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HITS or misses

A taxpayer-funded HITS is...

I saw a political article in a news medium on an internal Herndon trolley or bus system.  The acronym was HITS.  When I first saw HITS, my baseball background came up and I thought of batting averages – you know the number of ‘hits’ divided by the number of at-bats.  Not the case for this HITS.

But no, it meant Herndon Internal Transportation System.  And its co-authors, a former council member who is no longer a Town resident and the current Vice Mayor, first raised it up as something the Town should bring into being – AT TAXPAYER EXPENSE.  It was pitched to the Town Council and to the Planning Commission.  The Chamber of Commerce jumped onboard the ‘bus’ and supported the idea of the Town providing this service AT TAXPAYER EXPENSE –to move folks around Town to bring them to businesses.  I noted that even one civic-minded developer encouraged the Town to establish a HITS.  If I was a business operator and someone would provide transportation of customers to my door at THEIR expense, I’d support it too!

I raised a cautionary flag to the Town Council that the Town could not and should not even consider creating such a system.  Three separate working groups, headed by Council members over a couple of decades, have indicated such an internal ‘trolley’ or bus system could not be supported by ridership.  I agree with the studies.  I also suggested that the Town work with the county to use the county bus system (Connector) to move residents and customers through Town to/from the metro landing (when it’s in place) and the other economic hubs in Town.  I thought the concept of inter-modal bus service through the Fairfax County Connector service had been accepted.  Silly me.

Virtually all public transportation systems – including the Metro and the Connector - are subsidized by us taxpayers.  In other words, taxpayers pick up all of the capital costs (buying vehicles, etc.) and part of the ongoing cost of operating them.  Otherwise, the fares that would have to be charged would simply be too high and there would be few if any riders.  The systems would fail.

The county has been serving the Town with bus routes for several years to include service to/from the Herndon-Monroe Park and Ride and thence to West Falls Church and the Metro Orange Line.  In recent years, costs have caused the county to DECREASE service in Herndon as the ridership didn’t warrant the level of service being provided.

If establishing and operating a HITS is such a benefit, I strongly urge the proponents to start one – using their private sector funds and to reap the financial benefits that such a system might bring to them.  Leave the Herndon taxpayers out of this and let Town leaders work to incorporate proper Fairfax County service to/from the Metro stop when it’s ready to operate.

A taxpayer-funded HITS is a ‘miss’ for Herndon taxpayers.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Matt Genkinger April 04, 2012 at 05:17 PM
How about the town consider another free market alternative - one that wouldn't cost the town a dime to study and could bring additional jobs and revenue. Private van companies have been shuttled commuters through the streets of New York City for months - before the bus drivers union got involved - providing their customers with a service that is inexpensive ($1 per trip), runs on-time & more frequently than busses, and doesn't require a costly contract. We live in a mostly free state. When was the last time government tried solving a problem by letting the free market decide what is best.
Bob Bruhns April 04, 2012 at 05:21 PM
Mr. Downer, you said that Mr. Tirrell "is inconsistent by suggesting we should wait until Metro arrives to start studying the alternatives when the Master Plan Amendment he supported calls for action now." First of all, I did not see Mr. Tirrell say that we should wait until 2016 to start to consider this. If so he has certainly failed, since he is discussing some ideas right here in this blog. Perhaps you could attack him for that as well. Or perhaps you just made it up. Secondly, certainly the Master Plan Amendment is not calling for an internal bus system to be up and running at this moment, because the Metro line will not arrive for years. So please get some perspective here, when you call for immediate action. Now is the time to discuss the ideas, as Mr. Tirrell is doing - not the time to race to spend taxpayer money. You also said that "Yes, I disagree with Mr. Tirrell's position. He is referencing studies from the PAST, we are calling for studying, as Ms. Glakas mentioned, the Herndon of the future. Herndon will change the day our Silver Line station opens and we need to be ready for it." Is this another sky-is-falling panic that we MUST join NOW, or all will be LOST? I have found that most such things are false alarms. More than a few people living outside of the business areas of town may not be interested in paying much for this. Have you considered a tax district for it?
Bill Tirrell April 04, 2012 at 06:10 PM
Time for a round from me. 1. A thought to remember when discussing history and its value from George Santayana: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” I try to keep that in mind. 2. The three HISTORICAL reports were all led by ADVOCATES of a trolley system for Herndon. All three ended essentially with ‘Can’t be supported.’ 3. Disagreement is the essence of discussion making disagreement a good thing. Being ‘disagreeable’ (like calling folks names in public) is, well, simply being disagreeable. 4. Please comment to any member of council with whom you’re comfortable speaking/exchanging written material. Me included. 5. I SUPPORT a PRIVATE SECTOR venture if someone wants to start an internal system for Herndon. Perhaps hotels, car service centers, restaurants, etc., will ‘subscribe (like the old Take-Out Taxi) and make it work in a business model. A political body infusing tax money for this is IMHO wrong. Perhaps Mr. Downer and his like-minded colleagues will want to be first in line for this. 6. Perhaps Mr. Webster is right, although I personally think it’s better done in a densely populated area – which Herndon is NOT. 7. A taxpayer-funded HITS is STILL a miss. Moving on. Next topic …
Bill Tirrell April 04, 2012 at 07:51 PM
OK - a round from me. 1. A most relevant quote from George Santayana (that I like to keep in mind): "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Lots of variants of this, but you get the picture. 2. All three HISTORICAL reports, done by people REALLY interested in bringing a 'trolley' system to Herndon, ended the same way. Not for Herndon at that point in time. 3. The essence of discussion is disagreement; so disagreement is a good thing. Being disagreeable (like calling people names in public) is simply being disagreeable. 4. I favor an entrepreneur starting and operating a transit system. That makes it a PRIVATE SECTOR BUSINESS and it will succeed on its own merit and not because a political body is willing to fund it with taxpayer money. As Mr. Webster suggests - it might work (although a city is usually a pretty 'densely populated area'.) Hotels, automobile service centers, shopping areas, etc., might 'subscribe' and help underwrite costs. Perhaps Mr. Downer and like-minded advocates should follow up. 5. Timing Fairfax County bus service with the Herndon Metro station opening is critical so that money isn't squandered. 6. I hope ALL council members are receptive to thoughts and ideas and praise - and criticism. Please fell free to provide comments to me or any member of council with whom you feel comfortable. 7. HITS at taxpayers' expense is STILL a miss. Have a nice day. Next topic ...
Tom Kellner April 22, 2012 at 09:03 AM
Mr. Downer needs to take back a step and answer the most basic of questions prior to expecting anyone to advocate for his proposal. They are: Who is going to ride this bus and the accompanying Silver Line? And, why would they want to? For once, I would love to see people such as Mr. Downer and Ms Merkel explain how all of this proposed transit system is so superior and why and how often they will use it when it becomes available to them. Oh, wait a minute, for the most part this service is available now. Well then, how often do they use the bus service that is available now? And if they don't use it, why don't they?

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