What does it cost to run well over 25 public buses in the Grand Valley? After spending many days going through multiple government website financial information, VetTheGov has discovered a large amount of local, state, and federal tax dollars being spent on a losing proposition for the community.
Under the TIP (Transportation Improvement Program) Mesa County receives Federal and State grants for the Grand Valley Transit (GVT) public bus system. From 2008-2010 the local tax payers have spent $5,191,932.00 for the GVT. For the 2011 budget alone the local taxpayers are on the hook for $2,582,500.00 and then the program receives another $5,760,000.00 from State and Federal grants. See all funding numbers here!
Click here for 2010 transportation funded grants. Here is the County's justification study! The social justice/social equity/environmental justice found on pages II-3 and II-4 bring up many interesting questions in regards to fiscal responsibility to tax payers. In reading further in the justification study you will find it is derived from an original study used for the U.S. Forest Service and is now used for local transportation impacts. They use what is called the ripple effect. We will try and explain this process in layman's terms.
Let's take your personal vehicle that you use for work and personal use and add the government ripple effect plan of how it impacts the local community. Hypothetical scenario will use a 25,000.00 vehicle and an annual salary of 55,000.00. This one vehicle and worker using the ripple effect now becomes responsible for every job and salaries at their work, the car manufacturer, the car dealership, the local gas stations, insurance companies, and everywhere they spend their 55,000.00 earnings and yes even their taxes for local, state, and federal employees and agencies. The return on every dollar they spend is off the charts. This is how the government we elect redistributes your tax dollars and tries to justify using the ripple effect.
Here is the link to the Federal Transit Administration which explains the grant programs being used by Mesa County. This site is where you will find what these individual FTA grants are used for and how the Federal government tentacles reach into local neighborhoods. As noted in the funding numbers the following grants are being funded in Mesa County: FTA 5307, 5309, 5311, 5316, and 5317.
In the latest GJSentinel.com article on the GVT it states they hope to reach ridership of 980,000 by the end of the year. This breaks down to 3192 daily riders since they do not operate on six holidays and Sundays. If we use current $1.00 per rider per day this equates to $980,000.00 in potential revenue. If we use 2011 projected budget amounts of $8,342,500.00 less $980,000.00 we have a loss of $7,362,500.00. It is hard to imagine any private sector business could keep their doors open with these types of loses. In reading the GJSentinel article the Sheriff's office has assigned deputies to ride the buses. Could this be where the school resource officers were reassigned after budget cuts. This is another example of being stuck with a government service that effects budgets in other areas of greater concern. In this case you see the bus system is of greater importance than safety in our schools.
In breaking down the spending in more detail, VettheGov located the last spending report from Mesa County's website. In line items 185170 and 185165 you will see the monthly expense from the County's General Fund for drivers and fuel for the GVT program totaling $174,770.93. This excludes any administrative or maintenance cost. GVT subcontracts the bus drivers from a huge multi-billion dollar company called First Transit locally but the main company Firstgroup is headquartered in the UK which bought out Laidlaw.
In reading through an onboard study located on Regional Transportation planning office website, the following reason was the highest score, "Passengers were asked the most important reason they ride the bus. As shown in Figure II-6, the top reasons for riding the bus are passengers who do not drive (46 percent) and passengers whose families do not have cars (1percent reported that the bus is a convenient way to travel)." Out of the 394 surveyed 110 were 18 or younger while 12 were over the age of 65. Over half of the riders earned under $15,000.00 annually.
So here is an idea! Of the 7.3 million in loses, we could purchase vans for each government agency such as work release and hire a driver to transport these individuals wherever they needed to go and save tons of money doing so.
In regards to getting individuals to work, why isn't the burden on the employer? What happens when the grant funding stops? Why doesn't the government tell us why they keep these losing programs?