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Transit Problems

These are some of the problems that face Public Transit Agencies

Standard Disclaimer: This information is being provided by me as a private citizen and is in no way to be considered to be official VTA information.

Here are a list of the types of problems that can plague various transit systems. (In no particular order).

  • Uncooperative local governments. The various cities and the counties can cause a lot of problems. Some of them are very transit friendly, in Santa Clara one of the best at the moment is Cupertino. Problems they cause can include restrictions on which streets the buses can use, placement of bus stops. Ever wonder where the Warms Springs BART Station is? The blame here probably goes to both Fremont and BART.
  • Bad Management, every district out there has had this problem at various times. There are also always bad managers within an agency. How many times have you heard about people being kept on just a couple more years so they can retire with a larger pension, even when they aren't doing any work. This also applies to bad decisions in purchasing equipment. SCVTA has experienced this one more than once over the years.
  • Directors who do thing for "Political" reasons. This can include agreeing to provide service even when they have no intention to carry through on it. I know of at least two route restructuring plans passed by the TA Directors that were never implemented. The previous board also spent a lot of time funneling money out of transit and into other county budgets. I also know at least two routes that maintained routings because of someone who "Knows Someone".
  • Bad Drivers, they are usually a small minority, but it only takes a few screw-ups to cause real problems for the whole system. For the most part, drivers are usually fairly good. But there are always those few who only think about themselves and give the rest a bad reputation.
  • Bad Supervisors, they can also cause severe problems. I don't want to think about the number of times I've had to question reroutes implemented by road supervisors. A lot of the supervisors can be good, some of them only think about "What will get me promoted", not "What is best for the system."
  • Money, this is one of the biggies. Service costs money, and everyone wants their piece of it. This applies to management as well as the workers. SC-VTA used to have to pay the county over twice the cost for services that they had to get from the County. I've talked to drivers who only complain when the runs don't pay enough, some of them never complain about the schedules unless it affects their trip back to where their car is. The public also wants their piece of it in either lower fares or more service. A lot of the public would just as soon see all public employees paid minimum wage. I'll be the first to admit that wages in some public sector jobs may be too high, but then you get the type of worker you pay for. I'm sorry, I don't want my bus driven by some driver making $6.00/hour, even some pizza places pay more than that.  When times are good, some districts have a hard time hiring drivers because of pay and cost of living.
  • The public, this also has an impact, there are several sections of routing that exist only because one person with a lot of political clout want the service. The attitude that Rail is always better than buses is part of this. Some people don't think that way, but a lot of them do. There is also the NIMBYs, after all, most people seem to agree that we need public transit, but most don't seem to want it in their back yard, or to pay for it.
  • Developers who don't think about buses, or who think about "How can I keep the buses away from my development. Some of them are very good to transit, while others try to avoid it at all cost.
  • Changing economy, all agencies are funded by taxes of one form or another. When the economy changes, this can drastically affect the amount of money an agency gets. SCVTA had to do around 15% in service cuts over two years (92 & 93) do to reduced revenues. It also drastically affects ridership. One of the reasons SCVTA is experiencing large increases in ridership is due to improvements in the economy.
  • Population Density, this creates problems because with less dense population you have to spread the service out more to get the same number of passengers. Muni carries more people even with fewer people within its service area because it is a lot smaller area. How many Muni routes are over 15 miles long.
  • Mandates from outside. Look at the changes agencies are have had to make because of ADA, the changes in buses due to the EPA. Most of them are good changes, but they are being forced down the agencies throats without given them the money to implement the changes.


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Service & Operations Planning
Last Modified: March 31, 1998

This page was prepared by Eric Rosenberg 

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