Saturday, January 1, 2011

Up Up & Away!

It's the New Year and the cost of being a passenger on RTD has gone up.
Folks are moaning and groaning but y'all gotta understand that RTD is solely supported by the Tax Payer & Passenger (plus a bit of advertising) and the operating costs far exceed the income.

There is a little poster in the buses that reads, "Transit Economics" followed by a list of solutions to the $18 million dollar shortfall, including service reductions and fare increases.
The list also includes hiring limitations but we just hired a buttload of new Drivers who, while admittedly half will quit before or by the Summer, are ending up sitting around being paid for 8 hours of work but doing anywhere from 3 to 5 on a good day.
And I don't mean a Driver or two sitting around - but a room full of Drivers sitting around.
One Driver told me that he was on report (meaning he's on the "Extra Boards" waiting for work) for an entire week but only got one run that was 5 hours long.
I've had other New Drivers tell me they sit around on the boards waiting for work all day.

Anywho (sorry for the tangent - I really hate the Union's push for RTD to hire more Drivers that we can neither afford nor use!) the only real control that RTD has over income is the fare.
We can crack down on passengers who cheat the system and use old passes, expired transfers and who jump on the bus without offering any form of fare at all.
To do that we'll slow down each stop - taking the time to carefully examine each fare, each transfer, each pass - that makes everybody even more late when the routes are super busy and behind already.
It also makes RTD Drivers look like jerks when we start refusing passengers.
I hear all the complaints from y'all about the contractors (First Transit, Veolia, Etc) and in all honesty, RTD Drivers are supposed to be even more detailed and meticulous when it comes to fares.
But we're taught to educate and accommodate, "That transfer has expired, the correct fare is X dollars, Sir."
Then move onto the next passenger if he refuses to pay.
Another option is the Fare Inspector.
They are already all over light rail but not in the numbers needed to keep folks honest - I have people get on the bus at light rail Stations and only then do they decide to pay their fares. I watch them get off the rail and come straight onto the bus.
Fare inspectors cost money. They have to be paid and while they increase the revenue, that increase goes to their salaries.
Somebody even suggested that RTD was free to passengers.
That's great but then taxes and fees in "RTD Districts" would sky rocket causing everybody to pay for RTD while only a portion of those people actually use it.
And don't tell me, "Everybody saves when we have mass transit..." because while that's great and all, I've no desire to pay for something I don't personally use.
I won't push for a completely Passenger supported RTD because then the fares would be something like $10 a ride and RTD would end up being as crappy as the contractors who already operate on that system while using RTD buses.

Bottom line is that a fare increase is necessary.
In an economy where tax and fee increases can neither support public transportation nor can they be increased enough to attempt to support it; a small (~12%) fare increase is the least painful way of bridging the gap between breaking even and severe service reductions to make ends meet.

And please, I know you're upset with RTD for increasing the fares but please please please don't take it out on me?
I don't make a butt load of money, I'm not getting raises and my uniform is old, worn out, ratty and falling off me, not to mention RTD can't afford to buy me the required uniform jackets, gloves and hats to keep me warm (and they won't let me wear what I have because it doesn't conform to their guidelines!).
I'm not making any profit from your fare increases and I can't do anything about it.

While I'd prefer you pay your fare - pay or not, just get on, get in and let's get moving.
But be careful - fare inspectors are out en masse to enforce the increase.
You never know who's sitting on the bus pretending to be a passenger!
I've had them ride entire routes with me before.
They tell me when they get on (show me their badges) then sit and ride, keeping busy writing ticket after ticket the whole route long (one guy stuck around for my entire 8 hour shift!)

Speaking of Passengers whining and moaning and the cost to ride...
On Friday (New Year's Eve) the Ride was free from 7pm to 6am New Year's Day.
I've had bus loads of passengers very loudly complain about not knowing about detours, parades, delays, moved stops, etc.
But every single passenger on New Year's Eve knew about the free fares.
Every single passenger.
I didn't have to tell one rider not to pay.

Anywho, "Welcome aboard, pay the new fares, find your seats - Let's Roll!"

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