Mark Binder is an author, storyteller, nice guy, and occasional tilter at windmills.
If you enjoy his writing here, please support his work by purchasing some of his other work. Mark's latest is an awesome audio storybook for families called Transmit Joy.
Mark's books include the autobiography, It Ate My Sister, Every Hero Has a Story , Cinderella Spinderella, and Every Hero Has a Story. Please visit his storytelling website: and find his books and audio recordings at or on Amazon, iBooks and Google Play.

Mark has been an occasional candidate for public office. In his last election, he won 43% of the vote against the sitting Speaker of the RI House of Representatives, despite being outspent 10 to 1.

In 2012, he ran as the independent candidate for House District 4 against the Speaker of the House, receiving more than 40% of the vote while outspent by his opponent 20 to 1. He ran for Congress in 2004.

He is also Editor in Chief at Light Publications, a fiercely independent publishing house specializing in fiction and adventurous political thought.

Other books include: "The Brothers Schlemiel," "It Ate My Sister," "Genies, Giants and a Walrus," "Kings, Wolves, Princesses and Lions," and "The Bed Time Story Book." His favorite audio recording is called, "It was a dark and stormy night..." and is available on iTunes.

9 responses to “The Public Education / Transportation Challenge”

  1. jasonpbecker

    Better plan– negotiate the same (or better deal), give all students and staff bus passes. We should be encouraging public transit use by all Providence community members, including staff. This may eat up the $400,000, heck, it may cost even more. But there has to be savings to reducing the administrative cost of working through the complex rules of which students get passes and which do not.

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  2. jasonpbecker

    I am comfortable with that “side effect” as a supporter of both public transportation and schools.

    I don’t think the money should come from the “school” side of the budget. I’d prefer the city cut local funds and take on this expense entirely on the city books. Cut the current transportation costs, whatever they are, the city commits to maintain this new program, whatever the actual cost, and it’s recorded as a contribution on the school’s books (to maintain comparability with other communities).

    Any employee of the city (which all PPSD employees are) should get a RIPTA pass as a part of their employment benefits. Of course, they should also NOT be guaranteed parking at their place of work. If they want parking, they should forfeit their bus pass. 

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  3. DogDiesel

    What happens if they use the passes for other than their intended use. Are there individual restrictions and/or limits for each pass?

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  4. Barry

    Mark has an excellent vision for public transit in RI, but has more to say about how NOT to pay for it than how to pay for it.  The first is indeed a lot easier.

    I think to make public transit and RIPTA work much better in RI requires a 3-prong approach:  ensure proper operation within the agency which means, in light of recent revelations, not just criminal prosecution for any stealing (if indeed this did happen) but establishing a culture that rejects unethical behavior, ineffcient work practices, and any mangement style that does not ensure consequences for bad practices and rewards for good ones;  second, an effort by all concerned to build farebox revenue by generating more paying riders – this will take cooperation from employers, especially those who provide, sometimes at great expense, “free” parking and no transit incentives thus significantly discouraging transit ridership, the most notorious such employer is the State of Rhode Island; and third, a sustainable funding stream which could be a small portion of sales tax revenue (that grows automatically with inflation unlike the fixed-cent-per-gallon gas tax) as is done in MA and many other regions, sometimes with voter approval in a referendum.  

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  5. Frymaster

    Interesting discussion, this, as it touches at the core aspects of why governments exist and parts of civil life (civilization) that only deliver ROI in hard-to-measure ways. Let me pull out a couple of factors not yet mentioned:

    1. Getting kids to school – Kind of surprised that this hasn’t been mentioned. Providence has a classically penny-wise/pound-foolish approach to student transport – the 3-mile walk zone. We also have a big problem with absenteeism. Connection…? I pay every month full boat for a bus pass because we live next to Miriam Hospital but our Classical High student is IN the walk zone. The school department thinks its reasonable for her to walk both ways everyday, regardless of conditions. Is it any surprise that kids don’t make it to school? 

    In reality, the schools should be buying a LOT more passes if they’re going to use this as student transit.

    2. This practice likely has a negative impact on the kinds of riders that Barry talks about under his second item. Having commuted downtown on RIPTA at various times, it’s a drag to get on a morning bus that’s packed with high school kids. You’re basically getting on a school bus.

    3. Bus-based public transit scales poorly because demand is so ‘lumpy’. If additional riders were spread out through the day, it would be much better. But more riders really means more peak hour riders. The only way to accommodate them is to add more buses and that’s expensive. With trains/trolleys, you can add cars to existing runs at an incremental cost, not a directly additive cost.

    4. Public transit is a money-losing operation, so stressing fare box revenue will only get you so far. Like most things that government – and only government – can accomplish, it generates an ROI that’s difficult to capture. If fare box revenue becomes the metric from which funding depends, it creates a negative feedback loop in which poor service lowers paying ridership which lowers funding which lowers service quality. Only people that _HAVE_ to take the bus will take the bus. Does that sound familiar? 

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  6. donroach

    The problem with this is you rob Peter to pay Paul in this scenario. RIPTA losing $400k in revenue is no small thing, where can it make up this revenue sans a fare increase?

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