Scott Ford: 'Nifty' versus necessary

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To the Editorial Board:

I would like to offer a different viewpoint to that of the editorial published on Sunday, April 27, titled “Upwardly mobile.” This editorial praised the merits of the new GPS system, which will be installed and tested in city buses this summer. In all likelihood, this is a classic example of Shiny New Toy Syndrome.

Without question having GPS locators on the city’s bus fleet is “nifty.” Although “nifty,” do we really need them? As a city, would we have purchased this $82,000 system if not for a grant (other people’s money) that covered about 80 percent of the cost? I think not.

The ability to get a grant for something does not necessarily mean that it is a good idea and therefore should be done. Although relatively small in scope, in the greater scheme of the city’s budget, this new “nifty” system becomes yet one more thing that needs to be maintained — and in all likelihood upgraded and eventually replaced. Who pays for that? I think we all know the answer to that question.

There is limit to what the city of Steamboat Springs taxpayers are willing to pay. I doubt shiny new toys are very high on the list.

(Although I am a member of the Steamboat Springs City Council, the views I express are my own and may or may not be shared by my fellow council members.)

Scott L. Ford

Steamboat Springs

Comments

Ken Mauldin 3 months, 4 weeks ago

Without an honest cost/benefit analysis of this project it certainly appears more "nifty" than necessary.

I also appreciate that some people still pause, rather than celebrate, when it comes to spending other people's money.

2

Harvey Lyon 3 months, 4 weeks ago

Another thing to "Maintain". And I'd expect that there are not grants for that.

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scott bideau 3 months, 4 weeks ago

Wasn't too long ago the Yellow line was at risk of being discontinued for budget and ridership reasons. Now it has GPS on board.

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Brian Kotowski 3 months, 4 weeks ago

GPS. On city buses. Are we afraid they're going to get lost? Is Transit really that carless or inept?

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Scott Wedel 3 months, 4 weeks ago

It is somewhat nice to be able to see the location of buses when trying to make a connection. Having the GPS will save a few radio messages of one bus inquiring about the location of a connecting bus.

This sort of nifty project is best handled by local volunteers such as advanced high school students or a college tech class. That way there is local knowledge that can maintain and improve as needed. It also can create a local company providing similar services.

Spending money to apply for a grant for a project that is a one off design in a rapidly changing world of technology was such a waste. How much will it cost later to make this work well with wearable devices or whatever is the next big change?

If City of SB was given a grant to jump off of a cliff would it do it?

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Maria Ranas 3 months, 4 weeks ago

In my opinion it seems obvious that this piece and the first several comments were written by those who have never ridden the bus(with the exception of the person who knows that the drivers often call out to get a location of fellow drivers) to get to work or to an appointment or while standing outside in subzero weather not knowing when the bus might arrive. .. Yes, the bus is a scheduled service on most routes but breakdowns, especially in subzero weather, can delay for more than one cycle; I, personally, have waited for more than 40 minutes during which time I developed frostbite on the face - twice (once while trying to get home after a work shift that ran from 12N to 9P and another while trying to get to work at 8A). .. While I have a valid driver's license, I do not own a car but choose to ride the bus for economy and, for the most part, convenience. Having the GPS service can enable one to try for an earlier bus in order to make work on time if one knows that the schedules are delayed; it will also enable one to stay inside until such time as necessary to go out to meet the next arrival whether one is at home or on the route where one could go into a nearby store, for example. .. I know Scott from having worked with his wife; they are great people. But I've never seen either on a bus. They may ride before or after a concert, but I'm pretty sure that they and most of those offering other opinions don't use the bus as their major source of transportation. .. Perhaps all will consider the safety aspects of offering the GPS system before condemning the trial and, hopefully, continuing application of the service. Sincerely, María

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rhys jones 3 months, 4 weeks ago

Maria makes a valid point: Think of all us crazies the busses keep off the roads.

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Scott Wedel 3 months, 4 weeks ago

Maria,

I don't regularly ride the bus, but if a car is in the shop then I'm probably riding the bus. I don't think it requires using the bus as the primary means of transportation to have an understanding of what it is like to ride the bus.

My argument with GPS is that it appears to have cost a ridiculous amount. The service appears to available by any number of companies for about $20 per month per vehicle. And locals probably could have spent a few hundred dollars per bus to build a system that worked with Zirkel and maybe also used local wifi hotspots to cost even less per month per bus.

A challenge with this sort of GPS locator is whether a bus is allowed to enter service without a working GPS? Will SB transit really not use a bus because just the GPS isn't working? If they allow a bus to be in service without GPS then those riders that utilize the service will falsely believe that scheduled bus is not coming.

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Tim Keenan 3 months, 4 weeks ago

Sounds like modernizing the bus fleet to me, and I'm sure that the majority of riders with smartphones, which will soon become the majority of riders, period, will take advantage of this quite often. It'll also make life easier for the dispatchers during crazy times like after concerts and around Christmas/July 4th especially. But yes, the system will need to be maintained and may even be upgraded at some point.

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Jon Quinn 3 months, 4 weeks ago

In my opinion, these are dollars well spent. In case you are wondering, we tax payers spend a bundle providing a "free" bus in our community. We do so in order to provide a positive and easy transportation system for our visitors, our citizens, our employees, and our employers. We recognize that this is an amenity that is required in a successful resort community. And in case you you are wondering... people who want to ride the bus want to know when it will arrive at their stop. I appreciate that the City is trying to encourage ridership and that it continues to make the bus system a critical and relevant component of our transportation plan.

1

Dan Kuechenmeister 3 months, 4 weeks ago

I am an old guy. All this technology is way past me. I took the city bus to high school in St. Paul, MN. Had to walk a few blocks to the bus stop and wait for the bus. It gets cold in MN. Dress for it and hope the bus shows up.

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rhys jones 3 months, 4 weeks ago

I wouldn't count on any devices -- there can be any number of glitches.

Be at your stop on time. They won't be too early. Best not to be too late. They're mostly on time, but at the price, you can't complain.

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mark hartless 3 months, 4 weeks ago

Waiter: "More anything?"

Patron (who secretly intends to skip out on the check): "More everything!"

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mark hartless 3 months, 4 weeks ago

Restaurant owner passes ALL "costs of doing business" along to the PAYING customers.

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Scott Wedel 3 months, 4 weeks ago

How about the newspaper investigates how a GPS tracking service that is commonly available with about a $100 device and $20 per month ended up costing the city government $82,000?

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Pat West 3 months, 4 weeks ago

I have to agree with ScottF, $82,000 is a lot of money to know when your bus is comming.

Even if $65,000 came from outside city funds, those vehicle registration fees were sold to voters for road improvment, not measures for making public transportation easier to track.

I think the city could recap some of its costs by requiring users to pay $.99(or more) for the App that allows users to track the busses, and what about ad revenue from this App? I can play countless games on my phone for free due to the ads that accompany the game, why isn't this system set up to pay for itself? Or will there be ads, and the host will get the revenue?

When we have thousands of new riders comming for a week and using this service, the revenue from this App could even produce profit for this system if enough guests choose to use the App. If you don't want to pay for the App, the bus will still be free, and the data from GPS would still be useable for dispatchers, just those without the $.99 App would have to wait.

3

Ken Mauldin 3 months, 4 weeks ago

That's a great idea, Pat! That plan would produce revenue and off-set the expense through providing a needed service that people choose to buy rather than relying on money confiscated from others.

Unfortunately, there's no sustainability in relying on 'other people's money' for projects like this.

1

john bailey 3 months, 4 weeks ago

excellent idea Pat , now that's some good thinking there. lets fix ours road as the fees were intended to be for, starting with RCR 14. ...please ....

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Scott Wedel 3 months, 4 weeks ago

Advertising revenues? How many different people do you think look would look at their SB transit gps mapping in a day? And how does that compare to the hundreds of thousands or millions that play a game app?

How much do you think it costs to advertise on the buses? It is so little that I cannot find it in the city's budget and would appear to be lumped in with revenues from bus rentals that totals about $10K a year. And those are large ads visible to every rider and not little ads in a phone app.

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Pat West 3 months, 4 weeks ago

You have an ad that popes up every time the App is launched, AND make people pay for the App, the city could have some means to recap the $20,000 we paid for this system, instead of nothing.

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Scott Wedel 3 months, 4 weeks ago

The money was lost the moment they decided to use a grant to spend $82,000 for a GPS tracking ability that private sector company would have done for no more than $3,000.

I think the number of regular riders is unlikely to be more than 2,000 people. Since they managed to contrive to spend $82K on installing the devices then they'd surely need at least another $10K to find a way to collect maybe $2k in revenues.

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Fred Duckels 3 months, 4 weeks ago

I suspect that the grant money comes from the FASTER fund which pays for a chunk of our busses. That money was supposed to go for repair of roads but that was only a decoy to get money for more practical things. In the history of the valley mooching was not in the dictionary but with the influx of those bringing their ways reminiscent of back home we find an entirely new mindset of entitled dependency. We all pay more to register a vehicle in order to think that we can afford these necessities.

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john bailey 3 months, 3 weeks ago

bingo, Fred. "bringing their ways reminiscent of back home" HA.......that's been my whole point. hey , gotta new and fast hula ...... ain't she purdy ?

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Pat West 3 months, 3 weeks ago

And Fred Duckel's company built the new US-40 bridge over the Elk river with FASTER funds. Are you including Duckle's Construction in the moocher column?

Seems with the flooding caused by the old bridge it was necessary to replace it. Not everything paid for with FASTER funds is unnecessary.

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mark hartless 3 months, 3 weeks ago

The old bridge didn't cause any flooding. I don't know where you got that load of absolute BS...

I lived within 100 feet of that bridge for the last 13 years. I saw the Flood Of Record for the Elk 3 years ago... up close and personal.

The bridge has/ had NOTHING to do with the flooding that occurs on the lower Elk. NOTHING...

The new bridge was done because it (barely) fell into some half-assed government formula on "how and when to replace bridges"...

It scored 51 out of 100. 49 gets no action.

Only real justifyable reason was it's the only east/west route between I-70 and I-80.

Either way, that bridge had another 20 years in it and it got replaced ahead of some way more important needs.

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Pat West 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Mark you are correct, I am mistaken. Not flooding but an obsolete design caused the replacement of the bridge. I agree with C-dot, the bridge was dangerous on a bike, and not as safe as a modern bridge for drivers.

From the Pilot story:

The 53-year-old bridge is structurally sound, Colorado Department of Transportation spokeswoman Nancy Shanks said. But it has been deemed functionally obsolete because it has no shoulder on one lane and a shoulder of only 2 to 3 feet on the other lane.

“It’s not a done deal,” Shanks said about the replacement project. “The money is not in place. But it has over-shot its design life.”

Bridges with narrow to no shoulders make it harder for drivers to avoid collisions, she said.

The bridge is among 63 in 25 counties that made the list of Colorado’s worst bridges and were targeted in 2009 for replacement. The state resolved to issue a series of bond issues throughout three years to pay to replace the bridges under the Colorado Bridge Enterprise Outline Plan.

Duckels Construction did completethe contract, to the tune of $11million FASTER dollars. But that's just business, huh Fred, not mooching money off the state for unnessary projects.

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john bailey 3 months, 3 weeks ago

perhaps we should have giving an out of state company the moochers money , right ,Pat. I'm sure this went down like any other project with a bidding process. would you have felt better if say Connell got the job ? they did a hellova job with the repave of RCR 14 by the lake with county money , except it didn't go far enough north , like all the way to SH 131. but at least the forgotten NW corner of the state got something out of FASTER for once, the question is how long before they look our way again. the Front Range has a lot of problems to address and we the tax payers of the state get to pay for it. right.....what .BS , and the water is next.....

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Fred Duckels 3 months, 3 weeks ago

The actual highway upgrades are but a fraction of the FASTER money and were used to sell the idea to the voters. Most of the revenue goes into the nifty category that would not likely past voter muster.

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