In cities across the country where there have been massive investments in light rail, from the Portland area to Tampa, Fl., and a host of others, the percentage of people taking transit has stagnated or even declined. Nationwide, the percentage of people taking transit to work is now lower than it was in 1980. In Europe light rail attracts only 6% of all travelers. Historically in the US, it operates in the red sometimes couched with off sheet balance misinformation but always funded by the taxpayer.
The choice to invest in light rail as opposed to buses reflects both a class bias and the agenda of what may best described as the “density lobby.” Can anyone out there say pork? Once a pork idea gets started it’s impossible to stop. In Tampa light rail was soundly voted down in a 2004 referendum and now because of stimulus subdivides is back again. The proposals for High Speed Rail, a favorite boondoggle of the Obama administration, reveal misplaced information and fiscal priorities. Monies that could be served for better purposes instead is funneled into long term government and environmental rail projects that ultimately benefit the union’s bloated payrolls and pensions. Budgets for these nightmares are always in La La land and come up as much as 50% short. At-home workers already out number the number of people taking transit to work; and since 2000 their numbers have been growing roughly twice as fast as those of transit riders..
There is light at the end of the light rail tunnel and it is the taxpayer has begun to realize he is paying for these crazy schemes and that pork actually hurts his community by pushing out healthy non-government growth.
It’s clear we should not spend our ever more scarce transit resources on a nostalgia and losing crusade to make our cities function much the way they did in the late 1800s. Instead, we need to construct systems reflecting the technology and geographic realities of the 21st century. – DSMW