The citizen’s transit watch isn’t about watching suspicious bus riders–it’s about watching the use of taxpayer funds on transit.
Good transit is worth investing in—it’s good for the environment, it’s good for the economy, it’s good for the region, and it’s good for the nation. But it’s a multi-million dollar investment that must be watched. The MTA has made leaps and bounds towards transparency, is now headed by a CEO that regularly rides the system, and is all the better for it.
The question is, what goes on outside the MTA? Dozens of state and local transit agencies, also operate in the greater New York metro region, mostly in the ‘burbs, but are large enough to have a substantial impact on our lives and pocketbooks. So you dear citizen, ask your local state, county, or town officials: How often do local transit administrators ride their own system? How often do the elected officials ultimately in charge of the system ride their own buses? How much transparency is in their in the budgeting process?
Who operates the local transit service, and why? Operations often get farmed out to private, for-profit bus operators. On the surface, this is a good model for public-private partnership, but in reality they can become the worst of both worlds: A highly subsidized corporation that puts profit first, but operates off a long-term no bid contract, with no incentive to either operate efficiently or provide quality transit service to it’s riders.
Much of the arrangements are stealth, with an apparently publicly owned bus operated by a private contractor or an apparently private contractor that’s taking in large operating subsidies. (Some companies, such as the European based multi-national conglomerate Coach USA, even do both) So good citizens, follows the buses, follow the money, follow the contracts, and be sure to report back on what you find.