Glenn K. Beaton: Bus-ingham Phallus

Glenn K. Beaton
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

Can you guess what the new bus stops cost us?

Whatever you guessed, it was too low. The fare was a quarter-million dollars each. The total bill for 10 of them, plus two “double” ones, is about $4 million.

Yes, the ones with the big stone towers. That big phallus is not the chimney for a fireplace. No, we’re told that it houses the “technology and electronics.” Oh, of course. It’s for air-traffic control.

Just kidding. That’s a ridiculous idea because airplanes don’t stop at the bus stops. Sometimes even the buses don’t.

No, the “technology and electronics” are for the lighting and sound system. They rent out the bus stops for wedding receptions and bar mitzvahs.

Just kidding again. That, too, is a ridiculous idea because these government bureaucrats obviously aren’t concerned about generating rental income. If they need or want additional income, they already know where to get it – from the taxpayers.

Enough kidding. Atop each phallus, they’ve tattooed “RFTA” in 12-inch letters. That’s not the name of the Hindu god to whom you pray for the bus to come. That’s the acronym for the government god that built these monuments to itself – the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority. It especially likes the “Authority” part. That’s its middle name, almost, and don’t you forget it.

One of the Aspen City Council boys who, like all the other council boys, wants to be mayor (what happened to the permanent one?) tried (between votes to spend more taxpayer money on housing for himself) to throw the Authority under the bus by suggesting (after he knew it was too late to do anything about it) that these monuments had jumped the guardrail.

Like a deer in the headlights, the Authority manager (I’m guessing he’d like us to call him the “Authoritarian”) stared down the council boy and then got himself run over. He assured us that the bus monuments might look expensive but aren’t. He said that at a quarter-million apiece, they “aren’t pricey.”

Unconscionably expensive, perhaps, but they “aren’t pricey.”

They’re a good value, the Authority explained. You can’t have a bus stop that is “dark.” And “you want to be careful not to have the prison look.”

I so agree. The old, dark bus stops with the prison look often attracted filthy, rude, potty-mouthed reprobates. I used to think they were snowboarders just because they had snowboards, but I now realize that they were convicts attracted by “the prison look.”

There’s more from the Authority. A bus station has to be “appealing” in order to “entice” people to ride the bus, he said. If it isn’t, then people will take an offramp to a competing bus company that has nicer bus stops with a red-carpet room, free drinks, peanuts and priority boarding. Except there isn’t a competing company, of course, because the Authority is the government.

Keep in mind that the Authority’s measure of success is its number of riders. It doesn’t need to be cost-effective because, geez, didn’t I mention that it’s the government? So why not “entice” people to ride the bus by just paying them to?

Its current ridership is about 4 million trips per year. If it used the $4 million it spent on the monumental bus stops to pay people a buck a trip, it could generate another 4 million rider trips. That doubles its current annual ridership. If it raises it to $10 and serves Red Bull with vodka, it might even generate some big phalluses on which it could tattoo “RFTA.”

So far, its $4 million enticement program has increased ridership by exactly one. When I first saw the big RFTA phallus 16 feet above me, I pulled over, ditched my gas-guzzling, carbon-spewing SUV, kneeled in front of the phallus and prayed till the bus came. I’ve been riding back and forth between Truscott and Rubey Park ever since. If the Authority had just paid me the $4 million, I would have happily shared the old bus stops with those convicts armed with snowboards.

As part of this government monopoly’s strategy to entice people away from the nonexistent competition, the Authority informs us that it is also in the process of improving its “branding.” Maybe it should change its acronym to BMW.

It should at least shift gears on the weird RFTA brand atop each phallus. Let’s re-brand each one with a grandiloquent name befitting the Authority. I’ll jump-start this program with some suggestions:

1. Bus-ingham Phallus

2. Mount Bus-more

3. St. Peter’s Bus-ilica

4. Machu Bus-u

OK, I ran out of gas at four. Since I have no advertising agency paid for with tax dollars, let’s have a readers contest. Race to submit your suggestion online in the comment section to this column. In a week or when the next bus comes, whichever is first, I’ll pick winners.

Oops, this is Barack Obama’s America, so I’ll let him pick the winners. But if he doesn’t or if he picks Solyndra again, then I will.

First prize is an all-expenses-paid bus ride to the bus monument formerly known as the Intercept Lot. Second prize is the same thing, plus an autographed Glenn K. Beaton column.

Glenn K. Beaton sleeps in Aspen but lives on the bus.