Thursday, May 12, 2016

Of buses and Sadiq Khan

I don't know about you, but I am pretty psyched about Sadiq Khan becoming the first Muslim Mayor of London. Partly because it throws such a wrench in the works of the same old tired discourse about Muslims, refugees, terrorists and how in some people's heads (and speech) they are all pretty much the same thing. Also because it shows Londoners as being a cut above we Americans in their ability to discern racist tactics in electioneering and to rise above them. I am sure Khan isn't perfect, nor are Londoners, but I think they are perhaps a little less imperfect than we are in the present historical moment.

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London

Anyway, I put Khan on my Google alerts, a thing I've started doing just recently, and that's why I got the following news. According to the Telegraph, he is going to introduce a new bus fare called The Hopper, which will allow people for the single price of £1.50 to travel as far as they can get in an hour. He tweeted:

I’m introducing a one hour ‘Hopper’ bus fare from September. I’m committed to making travel more affordable for all Londoners

People are already getting in the spirit of the thing by trying to figure out just how to get the most mileage for your buck. More power to them.

Khan's father, in case you missed it, was a bus driver for much of his life. And I, in case you missed it, have been a bus rider for much of my life. So I'm sad to report that Santa Cruz, liberal, environmental bastion that it is or wants to be seen to be, is taking a different path. According to our local weekly the Good Times:

Since the 2008 recession, Santa Cruz METRO’s expenses have exceeded revenues, forcing the bus system to dip into its reserves. Rising operating costs, stagnant funding, flat ticket sales, and a growing backlog of repairs and capital needs have pushed the transit system against the wall.

The ways that lie open to Metro, according to their planning and development manager, are three. Cut the routes' frequency, cut the hours and days they operate, or cut out routes all together. 

To be fair, there have been a series of public meetings to discuss these cuts, and I probably should have gone to the one that was downtown last week. But helping to evaluate which of three bad options is best really isn't my cup of tea. In fact, I think it's asking riders and other concerned citizens the wrong questions. It's asking them to fight over the wreckage. 

As a county which I am pretty sure largely believes that climate change is real, I have never really understood why there hasn't been a more active campaign to get people out of their cars and on to public transportation, and I find it extremely odd that the county government is sitting idly by while it's being further eroded. There's a lot of heated debate here recently about the proposed rail/trail which will use the old railroad tracks to provide a trail and train along the scenic coastline. (Most of the debate is about the rail, not the trail.) Trails are fine and trains are fine, but actually not generally that practical for getting to work and shopping and school. I know a lot of people say they will bike to work if the trail is there, but most of them probably have a car to jump into in a pinch. You know--stuff happens. 

Buses, however, are the vehicles of students, the poor, the elderly, people with physical impairments and the working class. They're not particularly fun or glamorous--they are just a necessity for many. I echo the sentiment of bus rider Patricia Fohrman when she told KION news, "I definitely will be buying a car and I shouldn't be driving a car I cannot judge distance or speed and I haven't driven a car in perhaps 40 years but I will buy a car.” 

For all our sakes, I really hope Patricia doesn't end up having to buy a car. And for similar reasons, I hope I don't either. 

                                                                                                      Richard Masoner

And yes, I do find the destination of this bus just a wee bit ironic...

I'm editing this to add a link on the situation that has since come out in our local paper, the Santa Cruz Sentinel, talking precisely about these sorts of concerns.


  1. Yay for the Hopper, bus drivers, and public transportation. We support it in the Midwest, as well as walking & biking!! (I'm hoping it catches on....)

  2. Yes, I think Khan gets that you have to actively promote things like public transportation, not just let it be.

    The good news here is that our local paper has finally gotten a story out about the people it will hurt, while being sympathetic to the transit system's dilemma. I don't think it's the transit system's fault. I think a bigger agency with an imaginative vision of the future needs to get involved.

  3. I took public transportation in London a number of times over the past two weeks, and I noticed a number of placards informing riders about public transport, letting them know that transport was the mayor's responsibility, and inviting comment. I wondered if the signs had been put up by the new administration or whether they had long been in place. I suspect the former now.

  4. Yes, he really seems to have hit the ground running with a lot of ambitious ideas, probably knowing that the honeymoon period won't last forever.