Saturday, May 9, 2009

Bus to Nowhere

May 5th’s Palm Beach Post proclaimed “West Palm Beach's new bus depot 4 days from debut,” an encouraging development for mass transit in this area, in keeping with national priorities as well. One of the main objectives is “a seamless connection to the regional commuter train system.” That system is Florida’s Tri-Rail, the only mass transit system for moving passengers in the heavily traveled North/South corridor between West Palm Beach and Miami, also connecting to Ft. Lauderdale and Miami airports.

So far, so good, an improvement to one of the connecting tributaries, something that will provide dependable and reasonably priced transportation to those who either can’t afford driving that route or simply encourage people to give up on their gas guzzlers for such trips. In fact, since the economic downturn began and fuel prices spiked, ridership has almost doubled.

Is this one of the green shoots we’ve heard about? Such an expansion of mass transit not only accomplishes these important local and national objectives, but also provides jobs as well, not to mention getting people to their jobs.

Ironically, in the same issue of the Post, is another story: “Tri-Rail's hopes for emergency state money are dashed; by fall weekend service ends, entire system could close in 18 months.”
“The Florida legislature Tuesday refused to include $30 million in emergency Tri-Rail funding in the 2009 budget, as requested Sunday by a group of legislators in an open letter to GOP leaders.”

$30 million? – mere chump change that hardly qualifies as a down payment on what has now been revealed as AIG’s real bonuses payments for 2008, $454M. This is the amount which Florida is refusing to fund, or does not care enough about to fight for some federal government sponsored money to keep one of its few mass transit options open? The legislature is obviously willing to play political hardball at the expense of people who are dependent on the system for their very employment. Didn’t they get the message from Washington about improving our infrastructure as being one of the pillars of the stimulus package? Clearly they are not aware of the new buses to nowhere.