — and what a way for Charlotte to show that its progressive vision goes beyond a couple of light-rail lines and a lively Uptown.

Yeah, I know that's not going to happen, but for crying out loud, at least do what it takes to keep bus service at current levels, if not increase them. Thinking of cutting bus service because sales tax revenue is down is like Duke Energy threatening to cut off electricity a couple of hours a day because their stock price has dropped. Again: look at good public transportation as a necessary public service, and go from there.

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