A light rail editorial sans rose-colored glasses

Of course, it's no secret that the Chronicle's editorial board members are big fans of Metro and specifically light rail. You'll recall these editorial highlights:

At the end of the day, the altered plan will bring several billion dollars of transit improvements quicker than the original plan. Not insignificant, the new plan offers Houston a chance to move ahead in a more united fashion to ease congestion and pollution.

And:

If Metro's proposal would produce public benefits faster and less expensively, why would anyone object? Here is a chance to reduce the government waste that frugal taxpayers decry.

The voters have spoken. Houston needs mobility improvements that include an expanded rail transit component as well as one of the nation's better bus systems. The next time Metro and the majority of voters in its service area say "Jump," their representatives in Congress should ask, "How high?"

Now take a look at an editorial board opinion that isn't colored by wishful thinking:

On Thursday, the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada unveiled its latest justification for a 33-mile light rail boondoggle that would span the Las Vegas Valley. The county's transit authority hailed a report from the Parsons Transportation Group that says light rail is a cost-effective way to ease traffic congestion.

Although the Parsons group was paid gobs of public money for its work, these consultants clearly didn't consider county taxpayers their clients. If they had, they might have told the RTC's empire builders the truth about light rail: It costs a fortune, it doesn't relieve congestion, it never pays for itself and it actually hurts mass transit ridership.
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Don't believe it? Download Randal O'Toole's recent study, "Rail Disasters 2005" at www.reason.org/ps336.pdf.

Mr. O'Toole's research, which is based on more than 20 years of ridership and transit data, exposes light rail cheerleading as delusional.

Cities with successful bus lines get a sniff of the federal subsidies available for mass transit and want a bite. Consultants and bureaucrats provide inflated ridership estimates. Local and state governments then bury themselves in construction debt, convinced that people will abandon their vehicles for expensive, inconvenient trolley rides. When the riders don't materialize, already high fares are raised to cover operational costs and bus service is slashed. Ridership drops, and taxpayers cover the debts.

The RTC and its light rail steering committee have to come to their senses and realize that there are no light rail success stories. The proposed line from Henderson to North Las Vegas is a multi-billion-dollar white elephant that will leave valley taxpayers trampled.

Doesn't the contrast just make you want to cry?

Posted by Anne Linehan @ 10/24/05 05:05 PM | Print |

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