In a previous editorial I pointed out that fewer than four out of every 1,000 Bend residents ride the bus each day, and that number is declining on a yearly basis, even as oil prices increase. In fact, Bend Area Transit's numbers indicate that ridership is now down to one person per mile. Thus, even the claim that BAT is good for the environment is simply not credible. The problem is ridership on the current system. It's got to be increased, or this system as it currently exists just doesn't make any sense.
Here, I'd like to examine the costs of the transit system. We find that not only is the system very underutilized, it is also very expensive. The city and BAT have not properly laid the groundwork for a new tax district.
The good measure of systems costs is the cost per ride. By BAT's numbers, it costs $5.40 each time someone steps on the bus. One might think that the tax rate for the new tax district would be sized to cover this shortfall. That would be about 20 cents per $1,000 of assessed tax value. Instead, BAT is asking for almost twice that amount. This is equivalent to a property tax increase of almost 14%. BAT is expanding its budget by 58% without first improving the marginal performance of its current system. BAT shouldn't have asked for this increase at this time.
What will taxpayers get for their extra $1.5M? In addition to one new route and added hours of service, we will get five new full time management employees. These include a general manager, an operations manager, a finance manager, a clerk and a marketing/outreach specialist. How did BAT ever get along before?
It's not a good sign that the new system is planning to become so top-heavy right out of the box.
The new North/South route found on the Citizens for Bend Area Transit website is such an obviously bad idea, I'm surprised they show it. It takes rider nowhere near major areas of commerce. It doesn't even go to the bus terminal where riders could catch a transfer to reach their workplaces. This certainly doesn't build confidence in BAT planning.
BAT already has a problem with ridership in daylight hours. How many people do they envision sitting at the Hawthorne Station waiting for a transfer at 7:00pm in the dead of winter? Has BAT really thought this through? It appears to me that taxpayers will not be getting value for their dollar. If I had an extra $0.39 to spend, I think it would be better spent at COCC.
Steve Stambaugh, Bend