Monday, June 20, 2005
A catchy headline from a liberal-media viewpoint might lead you to believe that an exorbitant tax hike to build a light rail system in Denver is a good idea. The taxes will pay for the "FasTracks" Plan. However, the substance of the article does not lend much support to the presented "spin". Just because a light rail plan is touted as a "national model" by its advocates does not mean it is the panacea that it has been touted to become. Colorado voters approved a $4.7 billion tax increase that only promises to be another wasteful government boondoggle. (Ask Boston motorists how the smooth construction of the Big Dig changed their lives for the better). Another problem is that the light-rail system may push the populated boundaries of the Denver metropolitan areas beyond what "Smart Growth" advocates can tolerate. If environmentalists are concerned about sprawl, how far do they want to expand the mass-transit system? People who live in outlying areas are not going to exclusively rely on the light-rail to get around.
Another problem is that many car owners will vote for the mass transit system thinking that they will have a better drive-time commute because their neighbors will take the expanded light-rail service. (A twist on NIMBY, it seems). For example, one voter had this to say...
...Brian Carmichael, who supported the FasTracks measure even though he probably would never give up his 35-minute commute to downtown Denver.
"It's a better luxury having my own car and coming and going as I need to without worrying about the schedule," he said.
There are prominent critics of the "FasTracks" tax hike and transportation plan. The Independence Institute came out with a Top 10 list to oppose the FasTracks plan.
1. It won't relieve traffic congestion: DRCOG says traffic will grow 63 percent by 2025, but FasTracks will take less than one-half a percent of all cars off the road.
DRCOG, Review of the RTD FasTracks Plan, 2004, p. 23 says FasTracks would reduce weekday vehicle-miles traveled by 0.496 percent. Transit's share of total travel would increase from 2.27 percent without FasTracks to 2.85 percent with it.
2. It won't relieve rush-hour congestion: DRCOG says it will take only 1.4 percent of cars off the road during rush hour.
Ibid, p. 24, says FasTracks would increase transit's share of peak-hour travel from 2.7 percent to 4.1 percent.
3. It's far too expensive: RTD wants to spend more than half the region's transportation capital funds on transit lines that would take only one-half a percent of cars off the road.
DRCOG's Metro Vision 2025 plan (2002) calls for spending $3.5 billion on road improvements (p. 107). By comparison, RTD wants to spend $4.7 billion on FasTracks.
4. It isn't fast: DRCOG says light-rail trains will average no more than 25 mph and commuter rail trains no more than 40 mph. By comparison, some RTD bus routes average 36 mph and other transit agencies have bus routes that average more than 55 mph.
Ibid, p. 21; General Accounting Office, Bus Rapid Transit Shows Promise (GAO-01-984, September 2001), pp. 26-27.
5. It won't relieve air pollution and may make ozone worse: DRCOG says it will lead to negligible reductions in carbon monoxide and other emissions and will actually increase nitrogen oxide emissions (which lead to ozone-smog).
DRCOG, Review of the RTD FasTracks Plan, 2004, p. 26.
6. Most people will rarely or never use it: DRCOG says FasTracks will increase RTD's dailyridership by 72,000 trips. DRCOG also says Denver metro-area residents will take 13.55 million trips a day in 2025, meaning FasTracks will carry only 0.5 percent of trips.
DRCOG, Review of the RTD FasTracks Plan, 2004, p. 23.
7. We can relieve congestion without a tax increase: HOT lanes will mostly if not entirely pay for themselves through tolls and will do far more to relieve congestion.
Robert Poole Jr. & Kenneth Orski, HOT Networks: A Plan for Congestion Relief and Better Transit (Reason Foundation, 2003).
8. We can have far better transit service without a tax increase: Bus-rapid transit using HOT lanes will move people as fast or faster than rail transit. The General Accounting Offi ce says busrapid transit costs as little as 2 percent as much as light rail to start and less to operate as well.
General Accounting Offi ce, Bus Rapid Transit Shows Promise (GAO-01-984, September 2001), p. 17.
9. It forecloses options: RTD wants to spend $851 million in federal funds and $95 million in local funds on rail construction. Devoting the federal funds to HOT lanes and bus-rapid transit would do far more to reduce congestion and leave the local funds for schools and other needs.
RTD, FasTracks, 2003, table ES-1.
10. Congestion will get far worse if it is built: Unless something else is done - such as HOT lanes and bus-rapid transit - DRCOG says the time Denver-area drivers waste sitting in traffic will increase more than 150 percent whether or not rail transit is built.
DRCOG, Metro Vision 2025, 2002, p. 97.
AP article below