Let’s check in with the local government spenders who hatch ideas like laying colossal, concrete eggs around the bus stops, burning fossil fuels to heat outdoor playgrounds abutting the highway and building bus stops with big quarter-million-dollar phalluses to compensate for the little quarter-inch ones in their pants.
Yes, I’m talking about the bus guys — the (drum roll) Roaring Fork Transportation Authority.
First, let’s be clear on terminology. As a brand, “bus” isn’t cool. No one wants to ride a bus called “bus.” And “RFTA”? Forget about it. So the bus guys paid a consultant to come up with the brand (another drum roll) “Veloci-RFTA.” It came with a chicken-shaped dinosaur logo.
That’s right: the bus guys who will save us from global warming/cooling/whatever, named themselves after an extinct chicken-shaped dinosaur that failed to survive a climate change 66 million years ago.
You probably think that visitors from Austria and Japan who want to get around town are looking for a vehicle that regularly stops at a sign with the letters “B,” “U” and “S” in approximately that order.
You think wrong. Veloci-RFTA, and its newly wealthy consultants, informs us on its website that an expensive “survey” of “stakeholders” showed that people want a “fun” bus with an “unexpected” name. Once on board the bus, they will — by government mandate — have “unexpected fun.” The kind of unexpected fun that government bureaucracies are known for. Maybe an IRS audit or a TSA body-cavity search or an Obama drone-missile attack.
The new name and other “improvements” were financed by an extra $46 million in taxpayer money. Veloci-RFTA’s consumption of its human prey amounts to just about $1,000 for each human in the valley, and that was just one bite.
But as a result of these “improvements,” Veloci-RFTA assures us that the number of “rider trips” (defined as one warm-blooded human taking the bus one time) has increased.
As a frequent bus rider, I thought that was good. Providing rider trips is exactly what Veloci-RFTA is supposed to do. In fact, that’s the only thing it is supposed to do.
So I looked to see just how much “do” we got for our $46 million, versus “doo-doo.”
It turns out that we got a lot more doo-doo than regular do. Specifically, the increase in rider trips was 160,000 over the course of a year — from 3.98 million to 4.14 million. That’s about 4 percent.
So how much did it spend for each of these additional rider trips? Dinosaurs are notoriously bad at math (if you mention numbers, all they can think of is that 66 million number), so Veloci-RFTA won’t say. But we humans can do the math ourselves. Veloci-RFTA’s $46 million expenditure divided by an additional 160,000 rider trips comes out to about $300 per rider trip.
Let’s assume the increase of 160,000 rider trips is attributable to about 1,000 humans who took the bus an additional 160 times on average over the course of the year. If you divide the total additional expenditure of $46 million by 1,000 humans, you get $46,000 per human.
It would have been less expensive to simply buy each of those 1,000 humans a hybrid automobile, an electric scooter and a “Coexist” bumper sticker.
Veloci-RFTA demurs that “it’s too soon to gauge the effects” of its $46 million Godzilla-like rampage. Uh-huh. That’s cold-blooded government speak for, “Let’s not talk about this flop, and maybe everyone will forget about it before our sequel.”
Rather than using money on concrete eggs, weird branding, expensive consultants, compensatory phalluses and other dino doo-doo, why not just use it to pay humans to ride the bus? I’m a human, most days, and I personally would ride the bus an extra 160 times next year if they would just pay me the $46,000 in cash.
Another “improvement” on which these dinosaurs spent our $46 million was a $14,000 raise for their CEO, together with a guarantee of additional raises every year — not conditioned on his performance or Veloci-RFTA’s performance or even the survival of the species or the planet.
He’s a regular Tyrannosaurus Rex. Humans will recall that’s Latin for (can we have just one more drum roll?) “King of the Lizards.” Dinosaurs will recall that it’s dino-speak for “run!”
Speaking of the bus, er, I mean the Veloci-RFTA, why do riders with armloads of unbagged groceries (more on that in a future column) or in ski boots carrying skis and poles have to slip-slide over ice and snow at Rubey Park? It seems they could put a snow shovel in the hands of those bus guys whose job is to stand around and snarl to inquiring riders, “It’ll be here when it’s here! Grrrr … ”
If you don’t include the $46 million and all the other expenditures prior to that, and the next $46 million and the one after that, the Veloci-RFTA is still free to all destinations within walking distance.
Published in The Aspen Times on Mar. 2, 2014 at http://www.aspentimes.com/opinion/10369163-113/bus-million-rfta-veloci
Sketch by “Caroline” of Vancouver, BC