Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Tough Luck Transit

Posted By on Tue, Jun 1, 2010 at 1:41 PM

A few days ago, I wrote about MATA and its Dump the Pump day initiatives.

Obviously, service that is affordable and efficient would be a great boon to the city and its citizens ... and something that would be even more helpful in getting people to "dump the pump."

But MATA needs to be careful because the opposite is also true. Discounting a pass is a great incentive to get people to try to use public transportation. Now the question is: What kind of experience are they going to have when they do so?

The day/week will only be successful long-term if potential riders find a system that meets their needs.

I’m not saying it won’t. I hope it will.

But, based on what I saw at the last board meeting, I have serious doubts about how customer-service oriented MATA truly is.

(Full disclosure: I've gone back and forth about writing about this. MATA is an easy target, almost too easy of a target. I think most of the people in the city are aware of MATA’s failings with the exception, perhaps, of MATA itself. So, really, what's the point?)

The conversation centered on the downtown trolley system, specifically complaints one commissioner has heard about the trolleys being on time. Trolleys are supposed to visit each stop every 10 minutes, but he had anecdotal evidence that suggested that service was so unreliable and slow that walking was sometimes faster.

(Full disclosure, part two: I've had this exact experience. My office is off South Main. I've tried to get on the trolley to go to City Hall or to come back from City Hall, and sometimes it's been wonderful. Sometimes, it's meant me walking the entire way. In heels.

And after that happened a few times, I've been much less eager to try the trolley again.)

MATA staff defended the delays with vehicles blocking the tracks or high-ridership slowing down the payment of fares. (Really.) Instead of moving forward to address a solution, however, it seemed at least two of the MATA commissioners didn't think it was worth fixing.

Their response: "You can never please everybody," and "People always complain."

Well, that's the spirit for a subsidized public service that's always talking about how they have no dedicated funding source! Especially when they're talking about a service essentially used by tourists.

Let 'em complain! They'll never come back to our city anyway!

(By the way, here's a dedicated funding source for MATA: Fares.)

I get it. People do always complain. And critique. And criticize. I'm doing it now. And you can get mad and defensive. But after that, maybe take a moment to think: Is this criticism legitimate? If so, how can we fix the problem?

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