To the Editor:
The Alexandria Bike Share program is a case of a good idea badly executed. No doubt it began when someone decided the public should be enticed to use bikes in lieu of using cars. So far, so good. But when it came time to convert concept into reality, instead of turning to the private sector, it went Venezuela. It became a government-owned venture.
Big mistake. Governments do not operate profitably; they only excel at spending other people’s money. Consequently, the Bike Share program is a money-losing enterprise. According to the Gazette Packet article I read last week, its costs exceed by 33 percent the revenue it generates. Who makes up the shortfall? Why, you and me. We subsidize this money-losing government-owned business by paying more tax.
Bigger mistake: Alexandria’s Bike Share program crowds out tax-revenue generating bike rental programs from the private sector. After all, who among the entrepreneurial public wants to risk their hard-earned money to create and operate a bike rental business when their government-owned competition is publicly subsidized and tax exempt?
To add insult to injury, the bike rental business owned by our city government is also exempt from all the hearings, permits, forms, community approvals and administrative folderol required by businesses owned by the public. Alexandria’s Bike Share managers can put its bikes where they want when they want without public consent and, worse, can operate their business inefficiently because Alexandria taxpayers have no choice but to pony up its operating loss shortfall.
But if you want to really get steamed, wait for the Potomac Yard Metro (PYM). Of all the needs our city faces, borrowing money for this contrived Metro stop sets a new level for the misbelief we can use ever more debt to reduce our tax burden. Like the bike program, the public wasn’t clamoring for the PYM. It was foisted on us by former council member Krupicka and current council member Wilson.
Wilson candidly admits it’s not a transportation project. Instead, the PYM is intended to create more revenue for the city by attracting near it more residents and, hopefully, businesses to tax. His candor is refreshing but here’s what he doesn’t mention: As more people make Alexandria their home or place of business, our taxes increase.
The taxpayer-subsidized, city-owned bike rental program joins the impending PYM, waterfront and swimming palace as but another extravagant example of how our City Council makes Alexandria a needlessly indebted, crowded, expensive city in which to live, especially for those entering the workforce, the elderly, our teachers and police.