What's this thing they call the bus? 

Will this old, weary conversation never end?

It's the one where a bunch of people make the trek to City Hall and are forced, again, to beg that their already-inadequate public transportation service not be cut. That they be able to hump it back and forth on the bus to their $8-an-hour jobs, or to grandma's or to church, or to the mall or wherever it is that they go, without spending a fortune and an entire day getting there and back.

These people represent just a sample of those who just doggedly fought for their freedom to travel across town and won, in spite of our public servants' reservations about such wildly liberal spending on their behalf. They should not have had to publicly share sometimes utterly heartbreaking personal stories.

Some of them work hard; some don't. Some have disabilities and walk with canes or with assistance from dogs. Some are elderly. A few are environmental do-gooders who pedal to the bus stop, lug their bikes up onto the grill and ride off when they reach their destination. Very, very few have SUVs parked in their driveways, as an optional mode of transportation.

If it seems as though we just voted on this many of us expecting a certain finality to this weary, weary conversation it's because we did.

In 2004, Colorado Springs voters approved a modest sales tax, 10 percent of which went to improve public transit in one of the country's fastest-growing cities, which hadn't added a bus line in, literally, decades. This may be Colorado Springs, where a vocal minority would prefer the guv'mint pry that one-percent tax from their cold, dead fingers. But it isn't rocket science to presume that the vote meant the majority of taxpaying people in this city committed to an improved public-transit system.

You know, commuter buses, express-service lines, mini-sized buses for low-ridership routes heck, even light rail! We can connect Fountain and Monument and Manitou Springs, and, why not? Let's go up the pass. Next stop, Yoder! And maybe, just maybe, in our lifetimes, we'll realize that 40-year dream of connecting the entire Front Range, from Pueblo to Fort Collins, with a high-speed train! It's a gay, mad whirl!

Anyway, back in 2004, voters approved a Rural Transportation Authority. It wasn't light rail, but it was a start.

It took exactly three years for the bean counters at City Hall to figure out they could save $1.3 million a year by increasing bus rates and cutting 14,000 hours of transit service. They handed this information over to their bosses, our elected, nine-member City Council, for consideration.

Predictably, the city's daily newspaper wasted no time in wrapping its cold, dead editorial fingers around the notion of eliminating public transit entirely. Last week, the Gazette's opinion writers argued that cutting off mobility to the masses was actually a chance an opportunity! "for city and county governments to examine their missions as well as their budgets and get back to the real business of government."

"... Just because a large number of people rely on [bus] service isn't justification for government to meet that need," was the crux of the argument.

Unfortunately, of the dozen or so people in town who actually agree with the Gazette's rationale, some of them appear to be serving on City Council.

Usually right about here in this weary old conversation comes the riff about how, gee golly, in most places, public transportation is actually quite a normal thing. And this may sound shocking it seems to work quite well.

Yes, you can go just about anywhere and you will discover leaders in communities all over the world are committed to public transit and permanent funding to make sure all citizens are mobile.

Perhaps one day, Colorado Springs will be one of those cities. Perhaps then, our city manager might not need a "revelation" from discussions with the bond council to keep the bus system on life support. Perhaps then we can move the conversation along to something else like the novelty of timed traffic lights.



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