by Sam Hieb
As High Point Mayor and PART chair Becky Smothers put it last week:
“In some respects, we have encountered the perfect storm,” Smothers told the board in her attempt to describe what PART is now facing.
Smothers was referring to Sebastian Junger’s book about the crew of the fishing boat Andrea Gail, and it should be noted that the Andrea Gail went down and all of its crew members perished, and, in a nutshell, the special meeting was called because Smothers and the rest of the PART board wanted to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen to a public agency that provides regional transportation for a 10-county area in central North Carolina.
This morning the N&R editorializes:
The Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation is in trouble. It has cut back its routes, its executive director abruptly retired, and the company that provides buses and drivers is bankrupt. Can this vehicle be saved?
…PART’s original intent was not only to offer a viable travel alternative but to take a significant share of private vehicle traffic off Triad highways, reducing overall fuel consumption and cutting air pollution. That really hasn’t happened. The service has never become that popular. But the day will come when mass transit will be seen more widely as a necessity, as it is for many riders now. It’s important to keep the wheels on in the meantime.
Can’t say I agree with the view that the ‘day will come when mass transit will be seen more widely as a necessity.’ That’s been the vision for 15-plus years now, and still you see empty PART buses rolling up and down the road.
As for the three options to keep PART running, I’d say the best shot is they resolve the rate issue with TMS. The other option is the “patchwork model that uses local municipal transit providers.” I don’t ever see PART bringing operations in-house. The money’s just not there, and won’t be for a while.