PORTLAND PRESS HERALD: Letter to the Editor

Letter to the editor: Metro’s sweetheart bus deal with USM will cost taxpayers millions

December 8, 2017, ACTUAL LINK HERE

I take issue with a recent letter from USM’s Bob Stein, defending the sweetheart deal to “partner” with Metro.

If USM wanted expanded hours for its student shuttle, why didn’t the university ever request this from the taxpaying contractors who have been cost-effectively providing the service, without taxpayer subsidy, for over 40 years?

Good WiFi is important to students? Great, because that’s exactly what the students have now as part of existing contract with a taxpaying provider.

USM gets “free” access to the entire Metro system? No they won’t. Nothing is free, and taxpayers will pick up the tab. Incidentally, USM students have had heavily discounted Metro passes available for 80 cents per trip for some time now. You know how many students have been knocking down the doors to buy one? Precious few.  

In his paper-thin defense of this ill-conceived maneuver, Stein conveniently failed to mention that the taxpayers will now lose substantial revenue from the loss of excise tax, sales tax and fuel tax. Taxpaying bus companies pay all these, but Metro does not. And Metro’s lavish spending spree? Nearly $2 million in annual operating costs, plus the purchase of 7 or 8 new buses at $500,000 apiece? Millions of taxpayer dollars for private student transportation services that have never been subsidized in the past.

According to Stein, “Our students and our university will be receiving these new benefits, all for the same price we had been previously paying.” Only a PR guy would try to slip that by and hope we didn’t notice. The rest of the story, fellow Mainers, is that Metro has masterminded a scheme to load you down with millions in additional taxpayer obligations. Totally unconcerned by that, it appears USM is obviously quite tickled to go along for the ride.

Lana M. Sawyer, COO, V.I.P. Charter Coaches, Portland