Monday, March 8, 2010

Use bus ads to make up CATS shortfall

Posted By on Mon, Mar 8, 2010 at 4:47 PM

It's time for Charlotte to get over its habit of always wanting to be, as a friend puts it, "The City That Strives To Be Tidy." CATS wants to raise fares for local bus and rail service in order to make up for a shortfall from the half-cent sales tax that pays for transit. The Metropolitan Transit Commission (MTC) says CATS’ planned 25-cent fare hike is too steep and would lead to further losses because people would use public transit less if its costs more. The MTC’s reasoning is so obvious, you’d think no one could argue with it. But, of course, CATS replies that if they don’t get their 25-cent increase, they’ll have to shut down some routes and buses.

Here is what’s hard to believe: there is resistance to the idea of selling ad space on the side of the city’s buses. You know, like they do in most other cities? New CATS CEO  Carolyn Flowers says she’s open to the idea, so let’s get on with it. Former CATS honcho Ron Tober was against using bus ads because he felt it “cluttered” buses and would be bad for public transit’s “image.” Hopefully, the MTC will get aboard the bus-ads bandwagon, but it will take going against a longheld  Charlotte tendency of trying to make everything neat and tidy. That tendency was last seen in the ill-advised effort to take down homemade ads from city telephone poles. Sure, it looks tidier, but a certain creative funkiness is denied in the process. After all, are we a city or a ladies’ powder room?

CATS and the MTC should get over the city’s historical puritanical squeamishness, and realize that keeping a full schedule and a full fleet of vehicles is a much better definition of public service than worrying about offending someone’s esthetic sensibilities about visual clutter.

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