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Thursday, November 30, 2006

A Three Ring Binder Solution?

Today, the East Texas Regional Transportation Coordination Steering Committee released its plan for coordinating transit in the 14 counties served by the East Texas Council of Governments. Several of you glazed over and dozed off right there on that sentence. Why should you care? You’ve got a car.

Let me make this simple for you.

You ought to be paying attention to this issue. First it’s your tax money that’s been wasted in the past and if something isn’t done, more will be wasted in the future. Second, you’re gonna need transportation some day. Here are the facts!

  1. 1 in 5 East Texans doesn’t have reliable access to a car. They can’t go where they want unless they find someone who will take them.
  2. For most of us, it’s not if we lose the ability to drive, it’s when.
  3. We all get old.
  4. By 2010, 1 in 4 of us will be over 65 years old.

See. Someday, you’re going to need a ride. Your grandma may need one right now! Your disabled neighbor may need one.

Here’s why this all happened. The state got sick of throwing money at an inefficient transit system, especially in rural and small urban areas. Empty buses were running everywhere. Old people and disabled folks were left stranded all over the place. Commuters didn’t have any alternative to driving their cars to work. The state demanded that transit be coordinated with human services, local government, other transportation providers and other modes of transportation. They mandated a planning process with broad-based public participation.

Now the plan is ready. It’s been reduced to a three ring binder. The plan was approved unanimously. At that point I got up on my hind legs and asked the group what happens now? Is this one of those three ring binder solutions where we spend a horrendous lot of time and effort and create a plan that gets consigned to a bunch of notebooks and forgotten.

Griff Hubbard, the chairman of the committee, answered the question with a challenge. Evidently it’s now our individual responsibility to make sure the plan gets done.

Sadly, the resources for making our transportation dreams come true aren’t readily available to a large segment of the transportation stakeholders who developed the plan. If, for instance, an agency controls the region’s transit dollars AND acts as the recipient of those dollars as well, isn’t it sort of the fox watching the hen house? Yet that’s what could happen if the rest of us don’t get organized and make sure the plan gets done.

The steering committee will still meet, but it’s not enough. Somebody's got to bird dog this turkey! (I mean that in a good way - I like turkey! It's yummy!)

So we’re going to have to go to work. Should be interesting.

Just one man’s opinion….

Tom King

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