May 23, 2008

150,000 passenger trips each decade!

An editorial in today's Orlando Sentinel criticizes Volusia County officials for considering to cut the commuter bus service from west Volusia to downtown Orlando. The news story was reported in yesterday's paper (Volusia might eliminate I-4 bus route to cut budget.)

Let me preface my comments by stating that I fully support mass transit. I think local governments should give more funding to public transportation, not less. And I think the I-4 bus route needs to be kept in place until the Central Florida commuter rail system begins operation.

With that said, I also value the truth. The editorial and news story didn't contain incorrect information, but they did report information in a way that can be only described as spin.

The Orlando Sentinel reported that the bus service generates 1,200 passenger trips each month. This is true, but it does not tell the whole truth. A reader unfamiliar with transit might quickly read the article and think, "1,200 seems pretty high." But let's do the math. A passenger trip is one way, so 1,200 trips each month equates to 600 passengers each month. Assuming there are 20 work days in each month (it's a little more, but the math is easier), that equals 30 passengers each day. Neither the news article nor the editorial mention that the bus service is used by 30 people each day. They don't tell the complete story.

Why? Because then the question becomes: Should Volusia County keep a bus service that serves only 30 people each day? My answer is still YES. Central Florida needs more bus service, not less. But hiding real numbers is not the best way to build support.

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