Thursday, March 22, 2012

Independent council candidate Bushnell has a plan to extend bus service

Brandon Bushnell

Roanoke City Council challenger Brandon Bushnell said current bus service continues only due to public pressure, as the city has found ways in the past to cut services like allowing city students to ride for free.

“Roanoke City Council continues to balance its books on the backs of those Roanokers who can least afford it,” Bushnell said. “They are closing the door on our children’s future by allowing the meals tax to expire, and they continue to minimally fund bus service for those Roanokers who depend on public transportation for life’s basics, like getting to work or the grocery store.”

Bushnell said that extending the service is vital because it’s one of the few direct actions council can take to stimulate the economy and provide more opportunities for work.

“This directly affects jobs,” Bushnell said. “The reality is that not everyone in Roanoke has the luxury of owning a car. There are a number of people who rely solely on bus service to get to work. And we can open the number of jobs available for to someone who relies on the bus by extending service hours and adding Sunday service.”

Bushnell said he has a plan to fund the current bus service and expand it to include later hours and Sundays.

Brandon’s Plan to Extend Valley Metro Bus Service:

Make the Meals Tax Permanent

City schools will lose $4.7 million per year beginning June 30 because current council members have promised to allow the prepared meals tax to expire. To make up that shortfall, council has taken money from other vital services.

Reverse the City’s Current Funding Formula

The city’s new funding formula compensates for the loss of the meals tax but leaves other services, like transportation, scrambling for money. By making the meals tax permanent and returning to a more balanced funding formula, we can keep vital services in place for those who need them most.

Increase Bus Fares

Stovall told Council members that with a modest increase in fare, along with additional fares expected due to the increase in service, it would only take $500,000 to extend hours and add Sunday service.

“While that’s a lot of money,” Bushnell said, “when you put it in the context of spending $4.7 million on Elmwood Park renovations, or the $600,000 the city paid to consultants to study the park improvements, it’s not difficult to find that kind of money if your priorities are aligned with citizens’ interests.”

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Election 2012, Elections, Politics, Roanoke City Politics

Tags: , , , , , ,

Comments (3)

E. Duane Howard

March 23rd, 2012 at 8:44 AM    

The problem Bushnell has along with most people in Southwest Virginia is they simply do not understand the “Car Culture” mentality that exists here and throughout cities our size across the country.

The majority of these people have not lived or spent anytime in large cities that do have mass transit and it is used by ALL classes of people, not just the poor as is here in Roanoke and like cities nationwide.

Cities like Roanoke who have only the limited scale of bus service we do is simply not convenient enough for the average working class families to use. Plus, they have grown up with cars and are so addicted to the quick get there and back mentality that using the bus is out of the question. It is a door to door mentality that is pervasive throughout society.

Today’s generation has been chauffeured door to door since day one. They are dropped off at the front door of their school, and parents fight and jockey for close up parking spaces at schools to pick up their kids. God forbid they had to park a block away and walk over to pick up the kids. I witnessed this for 10 years living across the street from Highland Park Elementary.

I think gas prices would have to reach $5.00 to even have people think twice about driving instead of public transportation and even then I don’t think most will give up the use of their cars. So this will always leave transit companies in cities like Roanoke struggling.

Katrina Wood

March 25th, 2012 at 9:06 AM    

Very good points sir, and I agree with you in many ways on this. If our bus service here in Roanoke was improved upon, I’d be jumping on the bus instead of getting in my car every time I had to go somewhere. I grew up in southern California where the bus system was so much better than what we have here in Roanoke. Easier to get to, more frequent stops and pick up points…and a WHOLE LOT CHEAPER than owning car!

Brandon Bushnell

March 25th, 2012 at 6:50 PM    

A very insightful comment, sir.

I do believe that I understand this cultural force that drives most Roanokers away from Valley Metro. The transit system in Roanoke largely serves those who have no other means of transportation and a few environmentally and civilly conscious individuals–God bless them.

But how can we convince most folks to use the bus system? Will a middle-class professional be more likely to take the plunge when he knows that his ignorance of schedules and time points may make him late to work? Or, perhaps, would he be more likely to take the bus to church, to the bar and home again, to the library on the weekend?

There are certainly marketing challenges for Valley Metro–they must convince more middle-class Roanokers that the bus system is an efficient and enjoyable means of getting-around but the buses must run at times where these new demographics can try the service stress-free.

At the same time, folks who already ride the Valley Metro will have access to second and third shift jobs, jobs with rotating rotating weekend schedules and the majority of folks could chose a $1.50 bus ticket over a $15 taxi ride home after an evening in one of downtown’s popular bars.

It’s a challenge but it’s attainable with a smart investment.

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