The Covid crisis not only crippled ridership of the poorly run Broome County transit system, it shed much needed light on what is an under-scrutinized and opaque government operation.
According to a former career county worker within the department, BC Transit is a corrupt, mismanaged operation that misrepresents facts, cooks the books and cheats taxpayers out of millions of dollars.
Because over 75% of the department’s budget is funded with federal and state tax dollars, management was quoted as saying to employees, “We don’t run this like a business because we don’t have to.” No doubt about that. The 21 fixed route bus lines run empty the majority of the time and most routes could be serviced with a motorcycle and side-car. Instead, a fleet of nearly 50 full-sized buses traverse thousands of miles of roads, usually with only the driver aboard, little more than diesel-belching billboards. Astonishingly, the department claims 2-million rides last year which equates to a just-not-believable 5400 plus riders a day, every day, a total fabrication.
In the competitive world of private enterprise, buses would be replaced with passenger vans, adjusting to dwindling demand and saving fuel and maintenance costs. Instead, strong unions prohibit any changes and routes are set and unalterable. Because of that, dozens of perfectly suitable vans sit silently in the Broome Transit lot.
When there is no competition and no profit incentive, there are no consequences and that crushes motivation. BC Transit is little more than a 13 million dollar make-work-program for the 100 plus employees that devour an annual salary and pension cost of about 9 million dollars.
With alternatives like Uber, Lyft, electric scooters, bikes, and work-from-home situations becoming the norm, these realities don’t influence the “we’ve-always-done-it-this-way” mindset of an organization that has no reason to be better and brags about its own mediocrity. Instead, we celebrate when Senator Schumer announces a $12M infusion of electric buses into the fleet so we can more greenly and grandly waste taxpayer’s money.
Just a few of the ways the county does this:
- The newer hybrid buses have power trains made by Cummins Corp. Cummins contractors are on-site almost every day, at $1500/day fixing problems that the employees cannot.
- Instead of using an older bus closer to the end of usefulness to provide a Covid enclosure, management instead put a newer, $700,000.00 dollar hybrid unit into that role thereby rendering it inoperable for anything else and ultimately scrapped.
- When touring the BAE bus manufacturing facility to see the newest models, management overruled the recommendations of BAE officials when choosing buses, opting for all electric versions when experts were telling them that was the wrong application for our area and terrain, deciding instead that green symbolism was a better political choice.
BC Transit should be privatized, along with the Arena, the Forum and the Willow Point nursing home, all entities that the county has proven it cannot manage. Government fails miserably when competing with the private sector. Get back to basics.