Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Part 3: Mass Transportation "It all depends on..."

After 3 months passed and after the money had been approved for 200 new CAT bus stop shelters, I made it a point to inquire about how CAT was doing with the implementation of the new shelters. I probably sounded a bit like a little child on a road trip, "Are we there yet?" "Are we there yet?"

No we weren't was the constant answer from the Director of CAT. After 6 months had passed I grew frustrated and basically said look you have had plenty of time, this board and commission has a right to know where the system is on building 200 new shelters. I was assured that we would receive a detailed report at the next CAT board meeting. Fine.

Thirty days later show time came and we were informed that around 50 shelters had been erected and another 50 were "close to being ready." There was a lot of excuses about how the city permitting process was slowing things down. But something caught my attention. I don't remember exactly what it was. Maybe it was the way the CAT Director was avoiding eye contact with me, maybe it was the way he buried his head looking down into the staff report while he read it. Then it dawned on me.

I asked a point blank question, "How many of these 50 recently erected CAT shelters were 'New' shelters?" The director replied, "All of them." I followed up with, "By new, what I mean is how many are now in place that were not there at all 6 months ago."

Well, I was told the truth but it seemed I just hadn't been asking the right questions. Something like 10 shelters were new in the sense that no shelter existed at a given stop 6 months ago and 40 were new shelters that were "replacing an existing shelter." The director sort of shrugged his shoulders and said, "They are all new."

Next I got a long winded explanation about what bad condition the 40 replaced shelters were in, how down right dangerous those shelters were. Ahmm... yea but we said we wanted to increase our total number of shelters.

The post script to this semantic dust up was that it was much easier to replace existing shelter because you didn't have to go through permit process and then poor concrete and and and...

It was a learning moment for a new County Commissioner. Thereafter, I began to think very carefully before I asked a question and I had to contort my thinking so as to imagine every possible alternative meaning to any question I asked. It was an invaluable lesson and another example of how CAT management selectively processed CAT board directives. And we wonder why the system is failing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Shelters for bus riders are no-brainers---you can't expect people to use the bus system if it means standing out in the rain and sun most places.

It was a shame that new shelters couldn't be built-and it was about that time, CAT management was spending thousands of dollars on unauthorized planning for a humongous transfer station that could then be rented out.

I wish we had more smaller, non-polluting buses covering more of the county--even better would be more 'new' bus shelters and park and ride places where more people could actually use the system.

How can CAT officials even think about a ferry to Hilton Head, with CAT's service as it is now?