Exploring idea of public transit

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Editorial: Dec. 16, 2012

ISSUE: Public transportation forum
First step toward a difficult and potentially costly goal

Hardin County residents who’ve long desired access to local public transportation have an opportunity to attend a forum on the topic Monday afternoon.

The Metropolitan Planning Organization is hosting the discussion, which begins at 1:30 p.m. at the Lincoln Trail Area Development District on College Street Road in Elizabethtown. The forum is intended to gauge interest and glean insight from invited business, government and community leaders into how such a system might be set into motion to serve the communities of Elizabethtown, Radcliff, Vine Grove and Fort Knox.

Public transportation has regularly appeared on the wish list of infrastructure improvements for quite a long time. In fact, a feasibility study suggesting such as system is possible in Hardin County dates back to 2005.

Public transit, like any business, is a question of having the right economy of scale. Funding an effective and lasting system always is an issue, regardless of the size of the community it intends to serve. And when the area is rural in nature like ours and unlike densely populated urban cities, funding becomes an even larger obstacle to tackle.

While many might perceive the need for such a program, demand measured in terms of realistic ridership must be carefully and accurately determined. The large up-front costs from drivers and other system staff, to vehicles and maintenance of them, to fuel, insurance, etc. will have to be off-set by an active public that will make use of the system. Otherwise, affordable sustainability is doomed from the outset.

Ours is a mobile community. Any casual count of vehicles along a U.S. 31W and its main intersecting thoroughfares will prove this. Proponents of public transportation point out that traffic along these congested roads would be lessened if public transit were available. Increased safety, lower fuel consumption and eased out-of-pocket transportation expense might result, they say.

That’s true, but only if the driving public determines to use it.

Convenience for our elderly neighbors who are no longer able to drive or for others without easy access to a reliable vehicle also are possible consumers of public transportation. Or perhaps employees from local industries might use such a system for their daily commutes.

Would there be enough demand among all these groups to make a cost-effective go of a local bus system or other form of public transit? That has been and continues to be the difficult question to answer.

This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise editorial board.