It's another one of those good ideas that makes eminent sense. But, get the government and unions involved and that good idea ends up not serving the public the idea was intended to serve.
In this case, the good idea is "public transportation" and the location is Nancy Pelosi' beloved San Francisco.
Employees of the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) subway system recently went on their second strike in for months. But, an analysis of BART's finances and infrastructure indicates that it's those employees and their contract--actually their union leaders--who are destroying that good idea.
The study, conducted by the Competitive Enterprise Institute's Vice President for Strategy, Iain Murray, and Infrastructure Policy Analyst, Marc Scribner, revealed the following concerning BART's finances:
- During Fiscal Years 2010-2012, operating losses totaled nearly $800M for the three-year period.
- BART needs an infusion of $15B in new investment over the next two decades. That means annual capital contributions will need to increase nearly 300% from current levels.
- In FY 2012, BART collected just over $360M from riders, but paid employees nearly $380M. That means BART is already in the red to the tune of ~$20M before BART can pay vendors for supplies, equipment, and energy.
Imagine running a private enterprise using that business model!
BART's largest and least flexible budget expense is labor, but union officials refuse to accept the fiscal facts. What BART officials want is flexibility to change the workers' schedule. Union official counter that BART has been exploiting workers.
How badly have the BART workers been exploited?
The current contract allows some transit workers to complete a 4-day, 10-hour/day schedule. Others work for 5 days at 8 hours/day. BART officials want to reduce costs by changing that 4-day schedule because 4-day workers receive overtime for anything beyond their 40 hours. Got the picture? Work 4 days and get overtime for a fifth day!
Public transportation, especially in the nation's urban locales, is a very good idea. It should be reliable, efficient, safe, clean, and cost effective. Get the government and unions involved and BART's story gets replicated across the nation. It's not the workers who are being exploited, but the taxpayers who keep those systems afloat.
Let the discussion begin...
To read Iain Murray and Marc Scribner's study, click on the following link:
"BART's Bogus Ride."