In their coverage of the proposed Centro service and route cuts, the media is not holding Centro to high enough standards. The State has cut Centro's funding, and so the management of Centro is passing those cuts along to riders (mostly in the western suburbs).
On the surface, that seems sensible and unavoidable; any bean counter would look at his or her spreadsheet and conclude as much.
But Centro isn't just some sleepy bureaucracy overseeing some colorless, necessary utility.
Our bus system (and mass transit generally) are too important to be passive and fatalistic about. Centro is a key player in our vision of a better society, in which solo commuters leave their cars at home and conserve oil while minimizing environmental impact.
Centro needs to understand and then promote this higher place for itself. It needs to be more entrepreneurial about the routes and services it provides, and it needs to be more imaginative and ambitious about how it promotes those services. Instead of saying, "Only 20 people ride that route, so let's kill it," Centro should be saying, "My God, there are hundreds of people along that route who ought to be riding. Why aren't they, and how can
we convince them?" It should add and improve routes, and then promote the heck out of them (as any private business would do).
You don't have to look far to find an example of a public agency that takes this attitude.
It's OCRRA, which does a wonderful job of not only maintaining the systems of waste processing and recycling, but also promoting good "waste practice" throughout the community, with ads and e-mails and contests, etc. Why can't Centro act more like this?
We do not want to live in a community where the mass transit systems withers. And by merely reacting to the state funding cuts and reducing its services, Centro is complicit in its own withering.
Many people directly affected by the proposed cuts are already contacting Centro and will attend the public hearings on Nov. 23. But I would encourage anyone who cares about mass transit to add his or her voice. It's not just the people in Skaneateles, Marcellus,
Auburn, etc., who are threatened, because these cuts are potentially the first of many. All Centro is threatened, eventually, and we should tell them to try harder. Visit their website and follow their instructions for providing feedback to the proposed cuts.