Not every family has the luxury of access to a personal car. In fact, many residents of the city of Binghamton rely on public transit to go to and from work on a daily basis. The Broome County Legislature’s plan for the privatization of BC Transit will drastically impact these residents, transit workers and off-campus students who rely on buses for transport to campus. Privatization must be stopped, and it is our duty as students to voice our disagreement with the Broome County Legislature.
Advocates of privatization argue that it will create a more efficient, well-run system, while saving the county’s taxpayers’ money. If we examine recent cases of transit system privatization in the Southern Tier, this argument is revealed to be hollow. In Schuyler County, the privatization of the transit system led to increased fares, the cutting of essential bus routes and reliance on Tompkins County in order to continue service. Schuyler County was under contract with First Transit, a U.S. subsidiary of the United Kingdom-based FirstGroup. It only took two weeks under this contract for bus fares to rise 80 percent. Chemung County also agreed to a contract with First Transit, and its legislature was also forced to raise fares.
Privatization does not merely lead to an increase in fares, but lower reported customer satisfaction as well. In Nassau County, customers were surveyed after the privatization of the transit system. Their overall satisfaction fell nearly 20 percent. The customers also reported that the buses and bus stops were dirty, and that the buses were no longer running on time. For a resident trying to get to his or her job in a timely fashion, this is unacceptable. Broome County workers should be treated with respect.
In an area facing such a high degree of economic hardship, impediments to employment are unacceptable and dangerous. Recently, BC Transit eliminated buses to and from Oakdale Mall after 6 p.m. The Broome County Legislature must realize the potential effects of privatization on workers trying to get by in whatever way they can. Imagine how students would feel if all busing to campus stopped after 6 p.m. Students without cars would be limited in terms of class selection and participation in extracurricular activities. Privatization will most likely involve the cutting of the 15 bus line, as it is viewed as largely unnecessary. Students rely on this bus line and would be greatly inconvenienced if it were cut.
There are alternatives to privatization that would allow for the growth of the Broome County bus system. Instead of cutting services, Broome County can work with surrounding counties to form a regional transportation authority. The formation of a Southern Tier transportation authority would allow for increased federal transit funding and more effective regional planning.
We must recognize the injustice of privatization and show solidarity with those adversely affected. As students hailing from different areas of New York and beyond, it is easy to separate ourselves from the grievances of the local community. Let us redeem ourselves from the election that took place earlier in month, in which only 36 students voted at on-campus sites. I encourage you to contact the legislators and let them know that Binghamton University students will not stand for privatization of BC Transit.