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« Dara update | Main | Chatting about Edwards chat »

May 19, 2006

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beth

I wonder if Sandy, or for that matter any of the council members would care to perform an educational experiment, of riding SCAT for a month in leu of a car, and adding up the costs? Surely this could be arranged, could it not?

Ed Cone

When you say "adding up the costs," what do you mean?

beth

If Sandy was to ride the SCAT Van to her jobs, out to lunch, to council meetings, out to movies, ect... how many trips would she have? 40? 60? 100? 500?
If the cheapest option is a pass of 40 trips @ 70.00, what would that cost council member Carmany?

She is quoting statistics, the problem with statistics is it isn't alway representational of the real world, and can be skewed based on variables.

Using myself, if I was disabled, (and I'm not) I would probably be using a minimum of 120 trips a month... Add that up, and you get a cost of $210.00 a month, and I don't go out much. It's just too much money to impose of a group of people who are used to spending 35.00 a month.

Ed Cone

Is SCAT designed to offer people the full range of mobility available to people who are able to drive themselves or use other transportation, or is it a baseline service?

I think it's designed as the latter, and even as such seems exceptional by the standards of other cities.

I'd like to see everyone have a ride whenever and wherever needed, but it that what SCAT is meant to do, and is that a realistic goal for a public service?

beth

Oh I'm sure your correct Ed, but deep in my heart, I wonder if you or me, were to become dependent on SCAT tomorrow due to injury or accident, would we not want the freedom we currently have? Would we be OK to say, I'm disabled now, and I'm going to have just use baseline travel? I want my community to care for its elderly, and disabled, it's poor, and its homeless.

If it was a matter of absolute need to increase these cost, I'd say OK, but its not. Not when we just tossed a couple million into the Wachovia building so a few privileged rich people can own 1/4 of a million dollar condos. Maybe my priorities are different then most people, but my hope is compassion wins out over greed.

(I would be more inclined to a small increase in the current unlimited pass, perhaps over several years, then dropping the bomb on the disabled all at once if it is inevitable.)

Ed Cone

I don't think most of us have to look too deep in our hearts to realize we cherish our mobility, and that we would hope our communities would help us in a time of need.

I have a friend at work who uses SCAT, so I have some feel for the difference it makes in individual lives. But governments have to work off statistics because they are dealing with large numbers.

Another way of looking at the SCAT situation is this: people who are "used to spending $35 a month" have been getting an artificial bargain. A car owner would spend a multiple of that amount to own and operate a car for a month, with even light usage. A bus passenger who takes 40 trips per month is going to pay $52 under the new fare structure.40 rides on the NY subway or bus system costs $80. $70 for 40 trips in a specially equipped vehicle with wheelchair lifts that does door to door dropoff does not seem unreasonable.

And while I think the question of spending priorities is a worthy one, I don't think the Wachovia deal is the best illustration of misused government funds, since it is a tax credit on money that won't flow unless the deal gets done, and presumably the City and County will get paid back many times over for the arrangement.

beth

Your comparing a converted van with a small hydraulic lift to a $500,000 New York City Bus, that requires bus stops, benches, & depots? A subway that requires tunnels, rails, conduit, infrastructure, and miles of sub terrain excavation? I think my Wachovia comparison is a better illustration then your comparison of costs.

"Another way of looking at the SCAT situation is this: people who are "used to spending $35 a month" have been getting an artificial bargain."

OK, that may be true, but would you be upset if you had to pay 8.00 or 12.00 per gallon in gasoline tomorrow to get to work because what your paying now is an "artificial bargain?"

I say Greensboro posts a new gas tax to compensate for the the costs of public transportation. This will be 2 fold, one its will pay for the program, and two it will increase usage, thereby helping the enviroment. This of course will go over real well with Greensboro citizens, I'm sure. It's always easy to take advantage of people who are in situations that don't effect you. The minority will lose on this one, while the majority get fatter and wealthier, by not having to donate there hard earned cash to the program.

Roch101

Ed, the fallacy of your defense of the Carroll building subsidies, indeed everyone's defense of the deal, is that it supposes an all or nothing situation, i.e. either we pony up the tax breaks or the building will not be renovated. It ignores the third possibility that I haven't seen dismissed as unrealistic -- that we do not offer tax breaks, the building gets renovated anyway and local governments get to keep the taxes they are prepared to refund.

If we consider all the possibilities that existed for the Wachovia building, and not just the false binary choice, then I think it is perfectly legitimate to use the Carroll subsidies as an example of misplaced priorities.

Ed Cone

Beth, you are all over the map here. Do I want to pay more for gas? Not really, although I understand the logic of high gas taxes -- but that irrelevant example would just make the artificial bargain of SCAT even more artificial and more of a bargain.

Also, you are mixing fixed costs and operating costs on the NY transit analogy. The price of the ride is at issue -- those fixed assets were in place when the ride cost a fraction of its present price.

You have a strong emotional reaction to this situation, and an admirable sense of public advocacy, but you are not addressing the real situation and details in a city of a quarter-million people -- especially one that already delivers better services in this area than other cities.

Roch, if the building had not sat empty for 16 years while numerous attempts to renovate it fell through, I'd find your logic more compelling. In any case, the deal is done, and the math remains the same: a net positive to the governments over time (assuming a successful outcome, which is looking good from early press reports).

Bubba

"The minority will lose on this one, while the majority get fatter and wealthier, by not having to donate there hard earned cash to the program."

That statement is sure to win over the hearts and minds of those who already subsidize SCAT, and are faced with a tax increase for transit programs anyway, on top of more taxes in general from the city and county.

All those greedy, stingy property owners need to be forced to pay up.

beth

Your assuming ED that these people can afford it though. What happens to the ones that can't? Do we tell them sorry, I know we've been doing you a favor for awhile, but SCAT vans don't run on water, and your SOL? Just because you and me could, if we had to, adjust to rising gas prices, what about these people who can not take money from any other department in their lives, and end up not being able to go places? Do we tell them to roll down the road in their chairs?

I'm half way with you on the "have the program pay for itself" theory, but its one thing to charge a nominal rate one day, and jack it up 200-300% the next. It's the governments fault they didn't see prices rise, and adjust accordingly. If they did, then it's still their fault because they didn't act. If we are so behind the times, in riders fees, then why wasn't this a generally increase over time. Your asking the under-privileged to pay for the city's incompetence.

As for the Wachovia building? Even Carrol said the cost of building a new building would be 37 million. Basically we're paying to pimp out a 60's model building for the elite, when you could build a brand spanking new one for the same price? Great idea! Guess what? Double Tree is renovating the Hooters Hotel, which just happens to be just as tall, & did they get city money? Maybe if we just built a Hooters at the base of the Carrol tower we wouldn't need subsidization.

Ed Cone

I don't think the program is going to come close to paying for itself under the new cost schedule, just to cover more of its costs.

I'm not making assumptions about the ability of people to pay. You are.

You are now saying that SCAT should be subsidized for people who cannot afford the program. I would not disagree, but I'm not at all sure that the source of that subsidy should be the operating budget for the service.

Two issues: should Greensboro continue to provide exceptional service for disabled citizens at the most reasonable cost possible? Yes.

Should Greensboro find a way to help pay the way for people who can't afford transportation? Sure.

Wachovia: again, this is a property that has stood vacant for 16 years, defying every attempt to fix it. Now there's a guy who has the guts and the commitment to try it, and suddenly there's a raft of advice on what should be done otherwise? Sorry, no. This is not happening in a vacuum. It's not a conceptual question. Carroll is trying to shoot the white elephant that has terrorized downtown GSO since Bush I, let's quit complaining and buy him some bullets.

beth

Well I've made my points, and I understand yours Ed. So I'll leave it at that for the present time. I just got off the phone with my friend from work who is writing an article for me on SCAT, (who actually rides it.) and she said she will be emailing me that in the meantime. Also News2 contacted me to get a hold of her, and she said she's willing to speak with the news on the matter, so I'll let you know if I hear anymore. I have a feeling this has become a much bigger issue then city government ever expected and is far from over. We shall see.

Ed Cone

Thanks for your work in publicizing the costs of this change, Beth. I think this conversation has helped move the ball forward a bit...

It may be that framing the issue of affordability, and seeking funds for riders who need financial help, are indeed separate issues from the large-scale number-crunching done to make City budgets, and pursuing them on those terms might help achieve the results you seek.

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