A ballot proposal on Aug. 5 will once again ask the residents of Escanaba and Wells Townships to pass a millage to be used to pay for operation of the local DATA bus system. Voters in both townships in previous years have defeated this proposal.
As a resident of Escanaba Township, I would ask that voters in Escanaba Township once again vote 'no' to a proposal to raise our taxes in order to finance the DATA system. I have previously voiced my concerns regarding the lack of riders on the DATA buses and nothing has changed. Simply put, practically no one utilizes the buses. I see the buses traveling throughout the county, generally with 0-2 riders on them. I believe they are operated on a daily basis at probably under 10 percent capacity. Why should the residents of Escanaba and Wells Township be asked to pay for a service with such low usage?
It's my understanding that DATA in Delta County maintains a fleet of 17 buses. What is the cost of maintaining such a fleet to provide service to an extremely low number of riders? The cost has to be incredible.
Without question, there are certain people that rely on the DATA system for transportation. There are certainly persons with disabilities that utilize the DATA buses.
Rather than asking the residents of Escanaba and Wells Townships to vote to raise our taxes to sustain a 17 bus DATA fleet in Delta County that has an extremely low number of riders, I believe the director of the DATA system should organize the system to operate profitably and efficiently. The director should develop standardized routes. I find it perplexing that you can call and have a large DATA bus drive to your front door and deliver you to where you want to go, all for just a few dollars in fares. That's not the way a bus service operates; that's the way a taxi service operates.
If the DATA system was streamlined to be more cost efficient, not only would they not be seeking a ballot proposal to raise our taxes but I believe they could actually provide better and more efficient service to persons with disabilities that have special transportation needs; persons that actually need the service.
For the reasons stated, I would encourage Escanaba Township residents to vote 'no' on the Aug. 5 ballot proposal to raise our taxes to pay for a DATA system that in my opinion, is not being operated efficiently.
Perry R. Lund