Why Cities Are Broke or, There is Something Tragic About a Train...

... or a light rail system or a streetcar boondoggle that just makes people (well, pols and their civilian enablers) wet their pants over the prospect of tossing 19th-century technology and 21st century debt obligations at cities and states and countries that are already dead broke.

And so witness the spectacle of Cincinnati, a city that is down on its luck and its population, faces a $50 million deficit next year, and is home to the worst mascot in the history of professional sports (see right), anxiously awaiting signs that the feds will shovel some money their way in a ridiculous plot to build a streetcar system in the Queen City:

Cincinnati awaits word on federal streetcar funds

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is scheduled to announce nearly $300 million in federal funding for streetcar, trolley and bus proposals nationwide, with Cincinnati being one of dozens of cities in competition for the grants.

Cincinnati, which still needs about $42 million in additional state or federal dollars to fund the streetcar plan’s $128 million first phase, has applied for a $25 million “urban circulator” grant from the U.S. Transportation Department that would significantly close the project’s funding gap....

The city has identified about $86 million for the project, including $64 million in city bonds that Mayor Mark Mallory has pledged will not be issued unless the city receives roughly the same amount in state and federal funds....

Let's leave aside the obvious point that there is absolutely nothing that a streetcar system could possibly do to make Cincinnati a better place to live.

What a bold bid at fiscal restraint: promising not to spend up to $86 million unless they find an equally big idiot to match them in foolishness. Unless of course, they want to go ahead and start building it anyway:

Even if the full $128 million budget is not in place, city officials have said preliminary construction could begin this fall with relocation of utilities to clear the way for track installation for a streetcar system that will extend from Downtown’s riverfront to the Uptown communities around the University of Cincinnati.

This sort of absolute and utter foolishness is being played out in every hamlet, village, town, and city in the United States and such incredible and indefensible spending decisions are exactly the reason why local governments (not to mention state and federal units) are flat-busted. As noted in passing yesterday (and virtually everyday here at Hit & Run), when it comes to government (and, to be fair, many relatives of mine), spending decisions are virtually completely divorced from any vague concept of reality or revenue. They spend when times are good and when times are bad; they do not plan for the future or learn from the past.

And those of us lucky to live to be 100 pick up the tab. But at least we'll have the memory of streetcars.

Here's a short vid outlining President Obama's misguided enthusiasm for national high-speed streetcars, er, high-speed trains:

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Jeff P||

    Johnny Fever will find a way...

  • The Angry Optimist||

    Nick, what is your deal? Pete Rose bet on baseball and now we find out he corked his bats, and you still want him in the Hall of Fame?

  • Naga Sadow||

    What? He corked his bat? Link.

  • Butts Wagner||

  • ||

    Betting on Baseball as a manager shouldn't exclude him from the Hall of Fame. Corking his bat, on the other hand, would have a direct effect on his performance on the field as a player which is what would make him Hall worthy.

  • Subsidize Me!||

    Corking his bat would put him at a disadvantage relative to using an uncorked bat, which makes his stats even more impressive.

  • Subsidize Me!||

    Forgot to add: according to Mythbusters.

  • ||

    No, that would make his stats even more impressive if he were a power hitter. Given his career .409 slugging percentage, I would argue his corking his bat had a negligible impact on his stats.

  • ||

    Failing to cheat effectively doesn't take away from your culpability. Plenty of people are in jail for fraud in part because they sucked at it. Still a crime.

  • ||

    Besides--and this goes for politicians--rest assured that when you uncover one act of dishonesty, you're likely missing a bunch of others.

  • ||

    I agree. Pete Rose was a complete douche. I'm just taking issue with Subsidize Me!'s assertion that playing with a corked bat actually hindered his performance.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Failing to cheat effectively doesn't take away from your culpability. Plenty of people are in jail for fraud in part because they sucked at it. Still a crime.

    "I'm in jail for a crime I didn't even commit! I mean, come on! Attempted murder? What is that? Do they give out Nobel prizes for attempted chemistry?"

  • Ragin Cajun||

    Apparently they give out Nobel Prizes for attempted peace.

  • ||

    It's not attempted peace if the defendant didn't have the requisite intent to commit peace.

  • x,y||

    ahahahaha

  • ||

    He should be hung for the hair cut he had in the 70's

  • Subsidize Me!||

    Didn't Cincinnati already build a subway, only to abandon the project after all the tunnels were already excavated?

  • ||

    Yup. But no idea is too stupid not to try again.

  • ||

    Wow. The owner of the system abbreviates to "SORTA".

    Perfect name for a Cincinnati bureaucratic mess.

  • Lexicon||

    And the Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky is just across the river. So would you rather give gobs of tax money to an outfit called SORTA or to one called TANK?

  • Butts Wagner||

    Hey now, Little Rock has a streetcar(really?!) and it stimulated $700M! Just dreamily imagine the stimulus Cincinnati will get from a streetcar.

  • ||

    I am ambivalent about extended unemployment benefits, but I would much rather see comparatively small sums of money put into the hands of individuals than large sums in the hands of politicians with grandiose schemes to enhance "civic pride" in their communities.

    Handing out hundred dollar bills on street corners makes more sense than this sort of idiocy.

  • ||

    Handing out hundred dollar bills on street corners makes more sense than this sort of idiocy.

    Not that I disagree, but isn't this a Saul Alinsky quote?

  • ||

    I knew that I saw that quote(sort of) somewhere.

  • Los Lobos||

    Well it goes without sayin', everybody loves a train.

  • ||

    Orlando is building both a commuter train and high speed rail. And there's no plans to have the two connect, so that leaves a big rail project in the future. So there. Losers. We got freaking rail, man.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Ah yes, the high speed rail project. Which will be great for the 214 or so people who commute from Tampa to Orlando every day. Compared to this, spending $1B on an arts center and new arena looks positively sane.

  • ||

    I assume the bullet train is so Disney tourists can hit the beach and quickly return to the Disney property.

  • ||

    I usually have something to say about that but you've said it already.

  • BakedPenguin||

    It drives me nuts. Neither Orlando nor Tampa have good public transit - which would be the logical continuation of the high speed train. So who is supposed to use these other than day-tripping tourists who can take a taxis or who have the time to make three bus connections?

    This is typical "we've got to do something politician thinking.

  • ||

    It's not like either city has a bus system bursting at the seems and crying out for a train route, except from the airport to the attractions and convention center, which is apparently not one of the routes. If money grew on trees, the route would connect I-Drive, the airport, the attractions and downtown Orlando (which has its own set of attractions). I even think this is something Matthew Falconer proposed, sort of a loop monorail or something.

  • ||

    My understanding is that a rail system that MIGHT make sense airport-->downtown-->Disney has been sabotaged by Disney because they don't want to make it easy for their captives -- oops sorry, I mean guests, to get out of the Disney property and perhaps spend money that Disney otherwise could shake them down for. But this admittedly is hearsay.

  • ||

    Back in the eighties Disney said they would provide the design (they already have the technology) and a good bit of the financing for a monorail (in the median of either the Beeline and I-4 or the Southern Connector) from the airport to their park. The County Commission shot them down because Disney specifically demanded that there be no stop at International Drive to service Sea World or Orange County's shiny brand new (at the time) Convention Center.

  • ¢||

    "I'll twist this bottle in your face!"

  • ||

    I am ambivalent about extended unemployment benefits, but I would much rather see comparatively small sums of money put into the hands of individuals

    Me, too. You know what puts sums of money in the hands of individuals? Tax cuts, that's what.

    Well, technically, it leaves money there, but whatever.

  • ||

    isn't this a Saul Alinsky quote?

    Not directly/intentionally, but I certainly can't pretend to be the first person to think of it.

    And yes- letting people *keep* the fruits of their labors is infinitely preferable to stealing from Peter to give to Paul.

    Art Laffer has a WSJ editorial calling for a tax holiday. I like the idea of making it plainly obvious that our beneficent government overlords are *printing* money and giving it away to preferred clients, instead of pretending they are distributing "tax revenues".

  • ||

    Well, it seems like a good time to pull out a classic ditty from The Simpsons: "Monorail!"
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AEZjzsnPhnw

  • ||

    I would bet that the scheme would end with the same hilarity

  • Demian808||

    "Let's leave aside the obvious point that there is absolutely nothing that a streetcar system could possibly do to make Cincinnati a better place to live."

    Streetcars can reduce traffic, if by "streetcar" you refer light rail(not sure), and reduce air pollution. For those without access to a car,they may be the only means to get around. All these factors may improve the quality of life in a city.

  • ||

    Nope, sorry. The amount of people a light rail system can carry far dwarfs what goes through a city each day.

    If you think streetcars reduce traffic, you need to visit Chicago, San Franscisco, and New York City.

    Just think about the amount of exhaust put out by a semi compared to a small passenger car.

  • Demian808||

    "The amount of people a light rail system can carry far dwarfs what goes through a city each day."

    I said a light rail can reduce traffic, not eliminate it.

    Chicago has an extensive light rail system with a large ridership. Sure there is still traffic, but if light-rail in that city did not exist, no doubt traffic would be much worse.

    Look at what happens when operators in large systems such as this go on strike and light rail is shut down. It is not a pretty sight. The most recent example is Madrid:
    http://tiny.cc/cs2pd

    And how many Americans ride "small passenger cars?" Notice that they love minivans and SUV's, but during their work commute they usually ride alone, hence the extra capacity to carry more passengers is wasted, not too much the fuel per person that is burned.

    But people move to cities because of job opportunity, not for the light rail. I will admit, if a city is dying their resources would be better spent on job creation.

  • ||

    ***"Chicago has an extensive light rail system with a large ridership."***

    Yep. It runs near capacity, charges reasonable fares, and only costs the citizens a million dollars A DAY in subsidies.

  • ||

    Demian808|7.8.10 @ 10:46AM|#
    "Streetcars can reduce traffic, if by "streetcar" you refer light rail(not sure), and reduce air pollution. For those without access to a car,they may be the only means to get around. All these factors may improve the quality of life in a city."
    Unicorns can do that, too, if they lived up to their billing.
    Unfortunately, reality is a bitch.

  • ||

    Buses are a much cheaper and more flexible idea than the silly streetcar idea.

  • ||

    And the infrastructure serves multiple purposes.

  • ||

    "Streetcars can reduce traffic"

    Yes, they can. But buses can, too, for much less money with the added bonus that routes can be easily modified as ridership changes.

  • ||

    If you really want to see something that reduces traffic in Cincinnati, check out a city council meeting.

  • Tolly||

    I'll avoid commenting more on how Tampa/St. Pete is steering into this same ridiculous disaster of 'subsidized rail + subsidizing baseball = why dont we have any money?'.

    What worries me is whether the idiots on either side will just ignore all the economic realities when it's time to vote for their pet boondoggles. Can the politicians/citizens wake up for a change and realize that saving baseball/saving the environment has a ridiculous pricetag on it that we can't afford to entertain?

  • ||

    We. . .don't. . .need. . .a. . .fucking. . .train.

    And screw the Rays, too, if they want a handout from Pinellas or Hillsborough.

  • BakedPenguin||

    The Rays already have a prefectly good stadium - just like the Magic had a prefectly good arena. I'm about ready to give up watching sports altogether just due to the billionaire welfare junkies who own the teams.

    The train is fucking ridiculous. Who do they think will use it?

  • ||

    Who are these prefects of whom you speak?

    I'm not a fan of the location or the venue of Tropicana Field (formerly and betterly known as the Thunderdome), but I ain't paying a dime of tax money to change either.

    The train is absolutely idiotic, given the economic situation.

  • BakedPenguin||

    My mistake - our local potentates aren't called prefects. I've been watching too many Japanese movies lately.

    The Trop is a bit out of the way, but it's amazing to me that they're even considering wasting hundreds of millions of dollars on another stadium. If they want to do something useful, let them add a lane to 295. That would help air pollution, because people wouldn't be sitting, idling their cars for a hour.

  • ||

    While I'm a fan of our local sports teams, I'm not subsidizing them. They can sink or swim like any other business. And pack up and move, if that's what floats their boat.

    As for trains, if there's a need for them, the money won't have to be extorted from the public.

  • Leaders with Plans||

    And completely ignore the multiplier effect of a local sports team? I think not, sir.

  • ||

    The Bucs also had a perfectly good stadium. I know, because I used to work for the firm that designed it and was constantly told by the architects how great it was. :)

    Didn't stop them building another one, did it?

  • ||

    A stadium owned by the city, but somehow all of the profits go to the team, even for events unrelated to NFL football. WTF?

  • Leaders with Plans||

    Multiplier effect.

  • ||

    Multiplication with negative numbers gives even larger negative numbers.

  • Tolly||

    And if I remember this same federal 50/50 was floated by Obama when he came to town. Meaning that both our city and the feds agree to waste money but only at the same time.
    Perfect logic! Just look at the quality, fiscal restraint and cost overrun vigilance that happened with the Big Dig.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    We seem to be glossing over the real problem with any rail system. If 80's television has taught me anything (and it hasn't), it's that on a train you always have to end up solving a murder before the next stop. If I'm not even going to be able to read my Reason iPhone app in peace on the commute, I might as well drive myself to work (where there are less suspects to sort through).

    Of course, I'm being facetious here; I would never own an iPhone.

  • ||

    Good point.
    But if the movies have taught me anything, it is that trains are ALWAYS runaway.
    Americans are already poorly informed - 15 minutes out of every nightly newscast (which is only 17 minutes sans commercials)will be devoted to helcopters following run a way trains.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    That's a tally in the pro column. I could get into watching runaway train footage all evening.

  • Yonemoto||

    DC is also building a streetcar. It's in anacostia, predominantly african-american community. I'm convinced they are trying to recreate the feel of 1960s-era segregated america.

  • EJM||

    And so witness the spectacle of Cinncinati, a city that is down on its luck and its population...

    Er, Nick, don't you live in Cincinnati (or nearby)?

  • x,y||

    Think he lives in Oxford, which is about an hour north of the city.

    Douche U. aka Popped Collar U. aka Miamu University (Ohio) is located there.

  • Tex Lovera||

    eh, "Miami" perhaps?

    Seems like just a few weeks ago I read of some massively douche-y behavior by some sorority there that caused them to be banned. Bet Mom & Dad were so proud!

  • Leaders with Plans||

    We prefer the more flexible spelling.

  • Warty||

    The high concentration of low-income housing in Over-the-Rhine exacerbated disinvestment, poverty, and high crime.[9] Nearly two of every three homes are vacant or used by squatters.[10]

    Oh, Cincinnati...giving East Cleveland someplace to look down upon.

  • ||

    OTR the neighborhood is an absolute disaster.

    OTR the band is so white and hipster-riffic that the crack dealers in the neighborhood should sue for trademark infringement and false advertising...or something.

  • ||

    All it takes is just one wrong turn going to Bogart's...

  • x,y||

    Been there lately? While it still might be an objective disaster overall, there are parts that are pretty gentrified and nice now. Senate is a decent place for grub, the new arts high school, and soon Washington Park. The key will be relocating the drop in center, and keeping the homeless from using the renovated park as their shitter.

  • ||

    It's been since a couple of years after the riots, so I imagine there are differences.

  • ola||

    the pigheaded mayor of frickin boise idaho is pushing for newly printed or borrowed dollars for a trolley in downtown. hopefully cincy will get the money and there won't be any left.

  • ||

    Boise, ID!?
    For all three commuters?

  • ola||

    exactly, however the public remains against this BS. But the repub senator is working for fed money because the dem mayor says boise wants it and the boise mayor says they must move ahead to qualify for the fed money. sheesh

  • ||

    Are these rail projects supposed to efficiently serve a function or act as a tourist attraction?

  • Moz||

    Here in Detroit, philanthropic individuals and organizations are donating $125 million to the construction of a 3.5 mile light rail line up Woodward Avenue since the city can't come up with the required 40% of the project's funding by itself to qualify for federal DOT funding.

    Hooray for private investment, I guess, but boo for brains -- we've already got one decades-old light-rail boondoggle here in Detroit, with the People Mover monorail that makes a loop around downtown, only attracting riders before and after Red Wings games.

    One also wonders how much good $125 million could do put to other charitable uses. That would hire a lot of tutors to help improve the city's 35% high school graduation rate...

  • ||

    ... and is home to the worst mascot in the history of professional sports ...

    No, just no.

  • Tex Lovera||

    Seems to be some resemblance there...

  • Bob||

    I think the Reds mascot has larger testicles. And it's red.

  • Geotpf||

    Light rail, if grade seperated or otherwise seperate from traffic (could be at ground level if traffic is blocked via crossing gates), is faster (meaning more people will use it), has a higher capacity, and pollutes less than buses.

  • ||

    So are all these worth paying upwards of a billion dollars? If a light rail system could be plopped into Nashville without any property damage or cost, I'd be all for it too.

    When people like Nick Gillespie and Randal O'Toole argue against rail and streetcar boondoggles, they do it with full awareness of their benefits. The problems with light-rail come after factoring in the "cost" portion of the cost-benefit analysis.

  • Paul||

    Seattle runs it's light rail at street level. Nothing has ever gone wrong.

  • Tex Lovera||

    Just like Westworld!

  • Drax the Destroyer||

    Paul, to be fair, I think the PT Cruiser was asking for it.

  • Bob||

    As I recall, the acronym for this is SLUT

  • ||

    Which is wonderful, except that no one actually uses it.

  • ||

    Lyle Lanley: Well, sir, there's nothing on earth
    Like a genuine,
    Bona fide,
    Electrified,
    Six-car
    Monorail!
    What'd I say?

    Ned Flanders: Monorail!

    Lyle Lanley: What's it called?

    Patty+Selma: Monorail!

    Lyle Lanley: That's right! Monorail!

    [crowd chants `Monorail' softly and rhythmically]

    Miss Hoover: I hear those things are awfully loud...

    Lyle Lanley: It glides as softly as a cloud.

    Apu: Is there a chance the track could bend?

    Lyle Lanley: Not on your life, my Hindu friend.

    Barney: What about us brain-dead slobs?

    Lyle Lanley: You'll be given cushy jobs.

    Abe: Were you sent here by the devil?

    Lyle Lanley: No, good sir, I'm on the level.

    Wiggum: The ring came off my pudding can.

    Lyle Lanley: Take my pen knife, my good man.

    I swear it's Springfield's only choice...
    Throw up your hands and raise your voice!

    All: Monorail!

    Lyle Lanley: What's it called?

    All: Monorail!

    Lyle Lanley: Once again...

    All: Monorail!

    Marge: But Main Street's still all cracked and broken...

    Bart: Sorry, Mom, the mob has spoken!

    All: Monorail!
    Monorail!
    Monorail!

    [big finish]

    Monorail!

    Homer: Mono... D'oh!

  • ||

    Ever take a close look at 275, the Cincinnati beltway? It's an odd, elongated, almost potato shape.

    Ever wonder why 275 stretches so far west of Cincy? Even though there isn't much out there?

    Maybe it's because that westward over-reach gives 275 a 3 mile stretch that cuts all of 1/2 mile into Indiana, adding one more state and 2 more Senators to those who support this kind of transportation nonsense.

  • Drax the Destroyer||

    You are ruining my already shitty day man.

  • zoltan||

    What they should be subsidizing is Skyline Chili locations in Austin, Texas. Damn these Texans make some awful chili.

  • mr simple||

    Skyline is the fucking worst. Cinnamon in chili? I'd rather lick my own ass.

  • x,y||

    So you're not a fan of Indian food either?

  • zoltan||

    Taste is subjective. I like the cumin, chocolate, and bay leaves too (I have to make it myself now since there aren't any here).

  • Tex Lovera||

    +1. I'll take some TexMex chili con carne (NO FUCKING BEANS!!) over that crap any day, baby.

  • ||

    Skyline is awful, but cinnamon and a whole lot of other wonderful spices can make chili awesome.

    Runny meat over pasta != chili.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    Maybe you're confusing pasta sauce and chili. That Rust Belt "chili" is godawful.

  • ||

    Cincinnati 'chili' is the common meat sauce used in Greek restaurants in the rest of the country. In fact, there are a few Greek restaurants in Cincinnati whose proprietors get shirty if customers refer to their meat sauce as 'chili'--this, despite the fact that they serve it after the fashion of the chili joints

  • Leaders with Plans||

    Streetcars and trains are the future. Otherwise people would go to places where the train doesn't stop. And we can't have that.

  • PantsFan||

    they can cycle the rest of the way.

  • Leaders with Plans||

    Cincinatti needs a City Income Tax. That will help mend the budget deficit.

  • Leaders with Plans||

    And We'd rather it be spelled Cincinatti, rather than Cincinnati.

  • x,y||

    We do. It's a flat 2ish%

  • Leaders with Plans||

    It's clearly not high enough, then.

  • Leaders with Plans||

    Detroit has an elevated train. We should look to Detroit for Leadership and Inspiration.

  • ||

    it's not about the trains, it's about the govt/union jobs it creates for eternity

  • ||

    Yup - it's all about the unions. And even more so the "transit boards", which are cesspools of corruption everywhere they exist.

  • ||

    "Well, Sir, theres nothing in the world like a bona fide, electrafied, genuine, six-car monorail!

    "What'd I say?"

    "Monorail!"

    It's a joke, a farce. Nobody wants to ride them. The money would be better spent on F-22's.

  • ||

    I'd take mass transit if they used F-22s

  • Drax the Destroyer||

    As long as I don't find piss and shit scattered throughout them like your average American public transportation system. The Public stands for Public Toilet.

  • ||

    The TGV system in France is fast and efficient. Train systems like this work well in European countries because the travel distances are much shorter and cities are much more congested with traffic. This is not the case in the US where travel distances make high speed rail impractical. Only in the northeast and perhaps the San Diego-LA-San Francisco corridor of California does it seem feasible. I don't think $100 billion for the California project would ever be justifiable.

  • ||

    Umm... they're fast and efficient in Europe because passenger rail has priority over freight rail there. But they still lose money (and a far lower percentage of freight is on rail in Europe).

  • ||

    Most of the complaints about PT are also applicable to roads—heavily subsidized by gov't, on- and off-ramps wherever planners put them, create permanent boondoggle of patronage, and corruption in awarding resurfacing contracts, users don't remotely pay costs of building and upkeep, etc. I've lived in NYC, Chicago, Rome (Italy) and Orange County. The only one of those I would never live in again is Orange County, almost entirely because there is little usable PT.

  • ||

    Mass transit is a wonderful thing for lefties - it hits all the right buttons of being "green", has lots of "Keynesian" throwing-cash-around potential, and delivers tons of new government employees to the unions. OTOH, roads are Evil. People can drive their own cars on them and they only need occasional maintenance - and much of the work can be outsourced to non-union contractors if the law permits (which it unfortunately doesn't in too many cases).

  • ||

    Maybe I missed it, but I haven't seen a discussion of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). That law has required municipalities to lay out ridiculous sums of money for equipment that often is completely unnecessary. An ADA compliant transit bus is well north of a half-million dollars - whereas a simple "bus" is under $75K. Multiply that by the # of vehicles operating and you can quickly see how much money is frequently flushed down the john.

  • ||

    In DC, Metro drivers make more than the pilot who flew you across the country the last time you went. And don't even get me started on the "move to Myrtle Beach when you retire" benefits package. I simply cannot imagine why they're losing money.

  • ||

    Wisconsin/Milwaukee is going down the same rocky road - high-speed rail Milwaukee to Madison (for the 254 people who commute), commuter rail Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee (for the 15 people who commute) and trolleys in the city of Milwaukee (for the drunks leaving the festivals in the summer to take to wherever their cars are parked.

    Meanwhile, the Milwaukee County Bus system, once a well funded, efficient way to get around the city, is slowly being funds-starved to death because it's not "sexy" enough.

  • Vex||

    In Austin Texas, they want to spend $1.3 BILLION dollars for a simple city train system. We already got screwed with a train that is carrying less than 1,000 people a day, and Austin residents are taxed heavily compared to the test of Texas.

    This stuff is ridiculous.

    http://www.examiner.com/a-2699....._line.html

  • ||

    Quite simple.
    Politicians, especially city government politicians, absolutely HATE
    individual liberty. They have the wettest of wet dreams when lusting to take the individual out of their comfortable, safe, reliable private automobile, and putting them into theie randomly scheduled, expensive, uncomfortable transit system, where the politicals can look the other way when middle class riders are robbed, beaten and raped by the PROTECTED, err ahh, CRIMINAL classes.

  • ||

    A few years ago, the left-leaning county supervisors here in Phoenix, AZ decided to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a light rail system to nowhere. They were way impressed with the light rail system in Portland, OR and wanted to have one here, too. Now I have ridden the Portland light rail, and I too am impressed with it, and it is considered to be a model system. But even that system is a money loser, and does not make a significant dent in the congestion or pollution in Portland.

    So now our light rail system here is under-utilized, fares have been raised several times in the last year, and now schedules and operating hours are being cut back. We never had a chance to vote on it, it was decided by fiat by our masters. A fleet of hundreds of new buses, all running on clean natural gas, would have cost a tiny fraction as much to own and operate.

  • ||

    In the Bay Area, a BART strike was cancelled when local papers - not noted for their conservative sympathies - outed the "hardworking" employees whose salaries started at $70K for janitors and went north from there, particularly for the drivers who sit and play with their iphones all day while the computer drives the train.

  • ||

    _A Streetcar Named Boondoggle_...

  • ||

    Light rail makes sense for high traffic and high density areas. Think of all the bus routes which are always overcrowded. Light rail attracts more passengers than buses because of the perception of infrastructure and they have a much higher passenger capacity. However, politicians never want to build light rail along these routes, where they would actually make a difference. It's always about sticking trolleys where they look the prettiest and never about connecting the points which need high capacity mass transit vehicles. Light rail itself makes sense, but where the politicians want to waste millions of dollars placing it with routes to no where does not!

  • ||

    Agreed. The light rail system here in Phoenix goes only from Phoenix to Tempe and back. That's it. So even if you wanted to use the light rail, chances are it isn't going where you need to go. OTOH, I can catch a city bus from almost anywhere to almost anywhere. I can see light rail for cities like Chicago or Boston where you have a high density population in and around the city center. But in more spread out cities, you would need a system like BART in SanFran or MARTA in Atlanta or the DC Metro. And that would cost billions and take 10-20 years to complete.

  • Drax the Destroyer||

    On a related note, the DC metro has lost so much money it can't even compete with most of the parking garages and gas prices in Northern Virginia after a recent "revunue building" price increase. Get ready to see more people biting the bullet of congestion on 66, 29, 495, and 50 in order to limbo around unjustified price increases. I have an idea for the Metro system to save money. PAY YOUR ADMINISTRATORS LESS. Or even better, fire them outright.

  • ||

    I guess these guys haven't heard of the internet and video conferencing. Let's use a fraction of the rail money to expand and upgrade the communication system. The only reason telecommuting hasn't expanded is that first level managers would have no one to manage.

  • ||

    Silicon Valley has its own light rail boondoggle. If they can't telecommute, who will?

  • ||

    Good comment. Telecommuting is the #1 way to reduce congestion. Take the people off the road who don't need to be there and the whole transportation cost environment will go down. I work for a major technology company you've heard of and 1/2 of our employees either work from home or are mobile all the time. I work on a team of about 30, only a few of whom are even in the same state. It's a productive, smart way to work. And yes, we do have first-line managers.

  • ||

    Here in MN our light rail that goes from the Mall of America to downtown Minneapolis.. about 12 miles, cost over $1 billion. But it also has annual operating deficit of over $100 million. The line carries about 6,000 people a day, the road that runs parallel to it carries about 50,000.

  • ||

    John W.--

    The ADA is one of the worst pieces of legislation enacted in the past 50 years. It is Bastiat's Broken Window on steroids. Nearly worthless curb bumps, wheelchair lifts on buses, lever-handled replacement doorknobs, etc. It has probably cost in the billions just for compliance by city, county and state entities. We need a serious revolution in this country, and we will get one if this kind of crap isn't stopped.

  • ||

    I live in the suburbs of Cincinnati. Another reason this is a bad idea is that many new restaurants and bars have opened downtown, and seem to be doing well. The streetcar is proposed to go to a different part of downtown that is not doing as well. The streetcar will punish the businesses that did well on their own, and encourage others to open business along the route were no one goes.

  • ||

    As someone who lives in a city (Seattle) where useless (1 mile) trolley systems take precedence over infrastructure maintenance (closure of a vital bridge, rather than fix it), I heartily concur that public transport is one of the biggest and most sacred municipal boondoggles around.

  • Leaders with Plans||

    The South Park Bridge carries cars. Why would We want to fix that? Cars go to places and political districts (ie, not Ours) that We don't approve.

    Any bridge that carries cars that closes is a good bridge.

    Now if We could figure out how to get a streetcar on that Viaduct...

  • ||

    'What about us drunken slobs'
    'You'll be given cushy jobs'
    MONORAIL!

  • Joe||

    What you are all forgetting is that if the state or city can get the federal gov't to pay for it then it's absolutely free!!

  • Suprashoesweb||

  • xiaomeng||

    Telecommuting is the #1 way to reduce congestion.rome dvdIt has probably cost in the billions just for compliance by city, county and state entities. drop dead diva dvdOr even better, fire them outright.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement