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What kind of advocate are you?
One of the problems with being a transit advocate is that there is so many competing interest fighting for precious transit dollars and what kind of system that should be operated.
First you have the Free Transit advocates.
This group of people obviously think that transit service should be provided to free to everyone. Some people in this group are so-called advocates for the poor and feel that transit should be a social service. Many of these people feel that service should be provided to every corner of the service area no matter what the cost.
Free Transit advocates are against rail transit. The thought from them is that the sales tax dollars that go to capital projects could instead go to operations despite the fact that it is the voters that approved those taxes for specific projects because they see the need and the potential of those projects.
Free transit advocates also see that there is a problem with our government induced sprawl but there seems to be a disconnect that a somehow a free transit system would magically reduce sprawl. If free transit will reduce sprawl why do two of Utah's free transit systems have a sprawl problem (Park City and Logan)?
Then there is the coverage advocates.
The folks think that transit should reach every corner of the service area including in areas that standard transit service just makes no economic sense. Once again these people feel that service should be provided at all cost no matter what the cost is.
Some people are also free transit advocates. Never ask these people how do you pay for this type of coverage since usually these people feel that someone else should pay for it. Many of them hate the rich and see them as the enemy and want every dollar possible wrung out of them.
Of course these people also see rail projects as the enemy that takes money away from providing service to all corners of the universe.
You also have Bus Rapid Transit advocates.
These people do want better bus service and believe the hype that BRT is rail on rubber tires. They also believe that BRT cost less than light rail since that is what much of the propaganda tells you.
However, what these people do not take into account is operating cost. While BRT maybe cheaper on the capital side (unless you try to be an equal system), there seems to be a disconnect that operating a BRT system that carries the same number passengers as light rail would cost substantially more to operate.
Another group of advocates are rail advocates.
Now many will consider me a rail advocate and you would be right, however I hope I do vary from what I am classifying as a dedicated rail advocate.
The problem I see with many rail advocates is that they see everything as the enemy. If someone questioned a project or its effects they would attack the person and classify them as a pawn of road warriors.
Just like the anti-streetcar people in Centerville, I don't think they are bad people I disagree with their stance and think that if they could experience the potential of the system and experience what the system could offer, it may show them new possibilities.
We also have the road warriors.
These people hate transit but see it as a necessary for those "losers" that cannot afford to buy a car. Otherwise everyone should want to drive a car that there is something wrong with people who don't want to. You will often here them say that everyone wants to drive and that is why transit has a small market share.
They put on the blinders that our present system has been set up by almost 76 years of pro-automotive government interference. They also turn a blind eye that many people who do own homes today could not afford them if it wasn't for the government getting involved in mortgages back during the FDR administration.
So where do I stand?
First of all, I do not see UTA as an enemy because they do not do everything I think they should. UTA is doing the best it can with available resources. As I have said before, when you are dependent on a very volatile form of revenue, then when bad times happen (like right now) revenue will go down and cuts need to happen. Its just something you have to deal with.
Yes, I think UTA can do things better and its our job as transit advocates to turn UTA down that paths not destroy the organization.
Bus service is necessary but in the long run it is going to take rail transit to carry enough passengers to make economic sense. Also, we need to change the way we look at how are cities function to make transit more effective.
The best way to get service to far ends of the system is to make the existing system more economical through more riders. The best way to do that is make transit more attractive to choice riders and develop true TOD.