Do We Really Need Another Study?
"I Don't Mind A Parasite. I Object To A Cut-Rate One."
Last comment by sebekm 2 years ago.

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There’s an article above the fold of today’s print Courier that a lot of us have been waiting for. Its title is: “Study examines bus use, ridership” by Ms. Danielle Hipps. In the article, Ms. Hipps reports that a “comprehensive,” $100,000.00 study will be conducted on the “efficiency and use of the Liberty Transit System.” Well – it seems to me that this is the kind of study that should have been conducted BEFORE a decision was made to spend taxpayer money and implement the system, but that gripe is long overcome by events. All that is important now – IMHO - is whether we throw good taxpayer money after bad in an attempt to validate a decision that our elected officials and local planners made well before conducting this “comprehensive” study. (I guess by that statement, you can see where this blog is going.)

Ms. Hipp’s article contains a lot of good information on the purpose and intent of the upcoming study - as well as possible outcomes – which include “(m)odifying or expanding routes as well as adding new ones.” She also points out that the bus system would have to “discontinue service areas before adding new ones,” due to the “current funding structure.”

However, the portion of the article I found most interesting – and wished was broken down in greater detail – was the following:

“The system currently has four routes within Hinesville, Flemington and Fort Stewart, which are the local governments that fund the system, (transportation planner Rachel) Hatcher said. Each route has access to Fort Stewart and both area hospitals.

“They are consistently at 2,000 trips per month, and growing,” Hatcher said. The ridership peaked in May with 2,313 trips – determined by the number of times a rider boards a bus.”

Trips are the standard measure for a National Transit Database, a federal tracking administration, Hatcher added. The study also aims to identify the number of people who use the system, which involves tracking individuals.”

This is good information, but what I REALLY wanted to know is how much money the system is making (or losing), and the average number of passengers per day that the buses are carrying. The above quoted information doesn’t really tell us that; however, I think we can do some "simple" math from information in Ms. Hipps' article and on the libertytransit.org web site to make rough estimates of those figures. But first we need to know a few “facts” about the Liberty Transit System, and make a few “assumptions,” so that we can better understand what the math actually means.

*FACTS AND ASSUMPTIONS:

• Per libertytransit.org, the bus system serves “an estimated population of 48,630 persons (according to the 2000 Census count).”


• Also according to libertytransit.org, the system operates six days per week (Mon-Sat), and consists of four routes. Only one route operates on Saturday (Route 2), but it has 15 “runs” (which I'll define as complete circuits from route start point to route end point) on that day. IMHO – this is sufficient to consider Saturdays as a full “operational day.”


• A typical month consists of 30 calendar days. For this analysis, I’ll use 24 “operational days” (Mondays through Saturdays) as the average number of days Liberty Transit System runs the buses each month.

• I’ll also consider Monday through Saturday to be an “operational week.” This would mean that each operational month would have an average of four operational weeks per month (24 operational days per month divided by 6 operational days per week).

Confusing? I hope not – but let’s go on to the “math”:

*THE “SIMPLE” MATH:

• Ms. Hatcher reports in Ms. Hipps article that there “are consistently at 2,000 trips per month,” so we’ll consider that as the average number per month. The article defines a “trip” as “the number of times a rider boards a bus.” I understand that one person can account for multiple “trips.” But for the purpose of this analysis, the number of “trips per month” is sufficient to enable us to come to a conclusion.

• 2000 trips per month divided by 24 operational days per month equals just over 83 trips per day.


• 83 trips per day equal 83 RIDERS per day. Also, 83 riders per day equal only $83.00 per day in “regular” fares.

*MORE MATH:

• Even worse, the total number of RUNS (which I defined above as the number of complete circuits from route start to route end point) per month of all four routes combined for the 24 operational days per month is 1460. I got this figure by totaling up all the weekly runs from each route – 365 (1A-63 + 1B-58 + 2-154 + 3-90) - and multiplying by four (the number of operational weeks).

• This means that for 1,460 bus runs each month, there are only an average of 2,000 riders per month. By my calculations, this equals only approximately 1.4 riders PER RUN. (I'm also assuming that each rider will board and exit the bus prior to the completion of one run.)


• 1.4 riders at a regular fare of $1.00 means that the bus system is only taking in less than $1.50 FOR EVERY RUN IT MAKES.

*THE BOTTOM LINE:

Without the "official" numbers, we can’t figure out exactly how much “red ink” the Liberty Transit System has run up during the two years it has been in operation. But I don’t believe we need a $100,000.00 taxpayer-funded study to see the forest from the trees here. Based on the above, I believe it is clear that it is NOT cost effective to continue the Liberty Transit System in operation – especially at taxpayer expense in these austere times. A bus system which serves an estimated population of 48,630 persons and can only attract an average of 1.4 riders per run is a losing proposition any way you look at it.

I highly recommend that everyone consider the above when deciding to vote for or against the T-SPLOST referendum.

(Note: If my calculations are incorrect or if my analysis is otherwise "flawed," I encourage anyone – especially those connected with the planning, operation, and funding of the Liberty Transit System – to point out the errors. But I believe that I am correct in my calculations and assumptions, especially as far as them being just “rough estimates.”)


Latest Activity: Jul 15, 2012 at 2:39 PM


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golfnut31316 commented on Sunday, Jul 15, 2012 at 16:42 PM

I believe you are close enough. I will be voting NO for T-SPLOST, Enough is enough.

timeontarget commented on Sunday, Jul 15, 2012 at 16:55 PM

More discussion later but a NO VOTE appears to be in order.

Later

sebekm commented on Sunday, Jul 15, 2012 at 17:36 PM

My daughter is a regular patron of the Liberty Transit System. From what she tells me, she is frequently the sole rider on a run. When she's not, there's usually a max of only 2 or 3 others. She's been riding the bus for nearly the entire time the system has been in operation. For me, this validates the "ballpark" accuracy of my above calculations.

It's unfortunate for the voters-taxpayers that the bus windows are tinted so dark. If the people could better see from the outside how empty the buses usually are, I'm sure that the outcry to shut the system down would be far greater than it is now.

WhatsHotLips commented on Sunday, Jul 15, 2012 at 19:49 PM

If you can come up with an estimate, why if having the actually info they can't come up with the true figures and publish them without spending 100,000 to do it? What b/s...

sebekm commented on Monday, Jul 16, 2012 at 12:25 PM

You're right. I believe that they are not touting how great the system is operating because the true figures ARE as bad as I "guess-timate" they are. I drive around town a lot - and I always seem to be crossing the path of one of those buses. When they're not apparently "broken down" on the side of the road, they appear to be in a long pause awaiting the schedule to catch up with them. Thats another indication that they're not having to stop to pick up/drop off many passengers - if any.

Aside from T-SPLOST raising taxes, I think the referendum has a problem because it includes funding for continuation of Liberty Transit.

Back when the system first got up and running, I was one of the few on this blog site who said "give it a chance to catch on." I contacted Rachel Hatcher to ensure I understood how the thing was supposed to operate, and I published an extensive blog and addressed a number of issues that were brought up by our fellow bloggers. I made the case as best I could to say: "How will we know if it's really a loser unless we give it some time?"

Well - two years is enough time. As I recall, they were saying they had 2000 "trips" per month during the first few months. If they're using that number now, nothing has changed. The troops have been back from deployment for some time - so any anticipated "big increase" in bus usage on Fort Stewart apparently did not happen. The buses are still as empty as they were back in 2010. Meanwhile, the taxpayers MUST be funding at least part - if not all - of the shortfall. If they're earning less than 2 bucks per run, that's not even enough to pay for gas.

I say shut it down; shut it down now. Sell the buses - if you can - and use the proceeds to pay for other stuff or (GOD FORBID) to LOWER TAXES.

I've decided to vote AGAINST the T-SPLOST, not only because it includes funding for this project but because I've found that if you keep feeding the tax man, their appetite just KEEPS GROWNING. You have to draw the line in the sand somewhere. They should be CUTTING BUDGETS, not raising taxes.

We have to send them a message.

sebekm commented on Monday, Jul 16, 2012 at 12:37 PM

...if you keep feeding the tax man, HIS appetite just KEEPS GROWING, that is....

(I must have subconsciously made those errors on purpose - it felt good to say it twice.)

up2sumptin commented on Monday, Jul 16, 2012 at 21:17 PM

If they had better routes then they would get more riders. This meand actually going into the subdivisions and other places were people are. From my house, the nearest bus stop is over a mile away. Do you think a mother with little ones or an elderly person will take advantage of such a system if they have to walk that far? Especially carrying groceries?

During the last survey, I attempted to make my concerns know but I never could get anyone to call me back. I have gone to review items that are suppose to be open to the public only to be told they are elsewhere. I really don't think they want to know that we think on this subject. As a taxpayer, I am willing to support it if it is helping the elderly and disabled, helps families get to the doctor, work or shopping. I was in on the planning stages of this thing and was assured that if an elderly or disabled person had the proper release from his/her doctor, they would come to the door and pick them up. What a crock. What they didn't say is the person had to live within a 1/4 of a mile of a bus stop. The lies just keep coming.

tandshickey commented on Tuesday, Jul 17, 2012 at 11:17 AM

I suspect that the group will cave to a sunk cost fallacy concerning the metro transit system and decide to keep it because of the financial investment that was initially required. I see the program as a sad waste of money; premature at best. Not sure if I am completely sold on the TSPLOST idea yet either.

sebekm commented on Tuesday, Jul 17, 2012 at 11:44 AM

"During the last survey, I attempted to make my concerns know but I never could get anyone to call me back."

up2: They supposedly surveyed and studied before they implemented the system, and have tinkered with the routes. Remember there's not only a problem of getting buses to where the people want to be picked up; but also taking them where they want to go. The fact of the matter is that most people have cars, and the elderly who need transportation probably already have more "personalized" service than a public bus system can provide.

Also - there's a definite perception out there that the decision-makers don't really want input that goes against their plan or what they have in place.

"Not sure if I am completely sold on the TSPLOST idea yet either."

Hi TandS: According to the TSPLOST list, it includes:

*Expanded Liberty Transit System Capital (Urbanized Areas
of Liberty County)

and

*Expanded Liberty Transit System Operations for 10 years
(Liberty County)

So a vote for TSPLOST is a vote for continuation of the Liberty Transit System. They may be running the $100,000.00 study to provide cover for having the sytem on the TSPLOST list.

The bottom line is if the ridership is not there, the system loses money. SOMEBODY - SOME TAXPAYERS - ARE MAKING UP THE SHORTFALL.

To me, to continue the system's operation is throwing good money after bad.

golfnut31316 commented on Tuesday, Jul 17, 2012 at 20:48 PM

From the courier.

Editor,

I attended Wednesday night’s town hall meeting and was shocked to learn the magnitude and costs of the proposed TSPLOST.

It would track to be the largest tax increase in Georgia history. Literally thousands of dollars out of the budget of the average household in Liberty County. Shocking was the amount of money to be spent on projects that are very highly questionable in nature: $18.2 million on the Liberty Transit system and $6 million on the MidCoast Regional Airport. That will be $361 from every man, woman and child in Liberty County for a bus line with no passengers and an airport with no flights.

The geography and demography of Liberty County will never support a self-sufficient transit system. The political power of Savannah International Airport will not allow MidCoast to have commercial flights, evidenced by their pressure on Hilton Head Airport now. And the killer: the Hinesville Bypass threatens to eat more than $72 million of your tax dollars.

I did not get the impression that our leaders had a firm grip on how to handle the magnitude of projects that will be jumping off simultaneously across the area. Each political subdivision made a presentation on how they would spend their portions of this wave of tax money to be received. The Liberty County manager outlined his projects, then showed $20 million in “reserve.” That just tells me there will be more money afloat than can be spent or even envisioned how to spend.

We have a republic form of government. I voted for representatives to go to Atlanta, study our needs, levy taxes and manage government. To place this all-or-nothing TSPLOST into the hands of citizens who don’t have the time or resources to study, understand and cast a knowing vote is not right.

Joe Gillam
Hinesville

sebekm commented on Wednesday, Jul 18, 2012 at 12:29 PM

In her letter to the editor, Leah Poole urges citizens in our region to "educate themselves" by "looking at the proposed (TSPLOST) project lists."

See: http://coastalcourier.com/section/4/a...

The more I have looked at the lists and "educated myself," the more I see unnecessary expenditures and waste of taxpayer money.

This is what I meant by the perception that the decision-makers don't really want input that goes against their plans or what they already have in place. It's the same old story: If you don't agree with them, you are ignorant/stupid and need to "get educated."

During my lifetime, as soon as I've heard or read about somebody saying that, it tells me more about THEIR level of "education" and their poor salesmanship ability. You don't sell an idea by telling people they are ignorant and they need to "educate themselves." You sell it by pointing out the merits and presenting your arguments as to why YOU think the positives outweigh the negatives. If you are selling a good product, the positives will FAR OUTWEIGH the negatives. If they don't, then you make your best case and cross your fingers.

But when you call people ignorant, you lose the sale and get people urinated off AT YOU. When somebody does that, it's clear who the ignorant/stupid one is.

BillMacDonald commented on Friday, Jul 20, 2012 at 15:28 PM

This is why we really need to replace the whole lot of them. Vote in new blood and new ideas. They spend money like it's not even theirs ... oh wait it is not even theirs it ours!

I appreciate your info on this as I really was not paying attention to this and was not really invested as to it's value! Thanks!

sebekm commented on Friday, Jul 20, 2012 at 15:31 PM

You're welcome. Have a great weekend.


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