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READER SOUND-OFF A transportation funding crisis? For who?
Another government agency is in a crisis over funding. Kitsap Transit has money problems. The increased fuel costs that we must live with are more than the bus/ferry/rental car service can stand. Before we panic, lets play Connect The Dots.
Our 100,000-person workforce makes two commute trips each day. In a 252-day work year that is about 50 million trips. Transit figures indicate commute ridership of about 3.8 million a year. About 7 percent of the work force uses transit while 93 percent of the commuters are still in their cars. That does not include all the bus riders who drive to and from home and the Park and Ride lot.
Average cost for each bus rider is about $4.70 while the fare is $1.25. Thats a $3.45 deficit for each ride or $6.90 daily ($1,738 a year) for each commuter. The shortfall is covered by dedicated sales tax with each person in the county contributing about $55 a year. Taxing non-users to bear the major part of the cost does not seem appropriate. What ever happened to American self-reliance?
Transit service is not close to meeting the planning levels that call for 50 percent use in the near future and virtual elimination of single occupancy vehicles by 2040. With the 50 percent requirement, all would be paying increased fares and an additional $210 per person per year to subsidize ridership.
How about actual effectiveness of bus service? Looking at a few commuter bus routes reveals average ridership below what should be expected from this vital service. Route 92 with 17,511 annual riders has an average bus load of three riders. Route 85 averages seven riders per trip and Route 19 averages 13 riders per trip. Perhaps the low ridership on so many runs explains the public perception of empty busses.
Kitsap Transit is considering some corrective actions. Transit is considering a major fare increase to $1.50. That reduces the deficit to $6.40 each day for each rider, made up by tax subsidy. Transit plans to cut some low-use service and even curtail some ACCESS service. (One commissioner, however, made a campaign promise to preserve ACCESS service). Transit made no mention of curtailing the SCOOT car rental program, also subsidized by tax dollars, or to stop spending tax dollars on fast ferry studies. Reality is that Kitsap Transit will continue subsidizing ridership costs at about the 83 percent level without correcting any of its bad habits.
If We the people are going to bear the brunt of Transit operating costs, perhaps we should connect the dots and give our Board of Directors (they represent us as shareholders) some guidance. I could support these changes:
Increase fares so that riders pay at least 75 percent of the cost to operate and maintain the system. Vary fares by route.
Eliminate service that is not efficient or which could be more effectively served by private enterprise (taxi, etc). Demonstrate leadership in getting single occupancy vehicles off our streets; start with SOV busses.
Cancel the SCOOT program and allow private enterprise to provide the service.
Cancel efforts to develop fast ferry service. Let the private sector make it a reality. Stop creating more advantageous ways for our work force to leave the county for good paying jobs and spend more effort bringing those jobs to Kitsap.
Stop planning mass transit as the answer for individual travel throughout Kitsap. The people clearly do not desire such service and our population spread cannot be supported by bus service.
Limit subsidized ACCESS to basic health and welfare service for handicapped people and seniors. Additional service might be provided at or near cost and limited to those who actually need that level of door-to-door service.
Perhaps if Kitsap Transit operated more like a business and less like an entitlement program for the few, the funding issues could more easily be resolved.