To the editor: City knows how to run efficient bus system
To the editor,
This is in regards to the developing story of cuts in our TRAC bus program. A recent Hastings City Council meeting had a Met Council spokeswoman appearing as guest speaker and the meeting broke down into what appears to this reader as a grief support group; you know, where they work through the four stages of grief: anger, denial, negotiation - never getting to the final stage of acceptance. I must admit the Met Council spokeswoman's explanation for the reshuffling of TRAC bus funding set off my crap meter (caustic reaction to anti-intellectual pap) alarms. The closest thing approaching clarity in this whole presentation was when one of our esteemed council members, in a show of frustrated, restrained anger, blurted out, "We are fully aware of the big picture ... ," in response to a perceived condescending remark by the Met Council spokeswoman. This got me thinking: How did we get in this mess, and more importantly, where do we go from here?
To figure out how we got here, you need to back this bus up to about the time "Blue Bridge" was being built. A cabal of robber barons and crooked politicians conspired to dismantle the Twin Cities' metropolitan light rail system and replace it with a more flexible bus system. At that time, our nation was at the height of the Cold War, and we needed an interstate highway system to move military equipment and personnel quickly around the country to address a perceived threat. By the time the strains of "See the USA in Your Chevrolet" played on black and white television sets, our light rail system had been scrapped to make way for a more ubiquitous motor vehicle transportation. Fast forward 50 years, and we now have more vehicles than our transportation system can support, fuel refineries that can't keep up with demand, and major portions of the world's oil reserves controlled by countries that don't like us. Oops, time to rethink our decision to kick light rail to the curb.
So why is a perfectly good, well run, commuter bus system being, as another esteemed Hastings City Council member described it, "cannibalized?," precisely because it is a perfectly good, well run, commuter bus system. So, where do we go from here? Negotiate the best deal we can (as our mayor is doing), get on board to get light rail connected to Hastings, and learn how to play the game better. Get a better bookkeeping system in place to be in compliance with Met Council rules and federal regulations, go after grants that will get "soft" funding to supplement revenue sources, partner with businesses to keep our existing bus service running, and ask the end user to pony up more of the cost (maybe 20 cents instead of 10 cents on the dollar) based on some sort of needs-based, income criteria, or voucher system.
Good managers do things right; good leaders do the right things. Hastings knows how to run an efficient commuter bus system, and I only hope we also have the leadership to get our TRAC bus program through these troubled times.