Saturday, March 8, 2008

This blog supports extending the KCATA sales tax

Every time I watch or listen to a public affairs show and the topic is public transit, there is always some Schmendrick who insists with all the authority he or she can puff up out of thin air, that "nobody rides the bus, anyway." S/he doesn't ride the bus, but every time s/he sees one, it's supposedly empty.

These people are, to a one, absolutely, positively, without a doubt, 100% full of shit.

Not only that, but every week, the buses get fuller. I know. I ride them. Practically every day. So please, take my word for it, not someone who prefaces their remark with "I don't ride the bus myself..."

Apparently, these people don't know anyone who rides the bus, either, or they would have already been set straight about their scatological surplus.

I started riding buses after a car accident right after Hurricane Katrina, when gas first hit three bucks a gallon, and there was a substantial waiting time to purchase a hybrid. I got in the habit before I got a new car, and I have never made an attempt to break it.

Long before I was a bus rider, I was a public-transit-conscious voter. I have spent a lot of years working for the VA health system and volunteering shifts and working via agencies, sometimes long term, in public health clinics where I have served a patient base that is heavily reliant on public transportation. I have always recognized the vital service that public transportation provides to society as a whole, even when I didn't employ it's benefits myself.

When pump prices like this one (snapped by my friend Blue Gal, no relation) are common place, reliable public transportation becomes all the more vital to the economic engine of a city. It is just a given that any city that wants to be taken seriously has to have a decent, reasonable, somewhat serviceable, public transit system. When wages are stagnant and energy costs have doubled, and are well on their way to tripling, that system becomes all the more vital.

Put bluntly - there are a whole bunch of people who are going to be confronted with the choice I made, but they aren't going to be making the decision voluntarily.

Critics have said that the vote on the sales tax renewal should be held in November, when light rail will be on the ballot, but I tend to agree with those who say lets dispense with the bus issue in April, and concentrate on the light rail issue separately.

We have a system that, for the most part, works pretty well. It serves about 30,000 people a day, by conservative estimates. (I don't know when that number was arrived at, but about a month ago, I started noticing that more and more buses are standing room only.) Every week the ridership grows, out of necessity.

It is disgraceful that we have a governor who dumps a ton of CO2 into the atmosphere every single day, while hacking away at every service that benefits the citizens of this state, including state support for public transportation. There will be no state help, because our statehouse and our governor's mansion are in the black-handed grip of the short-sighted, selfish, troglodytes of the Missouri GOP.

That is why, Kansas City, we need to renew the 3/8 cent sales tax to fund public transportation for an additional 15 years. We have to take care of ourselves, KC, because the state is going to tell us to go hang. Look at the big picture - and I do mean the big picture - when it costs a hundred bucks to fill a tank, do you think that there are people in your neighborhood who are going to stop driving of necessity? Between ARM resets and gasoline at $100 a tank, I can see public transportation making the difference between whether or not a family is able to hang on to their house.

Right now, public transit in Kansas City works splendidly, at least for the people who live in my building. Let's secure what we have, and then get busy getting the rest of the city the sort of public transit access I have.

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