In last week’s edition of this newspaper there was an article featuring Capital Bikeshare and it’s expansion issues. As part of this examination a lengthy comparison was made to public transportation and its financial dynamics, especially the role of public subsidies.
This was a knowing and deliberate distortion of a Federal letter from the IRS released on Sept. 27, 2013. This letter’s purpose was stated as: “This is in reply to your letter dated June 21, 2013, requesting that the Internal Revenue Service ‘adopt bike share as a qualifier for the Transportation (Commuting) Benefits program under the Fringe Benefit Exclusion Rules for transit.’” This Federal opinion of the status of bike share programs as a category of transit types is as follows: “… transportation on mass transit facilities whether or not publicly owned. A bike share program is not a mass transit facility.”
Note: mass transit is defined as public transportation in an urban area, i.e. bus and rail systems. This type of distortion, pursued with great persistence by city staff to bolster the expansion of a financially ailing program is troublesome in light of the recent election media reporting and often purposeful dissemination of both broad scale and narrow false statements or arguments.
The fact that city staff would dismiss and hide an IRS letter of ruling, which they have been fully aware of since its dissemination, primarily because it denied their own opinion, shows both poor judgment and arrogance.
The Gazette Packett’s editors and writers need to be more rigorous in their fact checking and vetting in order to provide more politically neutral and fact-based reporting. Especially as the fact that Capital Bikeshare numbers, analysis and opinions are wildly changeable and contradictory, while cash strapped cities, like Alexandria, are required to use them to pick up the tab.