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Nightline: Public Transportation Woes

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To have an effective public transportation system, local governments must meet the so-called “Federal and State standards” so that they can receive funding and operate their own public transportation network. However, with the economy moving sideways, and with an increased pressure to keep public transportation running in communities across the United States, it seems like the public transit agenda that many cities want to achieve is being stalled.

Despite the fact that transportation agencies maintain such services as “frequent buses” or “more commuter services” to allow more people to use public transportation, it seems like the strain is real: federal and state governments keep cutting funding for so many departments, including the transportation department, which is a very crucial sector of any state economy, because politicians deem that cutting transportation funding can save their state millions from so-called “unnecessary spending”. What’s worse, public transportation funding is also being sacrificed in the process, hitting against the current government’s agenda to cut down carbon emissions to reduce the country’s overall environmental impact. Is it really a good idea to sacrifice public transportation funding for saving a state’s economy? To me, it sounds like choosing to spending more on gasoline than putting up solar panels at home because the government nowadays has a double standard: they want to emphasize a more environmentally-friendly future, but at the same time, they haven’t found ways to reduce their fuel usage for purposes beyond government-related business.

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Take for example: I’ve been a rider of San Francisco Muni for about 1-1/2 years now, and I’ve seen little to no improvement on its fleet of buses and its shelters, as well as the services provided for its passengers. I mean, in 2009, the agency cut six routes from the network to save millions of dollars due to “poor passenger loads”; along with that, many of the bus lines faced service reductions, forcing passengers to wait longer for a next bus, resulting in more overcrowded buses often. Then, a few months later after the cuts were first made, by the tune of $22 million dollars, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA) has restored about “65% of the services first cut in 2009” in response to passenger criticisms. But, what’s more painful to swallow is that despite more buses running on the roads, the agency still suffers from a long list of problems, including bus overcrowding, bus bunching, vehicles turning around without warning, rampant graffiti on board vehicles and shelters, violence and fighting on board… the list goes on and on that I feel that Muni needs a brand overhaul, as well as a company review of its policies and strategies to better serve the City and County of San Francisco. Besting other public transit systems in the Bay Area by carrying more riders per day than other agencies (amounting to about 700,000), Muni does an incredible job carrying passengers everywhere around San Francisco, day and night, 24/7, 365 days a year, with about 80 bus lines, six Metro lines, three cable car lines, and one street car line, and it has been a subject of many controversies due to the fact that the agency is large enough that problems can easily occur once something happens. And with state and federal budget cuts in place, the San Francisco MTA has no choice but to reduce its functions anywhere it can, from less bus services to less overtime pay for drivers to even less time renovating and maintaining bus shelters and stations, forcing passengers to ride on overcrowded buses and see graffiti and smell foul odors on bus stops, train stations, and even on board vehicles. Is that something that makes you concerned? I hope so.

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Providing more funding isn’t necessarily enough to promote public transportation in cities. It needs community will, government support, and endorsement by employers and large companies to really make public transportation more affordable and accessible to the general public. When the government does not do enough to fund and maintain a stable, well-connected public transportation network, I believe that some of the services that have lower riderships should be contracted to private agencies instead, like what’s being done in Marin County, north of San Francisco, so that Golden Gate Transit can save money from overhead by allowing MV Transportation and Marin Transit to operate local routes within the county, as well as allowing inter-agency transfers to allow more people to ride the transit agency. I think transit agencies need more than just money to keep public transportation running: it needs community spirit and teamwork, as well as assuring stakeholders that public transportation will lessen a community’s overall environmental impact by less driving on the road will help solve many of our major cities’ worst problems of highway congestion and higher gas prices, as well as promoting economic recovery by moving towards a more environmentally-conscious lifestyle.

0 thoughts on “Nightline: Public Transportation Woes

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