A forum conducted by the United Way of Central Kentucky briefly stirred dormant discussion on the possibility of expanded public transportation in Hardin County.
Most people hearing about public transit visualize a government-operated, regularly scheduled bus route with daily stops.
Entry to that business is an expensive one. The equipment is expensive and the recurring costs of personnel, maintenance and fuel are prohibitive.
In addition, most municipal bus systems in this country are subsidized by taxpayers in order to make the rates affordable. These systems operate at a loss. Rest assured if this was a profitable enterprise, the private sector would be running bus lines and government would not hear these kinds of appeals.
Americans love their cars and have grown accustomed to setting their own schedule thanks to personal transportation. With gasoline at $2 per gallon or less, that’s unlikely to change.
Even the most elaborate public transit system will not provide the door-to-door personal level of convenience that car owners enjoy. A need may exist but broad-based use is unlikely.
The UWCK forum should be commended because it did not limit itself to bus service consideration. Some possible solutions suggested at the meeting included partnerships with churches and a 211 non-emergency hotline to employer or agency vouchers for cabs and buses and affordable housing closer to jobs.
The forum did not provide feedback from local government officials who repeatedly have confronted these questions. The message from elected officials is clear: Budgets from other established services will have to be cut or new tax dollars raised in order to consider a transit system.
One elected official did speak up in favor of government-supported transportation to the applause of forum participants. Coincidentally, he is part of the leadership of an entity which operates buses.
Matt Wyatt is chairman of the Elizabethtown Independent Schools Board of Education, which transports students more than 140,000 miles per year. The district has 19 buses on the road plus two others it keeps as backups.
“The city of Elizabethtown, the city of Radcliff and Hardin County government really need to work together on solving this,” he said. “We spend money on ball fields. We spend money on all kinds of things. We’re not talking about an incredible amount of money for transportation.”
Notice that Wyatt did not mention the school district being a part of the solution. It’s easy to figure out ways to spend someone else’s money.
With Wyatt’s clear support, perhaps EIS could team with the existing Transit Authority of Central Kentucky to offer a pilot bus line or at least determine just how much taxpayers would be out to operate a new year-round, subsidized service.
The News-Enterprise, Elizabethtown