Oakville Transit a taxpayer cash sinkhole

March 12th, 2011 → 11:49 am @

Oakville Transit a taxpayer cash sinkhole (Toronto Sun Column)

By John Scheel, Guest Columnist

Oakville’s transit system has been mushrooming in size recently – against all logic.

Consider that 95% of the town’s 61,000 homes have cars. Oakville is a bedroom suburb, duh?

Council, led by the mayor, has foisted a costly obsession on taxpayers. Its transit costs blossomed from $13 million in 2007 to almost $20 million in 2009.

The routing was changed from a circular system to a grid system to provide more coverage. In response, the bus fleet has jumped from 70-odd to almost 100 vehicles, all purchased new of course to support jobs and the economy.

Transit employment jumped from 156 to 203. At first look these buses and jobs are desirable, but they are a total waste and unnecessary.

And for all that expenditure, ridership has remained steady at about 2.5 million rides a year.

Each rider pays an average of $1.85 per ride, leaving revenue at $5 million, if you round up generously. To break even the town needs a $17-million “subsidy” from local taxpayers to fuel its budget.

So, each ride gets a $6.80 subsidy on top of the paid $1.85. Each household pays $278.70 for this extravagant “field of dreams”, liberal-dictated, social experiment. The transit budget could easily cut $10 million by trimming frivolous or marginal routes from its $223-million operating budget – a savings of almost 5% of the town’s entire operating budget.

Waste doesn’t stop there.

Most buses now have tinted “environmental” windows. Is the real reason to block the public from seeing the “missing” riders? Because there are so few pickups and drops, buses are parked with engines running all over town. Drivers dawdle to keep on their route schedules.

Oakville Green, which lobbied with suspected provincial support, thinks idling buses carrying no people is good for the environment.

It gets even worse.

Oakville’s council has pushed for many years for a new bus maintenance facility, budgeted to cost $45 million, to be shared equally by the three levels of government. Some are calling for $55 million, with the spillover entirely to Oakville’s account. They are building it now. With a little tweaking, it can service a 250-bus fleet. Unbelievable, but this again creates more jobs!

All these jobs support a false economy based on empty buses running routes for handfuls of people and politicians’ egos.

This is an example of the infamous “infrastructure spending” being downloaded to municipalities all over Canada.

London, Ont., has about 150 buses which carry 22 million riders a year. That is efficiency. The subsidy is about a buck per paid ride.

The 104-member Canadian Urban Transit Association, of which Oakville Transit is a member, ranks municipal performance. I was told I had to get the data from Oakville with a snicker.

Oakville has relied on wild forecasts and input from its administration, consultants and biased citizen surveys. Elected-asses are well-covered while citizens are in deep, having been walked down a plank.

This should never have happened.

And now that Oakville’s built its Rolls Royce bus system, good luck trying to undo the excesses.

– John Scheel is a semi-retired businessman who is completing a book on government waste and inefficiency inspired by his findings in Oakville, where he resides

Link to Toronto Sun article: http://www.torontosun.com/comment/columnists/2011/02/28/17443911.html

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