Reforms Proposed for VIA Successfully Used by Others
By Wendell Cox

Rick Casey's December 1 column critical of my Texas Public Policy Foundation study on VIA was both superficial and irrelevant. He relies on the "attack the messenger" tactic so often resorted to by authors unable to muster a compelling retort to the substance of a report.

We did not provide a detailed plan for our recommended cost reductions, but simply showed that others are doing it. VIA should commit some of the millions it spends on planning to develop the detailed plan. The reforms we propose are being implemented by nations and mayors of large American cities of right, center and left political persuasions.

Having been briefed on the conclusions nearly a week before release, VIA denied our request to formally present the report at its board meeting, and

in so doing made the decision for us to seek another forum --- The Express News. The conclusions of this report are too significant to be buried. And more than two weeks later there is still no response from VIA. VIA knew our conclusions well before the media, and was unable to provide an effective response.

And what makes bus drivers so special that taxpayers should subsidize their incomes above the level determined by the competitive market? Casey suggests that he wants "happy" people driving VIA buses. How many people die each year because of the tainted food served by unhappy restaurant workers whose incomes are not subsidized? How many people lose their life's savings because the incomes of unhappy bank clerks are not subsidized? Casey's point is well off the mark.

National data shows that private bus drivers, whose incomes are not increased by subsidies, have a better safety record than public transit drivers. There is a much more fundamental question here --- whether VIA's primary obligation is to its riders or to its employees.

The conclusions could not be more clear. VIA can --- right now --- cut its fare nearly in half, without implementing any of our other recommendations. And it can keep the lower fare for at least a decade, while reducing taxes by implementing our additional recommendations.

What drove our study is not "a desire for a right turn." We were driven rather by the belief that VIA funding should be used to provide the greatest benefit to riders, and that tax money should not be wasted in the process. I would hate to think that these are values on which the right holds a monopoly.

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