This LA Times profile of the end of bus service in Clayton County Georgia outside Atlanta shows that cutting taxes cannot be the answer to everything, and cutting services is often even worse on an economy when the economy is bad.
But perhaps nowhere in the country is the crisis more acute than in Clayton County. Officials with the transportation association say the system is the only one they are aware of that has completely shut down due to budget pressure.Oh I know, these folks are all too poor and lazy to go get jobs so they can buy cars and not have to depend on the bus to get to their JOBS, right?
It is also a place where a large number of suburban working poor may now be stranded: A survey of riders in April 2008 found that 65% of them do not have access to a car. In a survey last month, 3 out of 4 said they may lose their jobs when the buses stopped rolling.
Much of that worry trundled along with bus 503 as it made the last of its morning tours Wednesday. The 503 route is one of the system's most popular, ending at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, where many riders work, and where others catch the regional MARTA train to points north.
Some riders on the 503 said they had arranged carpools with friends and family; others said their homes were within acceptable distance of the stops for the handful of regional express buses that will still run north into Atlanta. But many others were without solutions.
It's easy to cut public transportation politically. The only people who are going to complain are the inner city poor, and they don't vote, right? We can save $8 million by eliminating regular bus services, and if a couple thousand jobs in the county are lost and the total damage to the local economy is much more than $8 million, well...that's somebody else's problem. We're being fiscally responsible, we are.
It just hasn't occured to millions of Americans, particularly in rural areas of the country, that things like regular bus service in a city are vital to keeping the economy going. People complain that their tax dollars are going towards things that don't directly benefit them if they live in an area without buses or have a job where they can afford a car and the gas to drive it.
Millions of Americans don't have a car. Some of them can't afford it, some of them don't want a car because...surprise!...the area they live in has regular public transportation services to and from where they work and where they live. But public transportation involves the government, and we've been trained to think that anything the government does is automatically inept, useless, and done as a service to benefit the undeserving leeches of society in order to repress "Real Americans".
This includes bus service to get people who have jobs to their jobs. They will no longer have jobs, a lot of them. And then they will get unemployment or some other government service, rather that working for a living. Great way to get the masses off the government teat there, conservatives.
Look, at some point you have to accept that taxes have to be raised in order to pay for services. But the Club For Growth wackos on the right refuse to even acknowledge that this is even an option in our economy. Clayton Commissioner Wole Ralph explains:
"The only responsible thing to do was to cut the service," Ralph said. "This economy has forced individuals to tighten their belts, and governments have to do it too."No, that's NOT the only responsible thing. Not when cutting the service costs thousands of jobs.
To recap, in most locations in America, it's a simple majority vote by an elected commission to eliminate bus service and rip a nice hole in the local economy. A tax increase to save the service and keep people working however takes a referendum vote by the entire county, which is doomed to fail anyway.
There's something wrong when a handful of people can make the decision to destroy a local economy, and it takes a majority vote of the people to do anything remotely responsible to save it.
Cross-posted at ZVTS.