No Punch And Pie But Still Celebrating An Epic Fail
Last Friday, Milwaukee County bus riders who placed their bikes in bus racks got to ride for free. This give away was intended to celebrate the fact that bus riders using the racks exceeded 100,000 this year.
I'll leave aside for the moment the question of whether usage was really this large or whether the Transit System folks are cooking the books?
When the decision was made to spend $405,000 in taxpayer money to equip buses with bike racks, the claim was that 200,000 riders would use the service annually. 200,000.
And we're celebrating because usage was half of what was promised? That's like holding a parade for the Packers after they lost in Indianapolis yesterday.
The point though really isn't whether spending all that money (plus at least an additional $19,000 in maintenance costs) was worthwhile. That ship has sailed. The real question is how public officials can continue to accept bogus ridership or usage estimates without being held accountable.
Anybody with an IQ above plant life had to realize that the 200,000 number was absurd. No more absurd though than the estimates that 600,000 to 660,000 persons will ride the 2.1 mile streetcar loop that Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett wants to build between the bus depot and the lower East Side.
Before a private business expands, it typically does extensive research to understand exactly how many new customers it will attract. When government wants to start a new program with taxpayer dollars, it typically inflates usage estimates to try to justify the program. If those usage estimates have no relationship to reality, who cares? It is, after all, just taxpayer dollars?
If the trolley line is built - and when ridership fails to meet predictions - I wonder how big a party Tom Barrett will throw. Maybe he'll serve punch and pie.