Friday, October 19, 2007

San Diego doesn't "get" mass transit

It's a shame that in a city as large as San Diego mass transit isn't more popular than it is. While the numbers of riders has increased, still the majority of San Diegans drive their own cars. Yet the transportation board is in large part responsible for the lack of mass transit usage.

Bus routes are confusing and often don't service the areas most in need of public transportation. The MTB fails to properly police its vehicles, violence and disturbances are common on the buses and trollies. And now, instead of making buses and the trolly more accessible, they are determined to further erode its user base.

On Thursday, across-the-board fare hikes were proposed at a Metropolitan Transit System hearing, as was the possibility of eliminating bus and trolley transfers.

Despite the fact that San Diego's buses and trolleys are attracting more riders than ever, officials said finances are stretched thin and that they may be forced to increase fare prices.

"My concern is: Why go up, when I can barely get around now?" said bus rider Sherry Madison.Officials with the MTS said they are dealing with a $9 million deficit."There are 100 people here today, and we agree with their messages," said Rob Schupp of the MTS. "We don't want to eliminate services. We don't want to raise fares. That's not what we're all about, but we don't have many choices."

Some critics, though, said that raising fares was not the way to find money to solve the problem."They're trying to cut corners wherever they can, but you shouldn't look to … poor people and working-class people who are serving the community to hit them with that burden," said Marlena Lewis of Citizens for Effective Transportation.

"It's an unjust situation."Among the proposals being floated are increasing the local service price by a quarter this year and another 25 cents next year. Also changing would be the monthly pass, which could jump from $60 to $68 over the next two years.

One of the most controversial changes, though, has nothing to do with raising fares. Instead, it is the elimination of transfers."I think eliminating the transfer system -- after people in San Diego for so long have become accustomed to that method of the transfer system -- is something that does not need to occur now," Lewis said.MTS officials said that some people are cheating the transfer system, so they are mulling its elimination in favor of a $5 day pass."A number of agencies around the country are eliminating the transfers and going to the day pass," Schupp told NBC 7/39. "It's much simpler to administrate, simpler to sell, it's simpler to enforce."

The MTS board approved the rate hikes and transfer-elimination proposals on Thursday. Now, the proposals must be green-lighted the San Diego Association of Governments, which will vote on the plan on Friday.
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