Seems like a harmless debate? Right? Well it is a bit more complicated than that.
While I think a very â€˜small’ increase is okay, ever expecting Paratransit to be self-sufficient is a bit far-fetched. There are those who would argue both sides of the coin, but those who want Paratransit to be self-sustaining are just not being realistic.
My arguments are very simple. A transit ride, whether that is by train, bus, or paratransit bus is transportation and infrastructure costs, no different than fixing our streets or maintaining our bike trail. There is no toll or fee to use our streets and bike trail, but we do pay a (regressive) retail tax to have them repaired. We also receive Federal funding for our roads.
Who pays a retail tax in our community? Well, anyone who purchases â€˜stuff’. This not only includes us planet choking auto owners but it also includes children, the homeless, people who are disabled, etc. etc. In some respects you could almost argue that paratransit and SAM rides in general should be free to anyone who pays retail taxes, but I won’t go there.
There is also an economic view of providing an affordable paratransit service. People with disabilities who want to work CAN. And instead of the Federal government supplementing their entire income and health benefits, they actually contribute to our community by working. Making paratransit unaffordable to those who need it most, the ones that depend on it for employment transportation, would be detrimental to that whole sector of individuals in Sioux Falls. Some may think this may be a way to drive the disabled out of town. That’s just crazy talk, many disabled people live and work in Sioux Falls because they are close to healthcare services and can be gainfully employed. You won’t drive them out of town.
I look at a â€˜subsidy’ of paratransit necessary and no different then â€˜subsidizing’ the street department to fill pot holes and fix our roads.
If you look at this through the eyes of government being prudent with our money, I couldn’t find many other things that are close to it. We have a choice, subsidize the rides so people can work and contribute to the tax base in our community, or make it unaffordable so these people have to use way more Federal resources which costs us way more of our Federal contribution.
As for how Paratransit operates, there are many, many, many things that could change to make it more efficient operational wise that would save us money in the long run. One suggestion would be to put in an efficient dispatch system. This would save in man hours, fuel and make the rides more timely.
While the city council and mayor may be beating their heads against the wall about fee increases, the bottom line is subsidizing paratransit just makes economic sense, now if they can concentrate on running it better, that would show some true prudence and business acumen.