Wasting money on public transit in the “sticks”

by Doug

One of my long time pet peeves has been the gobs of gas-tax and other tax-funded monies wasted on certain public transportation systems. I certainly support and appreciate public transportation systems in urban areas- where they are cost-effective (for the most part) and heavily used. It is when attempts are made to bring widespread service to rural areas that it becomes a costly, underutilized proposition- which I have a problem with.
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In this earlier posting (on our sister-blog) on the latest attempt to launch public transportation here in the Lakes Region of NH- certainly not a densly populated urban area- I wrote
They’re Baaaaack! That’s right- the area, relatively unchanged since the last public transit authority went belly-up due to lack of money and interest, now finds itself with a new public transportation company- (a jobs program for well-connected bus drivers?) but already saddled with the same problems that plagued its predecessor: money- or the lack thereof.
With rider fares around a few bucks or so, the bulk of the money needed to run a bus transportation company through the mountains and back roads of central NH comes from someone else: you and me.

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Today’s Citizen (Aug 19) ran a story about our new non profit bus company. Seems as though after only a couple of days, the routes and stops the busses make are still not enough for some people:
The operators of the new Winnipesaukee Transit System are working to meet the transportation needs of elders whose homes lie outside of the system’s government-defined route schedule.

Officials with Community Action Program Belknap-Merrimack Counties say they are trying to use "demand-response" vehicles under their elderly care program to provide door-to-door service to those who live outside of the quarter-mile buffer of the fixed-route Winni-Transit system.

The offshoot of the now-defunct Greater Laconia Transit Agency, or GLTA, started rolling out its buses on Monday, with the goal of providing a more reliable schedule of buses after what has been an extensive effort to consult with residents on what they want in a public transportation system.

The new routes run through Belmont, Laconia, Gilford, Franklin and Tilton

This, of course, is exactly why a rural program can’t work in an efficient manner given that the population is thinly scattered across a wide area. Perhaps those who require such services should choose to live where their needs can be better provided for? The Citizen tells us of the plight of one particular elderly woman:
Irene Labrecque, 86, of Belmont is among those who say the new system has made it difficult for her to get the bus. She lives in the Heritage Terrace home for the elderly on Shaker Road in Belmont, which is approximately a half-mile from the Winni-Transit system’s Belmont stop in front of the hardware store on Main Street.

Labrecque said the distance might appear small to some people, but she uses a cane and has troubling getting up and down the several hills between her home and the stop.

"That’s quite a walk for me. It’s going to be even harder in the wintertime," said Labrecque.

Labrecque said another Community Action Plan bus has been picking her up, but she noted that the service is not available on a daily basis.

When I was young and my grandfather was in the nursing home, which was privately owned, it owned a shuttle bus that provided transportation. Otherwise, if the residents wanted to go someplace, family or friends picked them up. I am sorry to hear that Ms. Labrecque is so inconvenienced by the fact that the bus doesn’t pick her up, and the service that does and brings her to the bus isn’t available at her beck and call.
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Perhaps she should have chosen an elderly home with a bus. Perhaps she should have gone closer to the city with more convenient amenities. Whatever- the choice is HERS- I just don’t want to fund a money-wasting bus and taxi company to haul her butt around…

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