It was suggested to me to maybe think and write more optimistically. These people advising me, naturally, were naive car drivers.
I now look at my title, BUS RIDERS, and then set myself in the year 1972 just after the creation of MAX, with 20 hour service days and 20 minute headways combined with 50,000 riders a day- I have to wonder if my car driving buddies witnessed the Transit Massacre that was about to take place.
I did live through this nearly complete demolition of a once fine transit system seeing what should not have been horrible suffering but actually dynamic growth. Through some events and changes in the world happening 35 years ago, Public Transportation all over was about to bloom as never before, where pennies on an investment brought back gold mines in return. But naturally what the dummies here in Alabama done was to begin drastically cutting its already small investments in transit, causing it to forfeit other outside transit riches which combined with its own state monies caused horrible torture to that special class of citizens known as Bus Riders. Riders’ lives had become way too isolated, and the quality of which even more straitjacketed.
As Bus Riders were watching their once good transit system slip away, so were they. With the state’s heavy disinvestments the 20 hour service days was reduced to 12 hour days and those 20 minute headways grew to, depending on the route, to sometimes over 200 minutes. The transit week was to shrink from 7 to 5 days and all the while the number of total bus routes were getting reduced by nearly half. This Transit Holocaust is now thriving, and in this massacre the strong that could have helped the weak remained still and did nothing, and ridership plummeted 80% to less than ten thousand a day.
The small initiatives around town to secure better transit also do so without the invited participation of the Bus Riders. Weld’s recent articles on area transit were fine pieces for their purposes, but dig through them and search for the dependent consumer and the space given to their problems. Then read that Pollyannish article by Board Chair Joyce Brooks in Weld on how soon everything is going to be wonderful at MAX, without ever mentioning today’s Ridership. You better believe something is out of balance
Likewise at the different transit meetings, riders won’t attend them and why should they, since car drivers are the chairs and have been known to not let the riders speak. To say these chairs are out of touch with the grassroots would be to put it kindly as they usually want a member of the MAX management to snuggle up to closely during their meetings, the Ridership be damned.
Optimism anyone? Above is the reason for my hard edge as I’ve seen and experienced more Birmingham Transit than anybody else and can not only speak about the Transit Holocaust but show much of it. In Transit, car drivers have shown no understanding voice to share and it is up to the BUS RIDERS to be the leaders in solving the Transit Quandary.