As promised, KTRK-13’s Wayne Dolcefino tells us how to ride Metro’s transit offerings for free:
we’ve found a way you can ride the bus or the rail absolutely free anytime you want.
“Are you referring to METRO employees?” asked Smalley.
That’s right. METRO employees ride free.
“Why should they ride free if we have to pay?” asked passenger Jackie Harris.
“How can we compete with the private sector? One of those ways is a transportation benefit,” said Smalley.
The perk on the park and ride is worth up to $1,700 a year just for one employee. It’s a perk that’s costing Houston taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. Unless you buy METRO’s logic.
“It’s an existing seat,” he said. “It’s an empty seat.”
Don’t forget, the City of Houston pays hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy its employees Metro passes. It’s all taxpayer money, you know, so no biggie.
Then Dolcefino digs where local media rarely goes: Metro’s generous compensation:
But do METRO officials need a free ride? Sixty-nine executives make more than $100,000 a year. Smalley makes $175,000. Dionne Smith spends $400 a year commuting on the bus.
“If I’ve got to pay, they should too,” she said.
“Did anyone say at METRO, this isn’t a good idea?” we asked Smalley.
“We think it’s a good idea,” he answered.
And now, we’ve learned it’s not just employees. Their spouses’ get free bus and rail, too — 3,000 more people. But METRO won’t show us the list.
But Dolcefino did get a list of Metro salaries, and it’s here.
And then there’s this hilarity:
You’d think free passage would be an incentive for METRO officials to use mass transit. The METRO Blog says yes.
“A blog is a good example of new technology we want to capitalize on,” said Smalley.
Writing the blog is part of Mary Sitt’s $76,000 a year job at METRO.
“Even if she was just blogging, that might in itself be worth the money,” said Smalley. Sitt told readers in July she was riding back to work on the train when she ran into four METRO officials, including Vice President Todd Mason and the CEO Frank Wilson.
“I happened to have my camera in my purse and snapped some photos,” the blog said.
What a lucky coincidence for Sitt.
“Was that some kind of staged PR stunt and if that’s the question, no it wasn’t,” Smalley told us. “We don’t play those kind of games, Wayne.”
We asked because Sitt said the pictures were taken on June 18 at 1:18pm. We looked at METRO’s Q Card records and there was no record Sitt was even on the train that day or Mason or Wilson.
METRO’s explanation — maybe they just didn’t swipe their Q Card and got on the train without a ticket.
“Are there instances when I’m rushing to catch a train and don’t swipe my card on the reader? I’m sure there are instances,” said Smalley.
Try that explanation the next time a METRO cop asks for your ticket. Let us know how it works.
Yeah, what a coincidence. Here’s the Metro blog post to which Dolcefino’s referring.
But the indefatigable Dolcefino still wasn’t done. He confronted Metro Chairman David Wolff about Metro officials’ (lack of) public transit ridership. Go read, and then chuckle.
One last thing: Metro employees are not happy with this, and they’re expressing their frustration with Dolcefino at his blog. The comments are quite a read, to say the least.
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