Saturday, February 24, 2007

Want better public transit? Vote with your butt.

Brainshrub Bus Project

I've been engaged in the Brainshrub Bus project for about seven months; and longer I use the bus as my primary means of transportation, the more I realize that the Asheville Transit System (ATS), like so many other transit systems in the United States, is caught in a Catch-22 situation that prevents more investment:

People would take public transit, or at least they say they would, if it could meet their needs; but until more people use the bus, such a system can't be funded or built.

I have an idea to break this cycle, and make it politically feasible to completely revamp the ATS. I'm talking about an upgrade that would make western Europeans jealous. Imagine it: A bus/trolley infrastructure that runs 24/7; where no citizen would have to walk more than three blocks to get to a sheltered stop, and vehicles arrive every 15 minutes during daylight hours.

To make this happen, all I need is your butt.

Allow me to explain.

Put your butt on the bus.According to this May 24, 2006 report,* ATS gives about one million rides a year - 1,019,330 to be exact. Out of a serviceable population of 68,889 - 14.8 percent use the bus at least once a year. This breaks down to approximately 10,195 Ashevillians. Each person has one butt.

Think about it: 10,195 butts who ride the bus a minimum of once a year is enough to justify maintaining eighteen routes here in Asheville.

The way I figure it, if we could get another 10,000 butts to ride the bus once a year - it would be politically feasible to expand the public transportation utility to meet the needs of more citizens.

But where to find an extra 10,000 new asses?

Thankfully, there are many here in Asheville! I'm referring, of course, to Democrats. (What??? The symbol of the Democratic Party is the mighty ass. What did you think I was talking about?) According to the Buncombe County Election Commission, there are 27,767 registered Democrats in Asheville as of 2005.

Let's say that half of these Democrats are opposed to the Iraq and/or Afgan oil wars. Half of these Democrats are concerned about the effects of sprawl. Half of these Democrats cared about air quality.**

Half of 27,767 is 13,883.

If these people, who complain the loudest about the inherent problems an automobile-based transportation system creates, would just take the bus once in the next 12 months; they would collectively more than double the amount of people who ride, at least on paper. And "at least on paper" is how legislators decide how much money goes into funding.

More people on paper --> More funding --> More routes --> More people.

"But Paaaaaaaul," some Democrats may bleat. "I care about those issues, but taking the bus so haaaaaaaard. My busy schedule is too demanding to ride public transit. Now excuse me, I'm late for my Yoga class in downtown - and that means I have to get there extra early to find a parking spot."***

To this I reply: Take the bus for only one block.

During your next jog, or when when you have five minutes to blow - just hop on the bus, pay a buck, travel a block, then get off. The collective effect of this simple action would be tremendous, and greatly increase lobbying power for advocates of public transit.

So, if you want to see a better public transit system, vote with your butt.

For the explanation behind the Brainshrub Bus Project, click here.

To see all posts for the Brainshrub Bus Project, click here.

* Yes, I recognise the irony of using a study from the John Locke Society to support increasing public transit.

** I used registered Democrats in Asheville for my data set. I could have used Republicans, who also care deeply about the health of the city. However, by-and-large Democrats are a bit more gung-ho about community transportation.

*** Someone actually said this to me.


1000 black lines said...

Someone once asked, "Is it safe?" Yes. The only time I witnessed anything contrary to that; the ATS was offering free rides at the time.

I will confess that if one is not used to living by the bus schedule it is a bit of an adjustment in lifestyle. It also requires a bit planning. And now with extended hours to my 'hood, I don't have to sprint to the bus stop at 5:45 PM.

I encourage Asheville natives to take a bus ride downtown on the weekend. Go visit the Pack Library or visit an art gallery or something. There's no excuse about a busy work day--it's the weekend--and it will be a good way to learn how well the ATS service its citizens.

Asheville NC said...

I am a democrat and I rode the bus downtown last week so add one more butt to the total.