David Stults

Regarding The News-Review’s April 1 editorial ovation for the bus service, I have a couple of alternate points of view.

First, you state that “countless people” rely on the service. Not only can they be counted, but they should be counted. If the district isn’t gathering as much information as possible about its riders they are ignoring tools that will allow them to provide the best, most cost effective service possible.

Since the number of bus riders isn’t provided, let’s make an estimate: Someone who relies on the service would probably use the bus one to five times per week. Those who ride one or two days per week ride for shopping, medical appointments or just to get out of the house (remember those days?). And those who may ride five times per week use public transportation to go to school or work. For the sake of estimation, I’ll use two days per week. A day’s ride will count as two in the district’s logs (one to the destination, a second to return to the starting point). Based on consistent usage during the year, each two-day-per-week rider will account for 100 days of riding and 200 logged trips.

Dividing that number into the ridership tallies reported in your editorial indicates that there may be as few as 500 or as many as 800 consistent riders who rely on the service. These numbers are anecdotally affirmed by the sight of virtually empty buses driving our streets and roads every day. Certainly not countless, and probably not cost effective. Using a midpoint of 650 consistent users and a bus budget of $2.5 million (estimated), the cost is almost $3,800 annually for each rider. That would be a pretty substantial transportation subsidy provided by the taxpayer. I would be pleased to be corrected on any of these estimates if they are out of bounds.

We should assume that the routes and schedules are already optimized to provide the best service to the most people. If that’s so, then adding routes, busses and frequency may only incrementally increase ridership, but it will also substantially increase costs, almost certainly adding to the annual per-rider cost.

Surely there must be a better, more cost-effective way to provide service for those who rely on public transportation, and I would call on the collective genius of the district’s board and staff to investigate options that may have a better result than spending money just because it’s available.

Additionally, in the 12th paragraph you seem to blame Republicans for the demise of the funding bill. It should be noted that the responsibility for the lack of action by the legislature could as easily be laid at the feet of the governor, who could have had the cap-and-trade bill passed if she would have allowed it to be referred for a vote of the people. I hope that The News-Review is not evolving into the kind of partisan, biased rag that we see in other communities around the state.

David Stults is a retired, former member of the Oregon House Transportation Committee.

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