Rosman Rule No. 3: Do not complain unless you have a solution.
It was shameful. Last week’s Columbia City Council meeting included discussion of the proposed 2012 city budget and fee increases across the board, from Public Health and Human Services to Parks and Recreation.
Yet the chambers were only half full, and City Manager Mike Matthes' budget would have gone unchallenged if it were not for one item.
Before the chamber doors opened, Grass Roots Organizing had its table — really, an ironing board — set up, waiting to snag people, asking them to sign postcards to the mayor and council members in opposition of the transportation rate increase.
Its argument: Those on fixed income, especially those with disabilities, will no longer be able to afford public transportation.
I was not planning to say anything at the meeting. I really wasn’t. Until our city manager fondly compared Columbia to Boulder, Colo.
I needed to make an important point here.
The Regional Transportation District covering Boulder is successful on two levels. First, Boulder’s buses run from 5:30 a.m. until midnight during weekdays, from 7 a.m. until midnight on Saturdays and from as early as 7 a.m. to at least 9 p.m. on Sundays.
They run in both directions per route every 10 to 20 minutes.
This is the argument I made at the meeting. Boulder is serving those who need it to get to work, to get to school, to shop, to save gas expenses, to have a lift home.
Second, Boulder’s local service provides seven active routes designed as a grid system without a central hub like Columbia’s Wabash Station, where riders have to transfer buses to continue their trips.
Boulder’s routes do not have circuitous routes like Columbia’s 104 Red Line or the 102 Blue Line, which seem to have no real destinations or design, meandering the length and breadth of Columbia, in only one direction. All of that takes time.
How much time? For my good friend Kathleen Goff Weinschenk, a trip to Walmart on Clark Lane should take about 15 minutes, at most, by car from her home near I-70 and Paris Road.
This is her route via Columbia Transit: Jump on the 102 Blue Line, change buses at Wabash and transfer to the 104 Red Line — which first makes its way to Industrial Drive and IBM before heading back to Walmart.
She would travel for one and a half hours to the city's southern extremes. In her motorized wheelchair.
If Matthes and the City Council want to use Boulder as an example, then emulate Boulder’s schedule and route design.
The reality of public transportation is that a fare increase is inevitable, but to raise it to $1.50 is not enough.
Let’s raise the fare to $2 for a daily ride and offer the following discounts:
- Daily Single Ride: $2, CPS Students and 65 and Older $1.50, Eligible Riders $1.
- Ten Ride Pass: $18, CPS Students and 65 and Older $12.50, Eligible Riders $9.
- Monthly Pass: $60, CPS Students and 65 and Older $45, Eligible Riders $25.
- Children 5 years old and under ride for free.
Allow college students to purchase monthly passes through student services at a negotiated discount.
Sell ride passes at the supermarket and convenience stores.
One more thing: I want to know where to find the crystal ball that told council members and the city manager things will be better next year, and that cuts in budget and services will be reversed.
This is what I thought I heard from Matthes and council members Fred Schmidt and Helen Anthony: We do not know what is going to happen tomorrow, much less a year from now.
So remember this: Although transportation is the squeaky wheel, everyone will be affected by increased user fees.
Columbia’s transit system is broken, and the only way to repair it is, like the phoenix, allow it to die a fiery death and rise from the ashes newer and better.
The council will vote on the new budget Sept. 19 after final public comment on the proposal for fiscal year 2012.
Be there and say something. You have no basis to complain unless you voice your opinion and propose a solution.
David Rosman is an award-winning editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in Communications, Ethics, Business and Politics. You can read more of David’s commentaries at InkandVoice.com and New York Journal of Books.com.