How many empty DATA buses have you seen today? Take the time to look and you will see that the DATA busses are almost always empty. Maybe one or two people on a bus capable of carrying 20. Why are the DATA busses empty most of the time, and why is a full size bus used to transport one or two individuals when a small mini van could accomplish the same thing most of the time.
DATA or Delta Area Transit Authority is a bus service that has been in Delta county since 1989, it is publicly funded with your tax dollars through a millage on private property. The DATA bus has had almost a quarter century to become self-sufficient and prove that their service is needed. Over the past 24 years the service has gotten worse and the costs increased more each year. DATA is seeking another millage on Aug. 6. It really bothers me that there is not a reliable and economical source of transportation for the area's handicapped .
Generally if a service is truly needed then someone in the private sector will find a way to provide it, its called supply and demand. With public transportation in Escanaba this basic economic principle doesn't apply. There is an absurd city ordinance regulating taxi cabs. The city ordinance regulating taxis dictates every aspect of how a private business is run. In my opinion the ordinance needs to be more business friendly. Michigan has determined in Melconian v. City of Grand Rapids, that," the power to regulate must be sparing exercised and only when necessary in the public interest." A few of the worst parts the city ordinance are;
1) City council shall determine if the city "needs another taxi service"
2) City council sets your rates you are allowed to charge.
3) Your license can be revoked for basically any reason at any time at the city's discretion.
4) You are not allowed to cruise and search for passengers, they must call you.
5) The city decides if you are, In their opinion, of "good moral character"
6) You must get each driver a license with the city clerk, (The state requires a chauffeurs license already so this additional license, and fee, should not be required)
Now folks you might understand why entrepreneurs are not lined up waiting to start a taxi business in Escanaba. Because if you somehow do secure a city taxi license, and you pass the "good moral character" test and if council determines your taxi service is needed, (which they normally won't mind you) then they set your rates, they won't let you search for customers, and they can revoke your entire business and investment for basically anything they want to, at least according to the city ordinance. Not many are willing to take that kind of risk.
So that leaves the folks at DATA the argument that there is a lack of transportation. So we are stuck with an inefficient, wasteful and poorly run government bus system. My personal experience with DATA has been a total disaster. My mom is in a wheelchair. One time when mom was being released from St Francis Hospital, we had arranged the DATA bus the day before. When the bus arrived the ramp on the bus was not wide enough to allow the wheels of the wheelchair to go up the ramp. I explained to the driver that we would just get mom into another chair, it would only take a few minutes. The driver said, I cant wait and she left. So here we were in the middle of winter stuck with no ride. I called the DATA bus, went through the automated menu and finally got to talk with a lady and she told me that it would take three hours to get another bus to the hospital. She was very unfriendly and then she hung up on me. Eventually we did get another bus. On the five block trip between the hospital and the nursing home I noticed five empty DATA busses. There were two at the Salvation army, both empty, two at Doctors Park, both empty, and one at the high school. Not to mention we were the only ones on our bus. Sending a different bus for each person seems like a sure fire way to lose money, but then again maybe that's the idea. The more money they need the bigger the federal grant they get next year. When we needed a ride home from hospital after 5, we had to call Rampart. The nursing home has even went as far as purchasing their own van to transport residents to and from appointments, and hiring a private driver, that is how great DATA's service is.
The DATA bus of all things since they are paid for with tax dollars should be held to the same standards as the taxi cab, they are providing, by legal definition a taxi service. No special rules allowing them to close at 5 p.m., and forcing customers to call a day in advance to secure a ride. Please join me in voting "no" on DATA this August.