‘Busway to Nowhere’ is exhibit A in fight against idealogues

CT Viewpoints

By Joe Markley, State Senator, 16 District, Southington

I used to be known for fighting Lowell Weicker’s state income tax, that grand error that set us on our road to economic ruin. The sight of the crowd at the Axe the Tax rally —65,000 citizens standing up for common sense– was the defining vision of my political life.

Powerfully as the people responded, we lost that battle. I believed then as I do now, that taxes must not be raised, for government has grown far too large, expensive, and intrusive. Throughout my time in the Senate I have opposed taxes absolutely, yet it’s not for that I am best known.

I joke that on my tombstone they will carve beneath my name He Fought the Busway. Like Weicker’s income tax, Dan Malloy’s busway was a monumental mistake that will burden Connecticut taxpayers for years. The public knows it; people frequently bring the busway up with me, inevitably sharing their regret at its enormous expense, and bemoaning those big green buses that pass by empty all day, and the waste they represent.

Only Malloy and the boosters of big government speak well of the busway, yet their refusal to share date on its operation undercuts their case for this $1,000 per inch boondoggle. Senate Republicans have filed bills to force release of basic information on ridership and cost, but Malloy and his legislative minions resist at every turn, defeating our efforts to open the books on the busway.

Here’s what we do know: The annual subsidy for this misbegotten undertaking is nearly $20 million a year. By the state’s own numbers, that works out to over $3,800 a year for each weekday busway rider, assuming that passenger takes a round trip.

Of course, buses already ran from New Britain to Hartford, on existing roads. The new, dedicated busway —nine miles of dedicated road, costing nearly $600 million— was intended to make the trip a bit quicker and more appealing to commuters. As predicted, the number of daily rides has increased, from about 11,000 to 16,000. Those 5,000 additional rides work out to 2,500 new riders, since a round trip counts as two rides.

That means that for every new commuter on the busway, construction costs were about $230,000, and the annual subsidy is $8,000. I am confident that every one of those travelers would rather have that cash than the ride — and they are the ones receiving the benefit of the expenditure, courtesy of Connecticut’s over-burdened taxpayers. Those of us who paid the tab but will never take the trip have even less to celebrate.

The fact is, it simply wasn’t worth the cost —not nearly— especially when Connecticut is broke. Yet the same politicians and special interest groups who stuck us with the busway, despite public opposition, are now trying to grab more of our hard-earned money. As I write this column, the usual suspects are desperately plotting new and improved schemes to get their hands on our wallets, including the return of tolls and the imposition of a statewide property tax.

These people can’t be reasoned with. The cadre bent on destroying our state is philosophically committed to redistributing wealth. In their twisted world, the wealthy are anyone who pays taxes, no matter our pay grade. The Busway to Nowhere is Exhibit A in the case against trusting these ideologues with additional ways to get their hands on our means.

State Sen. Joe Markley is a Republican running for lieutenant governor.