Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The Mass Transit Mantra

P.J. O'ROURKE writes today about the mass transit fiasco.

There are just two problems with mass transit. Nobody uses it, and it costs like hell. Only 4% of Americans take public transportation to work. Even in cities they don't do it. Less than 25% of commuters in the New York metropolitan area use public transportation. Elsewhere it's far less--9.5% in San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, 1.8% in Dallas-Fort Worth. As for total travel in urban parts of America--all the comings and goings for work, school, shopping, etc.--1.7 % of those trips are made on mass transit.

Then there is the cost, which is--obviously--$52 billion. Less obviously, there's all the money spent locally keeping local mass transit systems operating. The Heritage Foundation says, "There isn't a single light rail transit system in America in which fares paid by the passengers cover the cost of their own rides." Heritage cites the Minneapolis "Hiawatha" light rail line, soon to be completed with $107 million from the transportation bill. Heritage estimates that the total expense for each ride on the Hiawatha will be $19. Commuting to work will cost $8,550 a year. If the commuter is earning minimum wage, this leaves about $1,000 a year for food, shelter and clothing. Or, if the city picks up the tab, it could have leased a BMW X-5 SUV for the commuter at about the same price.

We have a light rail TROLLEY being constructed in the Phoenix area. Here are some of the FACTS that the developers do not want anyone to know:

1. TROLLEY transit is 40 TIMES the cost of road transit! The tax cost per person mile of travel via roads is $0.06. The tax cost for light rail is $2.75. This shows that when the quantity of service is taken into consideration, moving a person via light rail costs 40 times as much in taxes as moving a person by road. The costs are as reported by MAG, Valley Metro and ADOT.

2. The Valley Metro Section 5309 report shows quite clearly in table V-2 on page V-3 that the incremental cost of the new start light rail system is $12.49 per passenger trip. This figure is arrived at by posing a baseline case without light rail that has a cost and ridership projection. Then light rail is added and the added cost and added number of transit riders are projected. The added cost ($105,889,931 per year) divided by the added riders (8,475,748 per year) = $12.49.

3. Pollution INCREASES with the ‘mass’ transit TROLLEY system! Valley Metro’s environmental impact statement shows that adding light rail will increase the number of hours automobiles spend in traffic. This means more engines running more hours, burning more fuel and emitting more pollution (see table S-9 on page S-18).

4. The TROLLEY also is projected to increase pedestrian, rider and vehicle accidents due to the rail line route in existing streets.

5. When you lay the tracks and the inevitable shifts in neighborhoods and demographics occur, the tracks must then be removed, or left unused. Then new tracks must be laid, if the system has not gone bankrupt in the interim. Bus routes can be changed on a moments notice.

6. Proponents of the TROLLEY insist expansion will be determined by the SUCCESS of the initial segments. However, they NEVER specify precisely what the SUCCESS criteria are.

This is definitely a case where the money trail needs to be followed.

Sunday, March 06, 2005