Friday, August 7, 2009

Using Bikes to Balance the Budget

This post has been rewritten several times over the past month, each time taking on a different tone and feel with every draft. What started out as a not very polite or friendly post about ours Mayor's effort to raise the millage rate on home owners who are still feeling the very recent rectal pains of being bent over the preverbal rain barrel. And has morphed into what I hope is a post that will read as a more positive, helpful post to maybe solve some of our city's budget woes.

Now that the millage battle is over, and the Mayor's wishes have been denied by the City Council. The City of Jacksonville finds itself a bit short on the upcoming budget and has set up an email account to seek suggestions on how to shave 50 million dollars off the budget.

It just so happens I have a couple ideas that may just make the city a little more green a couple of ways.

You may remember this post I did a couple of months ago about the City of Orlando using bikes for parking enforcement and suggesting the City of Jacksonville follow their lead.

When this budget idea came about I flashed back to this suggestion and I called the City of Orlando Division of Parking (COODOP) to find more information bout their program. I told the person who answered the phone who I was and what I was doing and was connected right away with someone that cheerfully answered all my questions.

BJ: How long has COODOP been using bikes for parking enforcement?

COODOP: Just over 10 years now.

BJ: How many bikes are out daily and how big of an area do they cover?

COODOP: We have 8 officers that cover Downtown and adjoining areas.

BJ: How has the community responded to the officers on bikes? Has reports of conflicts fallen since the implantation of parking enforcement on bikes?

COODOP: It's been nothing but positive for us. The officers are way more approachable on the bikes. Area business and venders get to know the officers as the people they are.

Officers have far fewer problems with vehicle owners that are ticketed because the officers are no longer seen as this menace that just drives around and whips out a ticket book.

BJ: Can you give me an idea of the fiscal savings the City of Orlando has seen by using bikes instead of cars?

COODOP: (Short Pause) You know, I don't think there has ever been a fiscal survey or report done on that.

BJ: So what was it that made you guys make the switch from cars to bikes?

COODOP: It just made sense.

How about that! A local government doing something based on commonsense. Orlando, I take back every negative thing I've ever said about you. You ain't so mickey-mouse after all.

Let's go back to earlier that same day. I call City of Jacksonville Division of Parking. Tell them who I am and what I'm doing. I'm told that the supervisors have left for the day (it's 2PM on a Friday) and I would have to call back. No offer to be put through to anyones voice mail, just a click as they hang up.

Let's now go to 3 weeks later.

  • 27 total calls to City of Jacksonville Division of Parking.
  • 15 times hung up on "during transfer." Each call required at least 3 transfers as each person connected to was not the correct one to respond to my questions.
  • 12 unreturned voice mails.

Let's recap. 1 call to City of Orlando. All questions answered. Happily. 27 calls to COJ. All questions still unanswered. COJ=mickey-mouse.

How much could the city save be using bikes in Downtown, Riverside, Southbank and Springfield? Since I couldn't find out how many vehicles our city uses within the Urban Core. Let's base our numbers on Orlando's Number of 8.

According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics the average annual cost owning and operating a motor vehicle is $8095.00.

If we multiply that times 8 we get, $64,760. Which doesn't sound like much in the big picture of cutting $50 million. But keep in mind that these figures are for an average vehicle and do not include the initial cost of purchase for a fleet. They also don't reflect the costs of an automobile that is constant use 11 hours of the day. I would assume that the maintenance, fuel and insurance costs would be considerably higher on these vehicles.

Other facts it would also be nice to know are how much money is lost from the metered spaces these cars are parking in throughout the day. How many sick days would be saved due to a much healthier parking officer on a bike?

While this suggestion puts little dent into our city's massive budget short fall. It goes a long way in making the City of Jacksonville more green and bike friendly. But most importantly this suggestion will generate enough additional income to keep at least one more teacher in the classroom or fireman on the truck, or even one more police officer on the streets where they are so desperately needed.

Think about Jacksonville.


Abhishek said...

I like the idea of one more teacher in the class room (average salary = $35,000 + 40% for benefits = $49,000)

Same for police officer and fireman.

I am inclined to think that Jacksonville employs more parking enforcers in the urban core than The City of Ornaldo due to its larger urban core.

I would also think a fleet insurance for parking enforcers would be higher than what us civilians pay, this raising the $8,095 number higher.

Shouldn't the Department of Parking budget and spending be a public record?

aussiebat said...

I like the idea of using bikes for parking enforcement and general police work in the urban core. However, it does not surprise me about the 27 calls. It seems the COJ has reached a new level of dysfunction, besides no ones cousin, uncle or brother stands to make any money under the table or as a kick back for operating efficiently.

Ernie said...

I don't know why COJ doesn't sound supportive at all when growing up, I remember many police cars with Cannondales mounted on the back of their cruisers. I also remember meeting the officer who was the head director for their bike unit back in the day(1996) and I could have swore they were pro-active about biking in the community. To be honest, I've lost touch with him and have definitely noticed that it's not the same as it used to be 10 years ago. I don't know why we don't see them like we used to, but I appreciate your efforts for sure to improve the budget someway somehow.