The Conundrum of Public Opinion

I once posted about the addition of free wireless Internet access to express buses from New Tampa. It got shot down pretty quickly as a service largely unneeded by the “underprivileged.” At yesterday’s town hall meeting with the president, someone raised the question about why the highway bill earmarks money for projects that aren’t in our local budget yet. Hence this money sits there, unable to be used until we decide to build a light-rail system. The response?

I’m just not one of these guys — if there’s no hope, I got to let you know, brother. There ain’t no hope. (Laughter and applause.) They’re not going to — they’re not going to revisit the highway bill.

I think all of this attitude of how to spend money on mass transit stems from an error in perception. To be clear, I respect the person who shot down my previous post. I think she’s intelligent and has good and valuable opinions. I really try not to take it personally when people characterize my fellow riders as “underprivileged” or when a pro-transit article calls us the working poor. We’re certainly not over-privileged by any stretch of the imagination, but some of us wear ties to work; we carry briefcases, or laptops. We value getting to work on time, comfortably, without adding to or having to fight with the mob of cars trying to find the fastest way out of downtown Tampa from 4:30 to 6 pm every day.

But who can blame any individual when highway expansion is called an investment in infrastructure, but mass transit is given the unfortunate moniker of subsidy?

Why am I complaining though? The whole point of a blog is to influence public opinion. Honestly, if you’ve never ridden a bus, you don’t have a good idea of who rides them, why they ride, and what areas they see for improvement. Sounds like the makings of some real in-depth amateur journalism if you ask me.

No comments yet to The Conundrum of Public Opinion

  • Oh me, huh? ;) I’m glad you’re not mad and can have a civilized debate.

    It *definitely* sounds like the makings of some in-depth journalism because I don’t think the statistics will prove that there are more laptop-carrying business men and women in need of wi-fi on the bus than there are…let’s just say, not.

    It’s not personal, so please don’t be mad. But I know you are a college student and no doubt your route involves some sort of commute from housing to class to stores and back. Who rides with you? Students? Faculty? Do you travel just select routes, or would you say you are pretty familiar with the entire HARTline system (all routes)?

    But let’s not argue about what we believe. Let’s look at facts: and are there any statistics on the HARTline riders? Income levels? Employment stats? Anything? (From a reputable source, of course). Because now I am very curious.

    When I was in college, I rode the bus, too (I didn’t go to USF though). The world would be a better place if more people rode the bus, I agree. But before I believe that there are more laptop users on the buses than not, I need to see some facts.

    But I have to disagree with you on your last point, you don’t have to ride a bus to know a bit about who rides them. Anyone who drives through the Tampa Bay area will drive past hundreds of bus stops. People wait for buses at bus stops. And, yes, you can determine whether they are tie-wearing, laptop-carrying business men & women or not from this. It’s just as valid as stepping onto the bus and sitting down among them.

    Keep me posted on what you learn.

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