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October 29, 2008

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The last I heard, they were also considering changing Saturday bus service to the (generally far less frequent, and on some routes non-existent) Sunday schedule. The history of Phoenix bus service can be summed up by "one step forward, two steps back".

This after a hefty recent increase in bus fares and the elimination of transfers, thus requiring anyone wanting more than one-way service along a single line to purchase an all-day pass for $2.50: in effect a 100 percent rate increase for the average rider; monthly passes increased in price by 33 percent. The justification was the usual mantra about "serving our customers better" by maintaining and improving service. In fact, they had the gall to cite some gamed private poll of theirs claiming that most people supported the rate increase. One can imagine how that question might have been phrased: "Would you like to see services drastically cut?" with a "no" answer interpreted as approval of a large rate increase. In the end, they got their rate increase AND will drastically cut services.

Some day public transportation will be fully publically owned and funded, and private funding for political managers (i.e., politicians) will be eliminated; until then, in the words of Yakov Smirnov, "only in America".

It was pretty amazing to see all the suburbanite city and state workers with big SUVs join me on the express buses this summer. Not even those bloated two-income homes could afford gas. I never could find a seat.

Now it's cooled off and gas prices are way down, I'm finding lots of room on the bus. It was also discouraging to hear so many of them discuss they would never take the light rail, even though it will run more often and be much more convenient in addition to the short express routes from the park-and-rides to the rail station.

This town just doesn't "get" mass transit. At all. They've been giving $18 billion in federally-funded freeways and they don't understand why they can't have more.

I gave up on Phoenix bus service long ago...My 20-minute commute was taking 90 to 150 minutes on the bus! The connections were terrible. It's too bad, I did a lot more reading when I was taking the bus, but an LA commute on public transportation isn't worth it.

I lived without a car for ten years, ending about nine years ago. I commuted by Buscycle - a combination of bicycle and bus. During part of that time I had a two hour commute (each way) that had two transfers. In Seattle, if you don't allow 20 minutes for a transfer, you're going to miss one every week or two.

A schedule like mine would leave an effective work window of 7:00 AM to 8:00 PM, further restricting the options of the working poor.

A more recent article details plans for TWO additional fare increases:

http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2008/10/30/20081030busrailfares1030.html

The article is misleading (what a surprise). Here is a copy of my comment:

This is a typical Arizona Republic article in that: (1) It doesn't investigate the facts; (2) it uncritically quotes status quo sources; (3) it actively defends the establishment by spinning the facts instead of performing any kind of genuine investigative reporting.

For example, the article leads readers to believe (by quoting Valley Metro and a rider named Kevin Mason) that the price increase is justified by "rising gas costs". Two minutes online could have demonstrated otherwise. The article states that the most recent Valley Metro fare increase occurred in December of 2007. At that time, gas was about 30 cents MORE expensive than at present.

http://www.gasbuddy.com/gb_retail_price_chart.aspx

Go to that link, change the time period to "1 year" and select "Phoenix, AZ" as "Area 1" then look at the blue line on the chart.

The article also falsely suggests that Valley Metro did us a favor by lowering the cost of a day pass at the time that it increased other fares. What the article fails to mention is that at the time of the last fare increase it eliminated transfers. The typical non-commuter used to be able to run errands for $1.25 because of transfers. Now, $1.25 only gets you a single, one-way ride along a single line. To run those errands you must pay $2.50 for a day-pass, a 100% fare increase. Reducing the price of a day-pass wasn't any favor to commuters, either, because any commuter with a lick of sense was buying a monthly pass, not a day-pass each day. But the price of a monthly pass went up by 33%, too.

Valley Metro tried to justify its last fare increase (less than a year ago) by claiming that this would preserve the quality of service. Instead, it's the old bait and switch: increase fares, wait a bit, then cut service -- AND increase fares again. Not only is the level of service being cut back to what it was years ago -- no late night service, and Saturday buses running on a Sunday schedule (with most lines either not running or running half as frequently on Sunday) -- but they are ALSO getting TWO rate INCREASES in exchange for this DECREASED service.

This isn't about government incompetence. This is about private business interests running government, instead of people running government. Phoenix is incompetently run because it's full of morons brainwashed by conservative talk-radio (and by a toadying and increasingly incompetent newspaper of record operating in a monopoly market) into thinking that things can't be any different. Wake up and smell the coffee.

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