Slashing our way to uselessness
Posted by clubsodaandsalt on January 31, 2010
Whenever I read about service cuts, I think about the B71 (PDF). See, getting around Brooklyn can be a bit tricky; if your destination is on your subway line, it’s quite easy, but otherwise your trip is nigh on impossible unless you want to pay for a cab or take the bus. When I lived in Brooklyn, I lived in Prospect Heights, but sometimes wanted to try out the restaurants on Smith St. This was one of the neighbourhood pairs that the subway just didn’t work for. But! The B71 offered a solution – a bus that went from my block straight to the heart of Smith St! I’d have taken it all the time, except that it (1) stopped running at the insanely early hour of 9:30pm, and (2) it only came every 20-30 minutes, which, given how unreliable a bus schedule is, made it pretty much worthless.
The B71 is a good example of a phenomenon that I think is under-appreciated by transit agencies – sometimes low ridership doesn’t mean that you are providing too much service – it means that you are providing too little. There’s a threshold below which you make your system so inconvenient to use that you force people to mode shift, or to avoid certain trips entirely. SF Muni seems to be headed right in that direction – 10% service cuts on a system that is frankly already decidedly inadequate (ever ride Muni Metro during the morning rush)? And over what is ultimately a relatively small amount of money as well – the Muni deficit is just $17 million, compared with the $440 million that BART is spending on the silly Oakland Airport Connector, or the $1 BILLION being spent to widen the 405 in LA. Muni carries 700,000 trips a day. It’s the transportation backbone of the city, even if Mayor Newsom never uses it. Commerce would absolutely plunge without it. Why are we letting it shrivel? It’s insanity, and it’s depressing to watch.