• 48°

Committee decisions don’t always match reality

Build it, and they will come.

It makes for a good movie plot – maybe even some daydreams about playing baseball in a cornfield with thousands of fans watching.

But how does it match with reality?

We see it all the time with local programs. These programs are designed to help people who need help, but those people don’t take advantage of them. If the people a program intends to help don’t use it, then it’s a failed program.

Local transportation has often been cited as a concern for the poor, the elderly, the handicapped – those who can’t drive whether it be because of health reasons or economic reasons.

During the past presidential term, money was poured into mass transportation programs – trying to get people to ditch their individual vehicles for a ride to work on a bus.
A grand idea. A great idea. It would help the environment (Even global warming critics should agree.) by causing less auto emissions into the atmosphere. It would help alleviate congestion on already crowded highways (That’s another story. Highways are usually built after – way after – they’re needed.).

But the plan, at least in this region, failed.

Why?

Because the people didn’t use it. Sure, a few did, but the numbers were nothing like what the dreamers dreamed.

We love our automobiles and the perceived freedom they bring. What if we want to stop at the store on the way home? You couldn’t do that on the bus. What if we got a call from our child’s school and they were sick and needed to be picked up? We couldn’t go if we had to wait on the bus.

And like it or not, most of us work at places where someone else is in charge. We go to work and are bombarded with distractions from co-workers and customers. Being alone in a vehicle gives us some semblance of being in charge. We can listen to whatever we wish. We can curse at other drivers. We can meditate. We can pray. All of those things are more comfortable in our own vehicles, not on a crowded (That’s a stretch. None of the commuter buses were ever crowded.) bus.

Eventually, those bus routes went bye bye. Those in charge finally realized the best plan is no good if the people it’s designed for don’t use it. Now, we’re left with some pretty big parking lots. Maybe some day it will be so crowded that buses are necessary and wanted, but that’s a long ways off. A long ways.

We’ve seen it in Mocksville, with a new circular route provided by YVEDDI to provide those who lack transportation a chance to go to a store, a restaurant, the library or senior services- anywhere on that route around town. The route was started because a need was identified. A committee of local “partners” was probably formed. But is the route meeting that need? Not if people aren’t riding.

It could be because they don’t know about the service. It could be that it’s just not that convenient to the people who need it, or the schedule doesn’t match when they want to go somewhere, or they think it’s going to cost money.

Just providing a service is not helping these people. Providing a service they actually use would be helping.

There’s been some complaints about the county’s plan to move the health and human services building out of Mocksville to a site at Farmington Road and I-40. They say it is moving the service – mostly used by the poor – further away from the people who need it. That may be true – but if we can afford to provide a circular route around town that gets little usage, we can afford to come up with a plan to send these people to the health department when they need to go. A simple check with the front office staff at the health department would give a quick glimpse of how many people use public transportation to access those services. I’d bet the numbers are lower than those coming up with public transportation plans realize.

We don’t have the answer here, folks. But we know that just because some committee identifies a need and a way to address that need doesn’t mean it’s going to work or is deserving of our taxpayer money.

– Mike Barnhardt