The issue of the HOT lane continues to be a hot topic around our part of the state. As this issue has continued to heat up it is difficult not to restate the obvious: “They still don’t get it!”
The Governor threw the commuters a small bone when he lowered the toll fee the first week but that did not stop the gridlock. Congratulations are in order to Sen. Renee Unterman for her attempts to bring the people of SRTA and the citizens together for a meeting. I understand her frustration in the first attempt not working out as many had thought it would. There seems to be another meeting planned; only time will tell if this meeting will bring any real solution to the dilemma.
As this issue has continued to boil over, it has allowed me time to think through this process and reach the conclusion that we are facing a major systemic issue when it comes to certain agencies of government in relation to what is best for the citizens. There are illusions on both sides of the issue. The first illusion on the part of the taxpaying citizens is that government agencies will listen to the citizens when they have a complaint regarding the services they thought were due them from the government agency. SRTA officials have proven through this process that they are not listening to the citizens. One SRTA employee was quoted as saying that when these express lanes had been tried in other states the people “after a little while” began to use them. You will pardon this digression but that answer sounds too much like an old Jerry Clower joke about the man who fed his dogs only turnip greens to eat. When a neighbor was amazed that the dogs would eat turnip greens, the first dog owner said, “Mine would not eat them either the first three weeks.” The tone in the voice of the SRTA official seems to be saying like it or not, sooner or later, you will be forced to use the HOT lane. That attitude is reflective of what happens when illusion is present on both sides of any issue. The illusion continues that they would listen and respond in a positive way to fix the problems and they think it is possible to wait us out and in time, we will be forced to obtain a Peach Pass, paying a toll to ride in a lane that was once more-or-less free to ride in.
The heart of the systemic problem is unaccountable government agencies and employees. The people at SRTA are not elected, which gives them no reason to respond to complaints of the citizens. We are free to have petition drives, hold meetings, complain and gripe until we are worn out, to no avail. From where I stand, it is time that our lawmakers took a serious look at major reform in the way SRTA and other state agencies are formed and to whom they are accountable as they rely upon taxpayers in order to exist.