Mass transit is one of
many supposedly good ideas that
may not be good at all. Left-wing politicians love the idea of mass transit, because
it means greater control of our everyday lives and another way to raise money.|
Information about Amtrak -- all of it unfavorable -- is available here.
Subsections on this page:
Great promises never come to pass
Mass transit comes with a hefty price tag
Mass transit is unpopular
Cost overruns and wasted taxpayer dollars
Pork barrel politics
An atmosphere of secrecy, corruption and graft
The Indoctrination of a Captive Audience
Subsections on page one:
Criminals, psychopaths, and unruly passengers
The police state on wheels
Health and safety
Unreliable drivers and unexpected delays
High speed rail projects
Houston's Metropolitan Transit Authority
Dallas Area Rapid Transit
Other related information
Great promises never come to pass
Before any mass-transit system is presented to the voters for their approval, all sorts of grand promises are made about the alleviation of traffic congestion and air pollution, and about all the tourists who will come to town because transportation will be so widely available and wonderfully convenient.
Studies Show Commuter Trains Don't Improve Air Quality. Recent studies in Denver, Dallas, and other cities show rail transit is a particularly ineffective solution to air pollution problems. Rail transit, the authors conclude, has an insignificant effect on air quality, and it actually increases the emissions of some important pollutants. A study by Dallas' transit agency, reported in the June 15 Dallas Morning News, concluded a proposed new light-rail line would reduce regional carbon monoxide emissions by less than one one-hundredth of a percent. Even a larger reduction wouldn't be important, since Dallas already complies with federal carbon monoxide standards.
Trains can be worse for climate than planes. A new study compares the "full life-cycle" emissions generated by 11 different modes of transportation in the US. Unlike previous studies on transport emissions, Mikhail Chester and Arpad Horvath of the University of California, Berkeley, looked beyond what is emitted by different types of car, train, bus or plane while their engines are running and includes emissions from building and maintaining the vehicles and their infrastructure, as well as generating the fuel to run them.
Horsepower Sure Beats Horses! [Scroll down to comments] The notion that trains are far more energy efficient than cars is a nice fantasy. In fact, trains are so heavy — typically 3,000 to 5,000 pounds per passenger — that they are not very energy efficient. Autos in intercity traffic carry more people than autos in urban traffic, so the average car in intercity use is more energy efficient than Amtrak. Many urban rail lines are so poorly used that they use more energy and emit more greenhouse gases per passenger mile than the average SUV. When you add the energy cost of constructing rail, it is almost always a loser.
Myths of Light-Rail Transit. Local-government officials are ambitious, in the best sense of that word. ... This laudable ambition makes them keenly interested in anything that promises to solve a continuing and mounting problem: urban transportation and road congestion. In recent years, officials have heard a strong pitch for a purported cure for this problem. It is called light-rail, and it is promoted with glitzy literature that usually combines "vision," "high-tech," and "long-term solution" all in the same paragraph. The pitch is always backed by elaborate projections, multicolor charts and graphs, consultants with imposing arrays of academic credentials, and promises of federal grants. ... But the faith in light-rail transit is based on a series of myths. The truth is that light-rail systems drain off astonishing amounts of tax dollars, exacerbate automobile congestion, harm bus transportation, and undermine desirable development patterns.
Bullet train ridership numbers don't add up, watchdog says. California officials' rosy ridership forecasts for the state's planned $45 billion high-speed rail system have been based on previously undisclosed statistical assumptions that differ from those published for peer and public review, newly released documents obtained by The Daily News show.
Maglev trains — transport tech that simply won't fly. The magnetic levitation (maglev) idea was patented as long ago as the 1930s. For the past four decades, Germany's best engineers have been working out the technical details. But the Transrapid — the monorail maglev system developed by Siemens and ThyssenKrupp that has trains speeding on a magnetic cushion at 500 kilometres an hour — simply won't fly.
The Mass Transit Panacea and Other Fallacies About Energy. The received wisdom on this topic is easily stated: 1. It is self-evident that public transportation is vastly more energy-efficient than automobiles; 2. It is self-evident that investing money to improve transit facilities will attract many more passengers. Therefore, the national energy policy ought to give major attention to building new transit systems and revitalizing old ones. Unfortunately, both of these "self-evident" premises turn out to be false.
High-Speed Rail: The Wrong Road for America. [Scroll down] Planners have predicted that a proposed line in Florida would use more energy and emit more of some pollutants than all of the cars it would take off the road. California planners forecast that high-speed rail would reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions by a mere 0.7 to 1.5 percent -- but only if ridership reached the high end of projected levels. Lower ridership would nullify energy savings and pollution reductions.
The Case against Rail Transit. Over the past four decades, American cities have spent close to $100 billion constructing rail transit systems, and many billions more operating those systems. The agencies that spend taxpayer dollars building these lines almost invariably call them successful even when they go an average of 40 percent over budget and, in many cases, carry an insignificant number of riders. The people who rarely or never ride these lines but still have to pay for them should ask, "How do you define success?"
Does Rail Transit Save Energy or Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions? While most rail transit uses less energy than buses, rail transit does not operate in a vacuum: transit agencies supplement it with extensive feeder bus operations. Those feeder buses tend to have low ridership, so they have high energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions per passenger mile. The result is that, when new rail transit lines open, the transit systems as a whole can end up consuming more energy, per passenger mile, than they did before.
This article appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on June 15, 2008.
Rail Transit Just Isn't Trying to Improve Fuel Efficiency. Many people assume public transportation is vastly more energy efficient than cars, and that spending more money on transit will attract people out of their cars. In 1979, University of California-Irvine economist Charles Lave showed in the Atlantic Monthly that both of these assumptions were wrong. Persuading people to buy more fuel-efficient cars is easier and saves more energy, Lave found, than trying to get them to ride transit.
Mass transit comes with a hefty price tag
In Dallas, the trains and buses are funded by a one-percent sales tax. The Dallas
Metropolitan Transit Authority receives approximately $129,817,000 per year from sales tax
Why building trains in New York costs more than any other city. In May 2011, an Israeli mathematician named Alon Levy, then just out of the doctoral program at Columbia, compiled the costs of 19 rail tunnels in the United States, Europe and Japan. In Japan and continental Europe, Levy found, tunnels usually cost between $200 million and $450 million per mile; the most expensive, the North-South Line in Amsterdam, still cost only $660 million per mile, more than twice its original budget. Spain, Italy and South Korea were especially economical, building tunnels for less than $250 million per mile. (Since 2011, US inflation has increased these numbers by about 12 percent.) Every tunnel in the United Kingdom or the United States, though, was more expensive than every tunnel in continental Europe or Japan. And the three most expensive were all in New York City: the No. 7 subway extension ($2.1 billion per mile, despite "an unusually sparse station spacing"), the Second Avenue subway ($2.7 billion per mile, by Levy's reckoning, but closer to $2.4 billion in final cost) and, at more than $6.4 billion per mile, the East Side Access tunneling project from Long Island to Grand Central. Since 2011, price tags have risen even higher. The MTA now estimates East Side Access's cost at $11.1 billion — or about $8.8 billion per mile, under Levy's reckoning of the project's length.
1,700 Concrete Panels on D.C.'s Overdue Silver Line Metro Extension Are Defective. Washington, D.C.'s overdue, overbudget Silver Line Metro route extension has hit another snag: Some 1,700 concrete panels laid on the $2.8 billion project are defective. According to WRC-TV, the local NBC affiliate that broke the story yesterday, issues with the concrete include an unbalanced mix of cement and water, too little concrete covering steel inside the panels, and "insufficient safeguards for water to expand and contract," all of which could lead to cracking. Most of the concrete will have to be resealed, and at least 65 panels will have to be replaced entirely. This added work supposedly will not affect the projected 2020 completion date.
Smug Seattle keeps throwing money after streetcar, bike lane fiasco that's totally off the rails. Seattle was one of the first cities to get electric streetcars in the U.S., with the first electric car entering service in 1889. With over a century of experience, you would think the city would know how to handle public transit. Not so. Taxpayers are paying a big price for the incompetence of city officials. The public transportation system in Seattle is a mess. Construction costs for new and upgraded streetcar and light rail lines are skyrocketing well above estimated costs. One of the more unbelievable mistakes made was the purchase of 10 new streetcars last fall. Apparently, when the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) ordered the cars no one thought to check the measurements. The order was placed for street cars that are likely too big for the tracks and the maintenance barn.
Seattle's new streetcars may be too big to fit tracks, maintenance barn, mayor's office says. The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) ordered 10 new streetcars in the fall, at a cost of $52 million, as it planned to link the two existing streetcar lines with a new line along First Avenue through downtown. But Durkan halted that work in March and ordered an independent review of the project's finances, after a Seattle Times report said costs to operate the new system could be 50 percent higher than SDOT had publicly stated.
Seattle's $52M streetcar fiasco. The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) reportedly ordered 10 new streetcars last year, to help expand the Seattle Streetcar system by linking the two existing streetcar lines. Questions [were] raised as to whether 10 new streetcars ordered by Seattle will fit current tracks[.] But the new streetcars also are reportedly heavier and longer than the ones currently in use, raising concerns about whether they'll be used at all.
Feds To Audit CA High-Speed Rail Project As Funding Flounders. With a new study out showing that California doesn't have the funding to complete even the first phase of their high-speed rail project, the Inspector General for the Department of Transportation will open the books to see how federal monies have been spent: [...] That's bad news for a project that has already had plenty of bad news over the last several years. The IG will apparently focus mainly on how the FRA has performed in reporting on California's progress rather than the performance of the California High-Speed Rail Authority.
Will Unfinished Train Overpasses Become California's Stonehenge? Californians thought high-speed rail was a great idea when they voted for it in 2008. The state is overwhelmingly progressive. Silicon Valley reflects California's confidence in new-age technology. Californians are among the highest-taxed citizens in the nation. They apparently are not opposed to borrowing and spending for ambitious government projects — especially to alleviate crowded freeways. Planners assured voters that the cost for the first 520 miles was going to be an "affordable" $33 billion. [...] But projected costs have soared even before one foot of track has been laid. The entire project's estimated costs, according to various projections, may have nearly doubled.
Congestion pricing: Driving in Manhattan could cost $11.52. Motorists would have to shell out $11.52 to drive into the busiest parts of Manhattan under a new proposal floated by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to ease traffic congestion and raise vital funds for mass transit.
Trump pulls brakes on $13B Obama-backed rail-tunnel plan. An Obama-era plan to have the federal government finance half of a $13 billion rail tunnel project ran into a red light Friday [12/29/2017] from the Trump administration. The plan, proposed under President Barack Obama in 2015, includes revitalizing a deteriorating Amtrak tunnel connecting New Jersey to New York City, repairing damage to a dual-tunnel conduit, and reconstructing the New Jersey railroad network's aging Portal Bridge, Crain's New York Business reported.
11 Outrageous Ways Federal Government Wasted $473 Billion in Taxpayer Money. [For example,] Trolley Expansion: $1.04 Billion — Last year the Department of Transportation awarded a $1.04 billion grant to extend a trolley line in San Diego, California, by 10.9 miles. The report noted that a billion dollars could pay for hundreds of miles of four-lane highways across the country.
New York City subway construction 'is the most expensive in the world'. Construction projects for New York City subways are the most expensive in the world thanks to overall mismanagement by transit officials, favoritism toward powerful special interests like labor unions and building firms, inefficient staffing, and a bloated bureaucracy, according to a report published on Friday [11/29/2017]. A lengthy expose by The New York Times reveals why New Yorkers are forced to foot the highest costs for the maintenance and expansion of their transit system than those in other world class cities. The report found that the agency in charge of the subways, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, wastes massive sums of money by employing too many people to do work that can be performed in the same amount of time by half the number of personnel.
Guess where high school dropouts can make $400 an hour. It turns out I have just the job for you: performing largely unskilled labor building subway tunnels in New York City! [...] But maybe the idea of working on subway tunnels, even at $400 an hour, doesn't appeal to you. If you're willing to consider a small pay cut, consider working for the New York transit authority, where the average compensation is $140,000 a year.
New York City subway construction 'is the most expensive in the world' thanks to bloated staffing, inflated wages of up to $1,000 a day, and favoritism to unions. Construction projects for New York City subways are the most expensive in the world thanks to overall mismanagement by transit officials, favoritism toward powerful special interests like labor unions and building firms, inefficient staffing, and a bloated bureaucracy, according to a report published on Friday [12/29/2017]. A lengthy expose by The New York Times reveals why New Yorkers are forced to foot the highest costs for the maintenance and expansion of their transit system than those in other world class cities. The report found that the agency in charge of the subways, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, wastes massive sums of money by employing too many people to do work that can be performed in the same amount of time by half the number of personnel.
Rethinking the MTA's Infrastructure. As New York's deteriorating mass-transit system grabbed the attention of state and local leaders this past summer, elected officials nodded their heads in agreement that the state-controlled Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) needs more money for capital improvements. The officials disagreed only on which level of government — the state or the city — should provide these new resources, and through what mechanism. [...] For more than a decade, the MTA has failed to demonstrate that it can invest existing resources wisely. First, the authority has favored the improvement and expansion of commuter-rail lines over subways, even as ridership growth on subways has exceeded ridership growth on commuter-rail lines. Second, the MTA has failed to efficiently manage its large projects, with cost overruns and schedule delays overwhelming the downstate region's ability to plan for the future.
What ARE the mysterious $100M metal towers popping up at tunnels and bridges all over New York and why won't the MTA say? New York's public transportation system has come under fire for spending a whopping $100 million on mysterious metal towers that have popped up at the entrances of tunnel as many New Yorkers remain baffled over how they work. The 30-feet-tall MTA Gateway Towers are a part of Gov Andrew Cuomo's $100 million vision to redesign the MTA's bridges and tunnels in the city. Some people are still unsure about the purpose of these towers, including folks on the MTA board, but according to some officials, the towers will host equipment related to homeland security, such as anti-terror technology.
CA High-Speed Rail Contractor Gets 18% Raise After Missing Completion Date. California High-Speed Rail agreed to increase payments to its construction manager by 18 percent after failing to complete its first 32-mile section within the seven-year deadline. President Obama and his Democrat congressional majority voted in 2010 to fund the California High Speed Rail (Cal HSR) with $2.5 billion under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act as the centerpiece of a national network of 10 intercity corridors in California, the Pacific Northwest, the Midwest, the Southeast, The Gulf Coast, Pennsylvania, Florida, New York, and New England. Cal HSR contractually agreed to provide bullet train service with top speeds of 150 miles-per-hour over the 118-mile section between Madera and Bakersfield by September 30, 2017, or give the money back to the U.S. Treasury.
Mystery Surrounds Metal Towers Popping Up In Tunnels & Bridges. Mysterious metal towers are popping up at local tunnels, and soon they'll start appearing at bridges, too. But even people on the MTA board in charge of the towers can't say why they're being used or what's in them, CBS2's Dave Carlin reports. Jose Lugo said the tall metal towers quickly appeared up after the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel tolls booths came down. "We don't really know what's the purpose of this," he told Carlin. It's a $100 million MTA project shrouded in secrecy, with 18 of them for tunnels and bridges. So what are they exactly?
The Editor says...
De Blasio wants to tax the rich to pay for subway repairs. He said the subways weren't his responsibility, but Mayor de Blasio now wants to tax wealthy New Yorkers to pay for everything from emergency rail repairs to low-cost bus and train rides for the poor. De Blasio on Sunday unveiled an election-year pitch to raise $800 million a year for mass transit by soaking the rich with a nearly 14 percent tax increase on high-income Big Apple residents. The proposed city income-tax hike would raise the rate for individuals making more than $500,000 and married couples earning over $1 million from 3.876 percent to 4.41 percent. Hizzoner wants to earmark the bulk of the new cash to fix the decrepit subways and upgrade the bus system.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo Travels to D.C. to Plead for Federal Funding for Failing Transit System. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo traveled to Washington D.C. Wednesday [7/26/2017] to seek federal funding for the city's failing transport system, a month after Cuomo declared a state of emergency for the MTA and warned of a "summer of hell" for commuters. Cuomo met with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to discuss a funding of "The Gateway Tunnel" — a new tunnel between New Jersey and New York in order to ease congestion on the interstate railways.
Price for New York-New Jersey rail tunnel rises to $12.9B. The interim head of the development corporation formed to oversee the massive undertaking, John Porcari, said on Thursday [7/6/2017] the project will cost $12.9 billion, up from previous estimates of $7 billion to $10 billion.
Cuomo declares 'state of emergency' at MTA. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday declared a state of emergency for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to expedite subway repairs and replacements in the wake of rising delays and accidents. [...] "This will allow the MTA to speed up the purchase of material and equipment it needs to repair tracks, signals, switches and more," Cuomo said.
The Editor says...
How the Trump administration can stop the bullet train. The only kind of news the troubled $64 billion California bullet train project seems to generate is bad news. In January, a Federal Railroad Administration analysis was leaked that projected the initial 118-mile, $6.4 billion segment of the project would run 50 percent over budget. Then last week, a Los Angeles Times report revealed that the project's price tag may continue to be pushed higher and higher by "the complex engineering needed for passenger safety."
New Yorkers rally to subsidize MTA fare for low-income residents. Sunday [3/19/2017] marked first day the newest MTA fare hikes took effect. While the price of a single subway or bus ride has not increased, a coalition of New Yorkers said it was time to give low-income riders a break. Activists, local officials, and community leaders came together to ask Mayor de Blasio to step in. They want him to carve out a chunk of the 2018 city budget to subsidize MetroCards for New Yorkers below the poverty line.
MTA transit fares, tolls go up Sunday. Commuters, be ready to dig a little deeper into your pockets this weekend. The MTA fare and toll hikes are set to take effect Sunday, March 19, 2017. The cost of a 30-day unlimited MetroCard will increase from $116.50 to $121. The 7-day unlimited MetroCard will increase a buck from $31 to $32. However, the MTA board voted to keep the base fare for subways and buses at $2.75 but decrease the bonus riders gets when they put cash on their MetroCards. That bonus will be 5 percent for every $5.50 you spend.
SunRail ticket revenue is less than ticketing expense. It's no secret that tickets bought by SunRail passengers pay only a tiny fraction of the commuter train's bills, but less known is that ticket revenue doesn't even cover the cost of selling tickets. SunRail's finances would be slightly stronger if riding was free. Put another way, the revenue of $1 to $7.50 per ticket is devoured by ticket machines, employees who support ticket sales and armored cars that collect fares, and does nothing to keep the train running.
The Editor says...
Cameras catch BART janitor who made $270,000 in a year spending hours in Powell St. closet. Last November, a nonprofit called Transparent California reported that a BART janitor named Liang Zhao Zhang made $271,000 in a single year — over $162,000 of that in the form of overtime. Now, a KTVU investigation into Zhang's hours and pay revealed that he disappears into a storage closet at the Powell St. station, sometimes for hours a day.
California's bullet train is hurtling toward a multibillion-dollar overrun, a confidential federal report warns. California's bullet train could cost taxpayers 50% more than estimated — as much as $3.6 billion more. And that's just for the first 118 miles through the Central Valley, which was supposed to be the easiest part of the route between Los Angeles and San Francisco. A confidential Federal Railroad Administration risk analysis, obtained by The [Los Angeles] Times, projects that building bridges, viaducts, trenches and track from Merced to Shafter, just north of Bakersfield, could cost $9.5 billion to $10 billion, compared with the original budget of $6.4 billion.
Jerry Brown's bullet train fiasco and Trump. California governor Jerry Brown has staked out the turf as President-Elect Trump's opponent, hiring Eric Holder to gin up a legal strategy and appointing Congressman Xavier Bacera as his A.G. to oppose anticipated Trump policies in sanctuary cities, the environment, and what some call California's "values." But I have to wonder if Brown doesn't have a vulnerable flank in this battle: the looming financial collapse of his most cherished project, the so-called "bullet train" between the Bay Area and Los Angeles. Yesterday [1/13/2017], the Los Angeles Times published information from a "confidential" Federal Railroad Administration report that was leaked to it revealing absolute incompetence and out-of-control overspending on the first segment under construction. The report by Ralph Vartabedian should be read in its entirety to grasp the level of chaos in the project.
CTA lands $1.1 billion goodbye grant from Obama. City Hall has received the parting gift it wanted from the Obama administration: just under $1.1 billion in federal grants to rebuild a key stretch of the Chicago Transit Authority's Red Line north. The city and U.S. Department of Transportation officials are scheduled to sign a contract tomorrow known as a full-funding grant agreement, committing the DOT's Federal Transit Agency to provide $957 million in "core capacity" funds and another $125 million in anti-congestion money for the CTA's Phase One Red/Purple Modernization project.
BART tax could quadruple original claim. It turns out that the average property tax bill required to support BART's proposed $3.5 billion bond measure on the November ballot could be as much as four times what the transit agency claimed. Two months ago, I reported that the taxes needed to pay off that bond borrowing would be about double BART's public estimate. Well, it could be even twice that. That's because legal language in Measure RR allows BART to issue bonds at up to the state limit of 12 percent interest, far higher than assumed for the previous estimates.
Transit tax shift could spark lawsuit. When voters approved an Advanced Transportation District in 2004, they added a quarter-cent to the local sales tax to fund transit, traffic safety and highway projects in Bexar County. The tax generates $60 million annually. Half the proceeds are supposed to go to road construction, but the city has been spending its share on sidewalks and bike paths.
Passage between the biggest boondoggles in mass transit history finally opens. After a nearly $6 billion, 10-year courtship, the MTA's doughnut-domed Fulton Center and the Port Authority's stegosaurus-like Oculus finally hooked up this week. The biggest boondoggles in mass transit history had kept their distance across the great divide between Broadway and Church Street. But on Thursday, the MTA threw open some doors separating its 350-foot-long Dey Street passageway from the Oculus. Holy transit interconnectivity! You can now walk underground from the Fulton Center to the PA's cyclopean PATH terminal — oops, "World Trade Center Transportation Hub." Remember when New Yorkers used sidewalks? Sure, you can get from one insanely grandiose station to the other by — horrors! — walking above ground. The daunting, block-long stroll might get you wet in the rain, but at least you won't get lost in a baffling subterranean maze full of selfie-snapping tourists.
This Rail System Costs Taxpayers $22 Per Passenger. A Minnesota commuter rail line is costing taxpayers approximately $22 per passenger, per trip. "When you're subsidizing about 80 percent of every trip on the line, it's a really big fiscal disaster," Annette Meeks, Freedom Foundation of Minnesota CEO, told The Daily Signal. The Minnesota Northstar rail opened for service in the fall of 2009, providing commute by train down the 40-mile stretch of railway that runs from downtown Minneapolis to Big Lake. The route cost taxpayers $320 million to build, half of which was funded with federal transportation dollars.
Glazer Sounds Alarm as BART Provides $1,000 Bonuses, Despite Claim of Poverty. BART is in a financial crisis with capital needs estimated at $9.6 billion, yet it gave out $1,000 bonuses to the transit system's 3,357 employees, as reported in today's [3/23/2016] San Francisco Chronicle's "Matier and Ross" column. The 2013 employee contract tied the bonuses to ridership numbers. It is likely that additional $1,000 bonuses will be given again on July 1, 2016. "This is an outrageous giveaway of taxpayer money by a transit system that is billions of dollars in capital debt," said Senator Steve Glazer (D-Orinda). "This secret bonus is on top of the 15.4% raises that BART gave to all workers and managers in its last contract.
New York City's new $4bn transit hub finally opens at the World Trade Center. A new transit hub designed to evoke a bird in flight will open next week at the World Trade Center in New York. Its architect called it a 'monument to life.' 'It is a monument of faith in this city and a monument dedicated to the people,' said Spanish-born architect Santiago Calatrava, 64, of the Oculus, a $4 billion structure that was built around, beneath and above an existing, still-operating subway line. Steve Plate, the chief of major capital projects for the Port Authority, which funded the project, described how the building 'is aligned precisely to allow the sun to come in exactly in that opening on Sept. 11 at 10:28 [am], when the last tower fell, to capture that light and remember that moment.' Plate's superior, however, blasted the structure as a 'symbol of excess' for wildly exceeding projected costs.
French rail company order 2,000 trains too wide for platforms. France's national rail operator SNCF — which runs its prestigious TGV fast trains — has sparked hilarity, anger and ridicule after building a new generation of regional trains that are too wide for 1,300 stations, meaning platforms will have to be "shaved" to stop them getting stuck. The appalling blunder, which the French transport minister on Wednesday dubbed "comically tragic", has already reportedly cost the state-controlled SNCF some €50 million (£40.5 million), sparking uproar at a time of austerity. It was revealed by Wednesday's [2/24/2016] Canard Enchaîné, the satirical weekly, whose cartoon showed a line of commuters on a busy platform being told: "The Paris-Brest train is entering the station. Please pull in your stomachs."
Plagued by delays, California high-speed rail heads back to court. Eight years after they approved funding for it, construction is years behind schedule and legal, financial and logistical delays plague the $68 billion project.
L.A.'s Mass Transit Fiasco Shows Limits of Government 'Investments'. Los Angeles has spent $9 billion over the past three decades to build light rail and subway lines designed to entice people off of the car-choked highways and onto buses and trains. The system boasts six lines, 80 stations and more than 90 miles of track. So how is this investment paying off? There are fewer people using public transit than in the mid-1980s, when the only public transit option was the bus. That's according to a terrific bit of reporting by the Los Angeles Times, which found that ridership is down 10% over the past decade and that the decline "appears to be accelerating."
New Hudson rail tunnel project would dwarf initial plan. When Governor Christie, citing potential cost overruns, scuttled an $8.9 billion tunnel project in 2010, he set in motion a string of moves by local, state and federal officials that have resulted in a proposal for a much larger, federally driven project to build new rail tunnels under the Hudson River that by some estimates could cost $20 billion. Planning for the new tunnels, dubbed Gateway, is expected to ramp up this year as the Port Authority takes the reins of what could be the largest public works project in the nation. And it joins new efforts — such as one announced Wednesday by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to spend $3 billion to overhaul New York Penn Station — to rebuild crumbling infrastructure in the region.
The Editor says...
How D.C. spent $200 million over a decade on a streetcar you still can't ride. The District is spending three or four times what other cities have to build a maintenance facility for its fledging streetcar system, a reflection of the flawed planning and execution that have dragged down the transit start-up for more than a decade. The "Car Barn" project was originally designed as a simple garage and rail yard for light repairs and storage, with some offices for staff. But it has ballooned in ambition and nearly tripled in cost — to $48.8 million. It will now include a number of pricey and unusual features, including grass tracks for parking the fleet of six streetcars and a cistern for washing them with rainwater.
Officials: Corporation will oversee new Hudson rail tunnel; feds will split cost. Governor Christie's office confirmed Thursday morning [11/12/2015] that after months of negotiation, an agreement has been reached to fund a new train tunnel under the Hudson River in which the federal government will contribute "no less than 50 percent" of the money needed for the project. The Port Authority and taxpayers in New Jersey and New York will be responsible for paying the other half. Amtrak has estimated the entire project may cost $20 billion.
Tunnel to Grand Central making progress after years of delays, cost overruns. This is what happens when you throw billions of dollars into the ground: You get a very big hole. [...] So big that construction of East Side Access — a megaproject started in 2007 to connect the Long Island Railroad to Grand Central Terminal and Manhattan's East Side — isn't scheduled to be complete until 2022 at a total cost of $10.17 billion. The project was originally estimated to cost $4.3 billion and was planned to open six years ago.
DART officials preview zero-emissions 'bus of the future'. An electrically powered bus garnered a lot of attention at Dallas Area Rapid Transit headquarters Tuesday [2/3/2015]. Agency employees stood in cold temperatures to look. Others took short rides on what some dubbed "the bus of the future." DART officials were showing off the bus because they are applying for $13 million in federal funds to buy nine.
DART gets $7.6 million from feds to buy 7 all-electric buses for downtown-Oak Cliff D-Link. Dallas Area Rapid Transit spokesman Morgan Lyons says we'll have more details soon. But for now, here's the takeaway: The Federal Transit Admission just announced it's giving the transit agency $7,637,111 to purchase seven all-electric buses as part of its D-Link fleet serving downtown and North Oak Cliff. The big money is heading to Dallas as part of the FTA's Low and No Emission Vehicle Deployment Program, which is spreading $54.5 million across 10 cities to "deploy the cleanest and most energy efficient U.S.-made transit buses."
NJ Transit gets federal grant to develop warning system to prevent trains from being flooded. An $843,750 federal grant was awarded to NJ Transit and Stevens Institute of Technology to develop a system to warn of storm driven flooding such as the surges that damaged 319 trains stored in low lying areas after Hurricane Sandy in 2012. NJ Transit officials announced the grant Thursday [2/5/2015] and said the system would provide advance notice to allow locomotives and passenger cars to be moved out of flood areas to higher ground and to alert commuters about possible service suspensions.
51 Examples of Government Waste. [#10] The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) has been accused of multiple cases of fraud in the development of the Washington, D.C. area's light-rail line to Dulles International Airport in northern Virginia. This includes nearly $139 million in purchases for which the MWAA cannot provide documentation.
Yesterday's 60 Minutes Report on America's Infrastructure Was a Complete and Utter Scam. [Scroll down] At least 25% of federal gas tax funds are diverted to non-highway uses including maintaining sidewalks, funding bike paths, and creating scenic trails. Congress allocates highway money to truck parking facilities, safety incentives to prevent operation of motor vehicles by intoxicated persons, grants for anti-racial profiling programs, magnetic levitation trains, and dozens of other non-road activities.
Arlington streetcar moves amid rising costs, controversy. An opponent says it's "a long way from being done," but a controversial streetcar project with a ballooning $560 million price tag got another push from the Arlington County Board on Tuesday [9/23/2014]. Rolling over objections from Independent board member John Vihstadt and Democrat Libby Garvey, the panel voted 3-2 to award a $26 million contract to HDR Engineering, Inc., for streetcars to serve Columbia Pike and Crystal City.
Virginia GOP candidate rails against 'inflated' streetcar campaign. "If the facts were on the board's side, they wouldn't need to be spending $650,000 on public relations," [David] Foster told Watchdog.org. "The voters are saying streetcars are not practical or affordable," said the attorney who has served on the Arlington and state boards of education. County officials say the state's cash infusion means they won't have to seek federal funds. Yet Washington hadn't offered any money, and Richmond's contribution barely covers 10 percent of ballooning construction expenses.
Transit advocates move forward after Greenlight. The sobering 24-point defeat for the Greenlight plan was one of three defeats for mass transit in Florida in Tuesday's [11/4/2014] general election, with referendums in Polk and Alachua counties also losing by double digits. That has left downcast Pinellas leaders and local transit advocates scratching their heads over how they can sell mass transit to a population wary of tax increases, skeptical of bigger government and still in love with their cars.
Northeast Corridor planners to outline rail options for the public. Federal planners have refined their choices for the future of the Northeast Corridor's passenger rail service, but have not attached cost estimates to any of the alternatives, from minimal service improvements to an entirely new high-speed corridor between Washington and Boston. The "NEC Future" planners will be in Philadelphia this month to discuss the plans and the process with the public. The four broad alternatives outlined by the Federal Railroad Administration this week were the latest steps in planning for upgrading the corridor over the next 25 years.
Greenlight Pinellas mass transit initiative fails. Another Tampa Bay transportation initiative perished at the hands of voters Tuesday as Pinellas County residents overwhelmingly rejected a one-penny sales tax hike to pay for the Greenlight Pinellas mass transit plan. The defeat could result in severe cuts in the county's bus service over the next few years.
How many water pumps can you buy for $3.3 billion?
The Editor says...
Critic: House-priced bus stops [are the] result of 'somebody else paying the freight'. It's easy to spend other people's money. One critic says that's perhaps the greatest driving factor behind the exorbitant price of Arlington County's infamous million-dollar bus stops that will now cost closer to half a million dollars, thanks to public outrage. [...] The federal government is footing more than half the bill for the $12.4 million, 23-station project, while state tax dollars will pay for 14 percent.
Going nowhere fast, Arlington streetcars hit political and fiscal wall. Growing public opposition and a lack of funds have derailed plans for two streetcar lines in this densely populated Northern Virginia county. Local officials aren't giving up their multimillion-dollar dream, but a regional transportation expert calls their campaign "overkill." Per mile, the compact county already benefits from more state transit money than any other.
Virginia GOP candidate rails against 'inflated' streetcar campaign. [Scroll down] The latest figures show Columbia Pike's price tag rising from $284 million to $358 million. Crystal City's shorter line is up from $140 million to $227 million. That works out to more than $70 million a mile for construction. Last week, a member of the county's Transit Advisory Committee called ridership forecasts inflated, too. "The county is projecting about 59,000 daily riders for the streetcar. What they have done is add the Columbia Pike ridership of 37,000 (by 2035) to the 22,000 riders expected in Crystal City," said Joe Warren. "This would only be valid if all the riders on the Columbia Pike streetcar continued into Crystal City," Warren said. In fact, only one in 10 commuters follow such a path.
Arlington streetcar claim veers off rails before election. Buses would cost $140 million to operate and maintain over 30 years, compared to $230 million for the streetcars.
Buck halts at $1.1 million bus 'Super Stop'. Arlington County dubs itself a "world-class" community. Such hubris has led to a $1.1 million bus stop. [...] The first Super Stop, installed at Columbia Pike and Walter Reed last year, hasn't fared well. Last summer's heat wave fried its electronic schedule board. Open at the back, the shelter allows wind, rain and snow to blow in behind the huddled masses. By contrast, an older Metro bus stop across the street affords greater protection from the elements, and more seating. And it was constructed for $30,000.
Super Bowl cost NJ Transit $5.6 million. New Jersey's playing host to the Super Bowl cost NJ Transit $5.6 million, its executive director told a state Senate panel Thursday [5/1/2014]. Ronnie Hakim said expenses to the agency — which moved ticketholders from Secaucus Junction to MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford for the Feb. 2 game — were $7.2 million, including overtime and other costs during Super Bowl week. That was offset by $1.6 million in revenue from ticket sales and Pepsi advertising on njtransit.com, on trains and throughout the Secaucus Junction station, she said.
Agency pushing new-car plan for poor. One longtime critic of federal transportation spending once concluded that it would be less expensive for the government to buy every new transit rider a Jaguar XJ8 than it would be to build certain new rail systems. Unfortunately, California officials may not have realized that the idea of buying people new cars wasn't a serious proposal as much as a way to illustrate a point about excessive spending.
California Agency Plans 'Green' Car Vouchers for the Poor. One longtime critic of federal transportation spending once concluded that it would be less expensive for the government to buy every new transit rider a Jaguar XJ8 than it would be to build certain new rail systems. Unfortunately, California officials may not have realized that the idea of buying people new cars wasn't a serious proposal as much as a way to illustrate a point about excessive spending.
A Way to Deal With Public Unions. The average BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) worker makes over $76,000 per year, plus huge benefits. Janitors make as much as $82,752. But the unions want more. And they are willing to bankrupt the region to get more. In my opinion, San Francisco is already bankrupt due to pension obligations that cannot possibly be met (but the city may not realize that yet). Oakland is without a doubt bankrupt due to public union pension obligations. Oakland city officials likely realize that (but they just do not want to admit the obvious). In due time, both Bay Area cities will follow Vallejo, Stockton, and San Bernardino into bankruptcy. In the meantime, unions are hell bent on driving cities right over the bankruptcy cliff.
California High-Speed Rail Could Lose Hundreds of Millions Annually. The California High-Speed Rail Authority is overestimating ridership by 65 to 77 percent and will need $124 million to $373 million a year from taxpayers to cover its operating costs and financial losses, according to a new study by Reason Foundation. In 2008, voters were promised a bullet train trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco in two hours and forty minutes. However, the Reason study finds the system's fastest non-stop trip is likely to take nearly four hours — 3 hours and 50 minutes, and most trips on the system would take four hours and 40 minutes or longer.
Calif. High-Speed Rail to Cost $97 Million More. KTTV reported that the high-speed rail in California will cost taxpayers an addition $97 million more than expected. [Video clip]
Arlington, Va.'s million-dollar bus stop looks cool, but why so expensive? At the corner of Columbia Pike and Walter Reed Dr. in Arlington, Va., sits a stainless steel bus stop with a million dollar price tag. Yes, that's right. The futuristic-looking bus stop cost $1 million to build. The so-called "super stop" boasts a heated concrete floor and a digital display board that shows when the next bus will arrive, but it doesn't do much to keep commuters warm or dry (except for their feet).
$360M in federal Sandy aid going to Port Authority and NJ Transit. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the New Jersey Transit Corporation will receive more than $360 million of a chunk of federal money coming to the region to help repair transportation infrastructure and pay for emergency expenses related to superstorm Sandy, federal and state officials announced Friday [3/29/2013].
Ferry service fights that sinking feeling. The much-heralded ferry service between Oakland and South San Francisco — launched just nine months ago at a cost to taxpayers of more than $42 million — is taking on water fast. The service, which operates seven trips each weekday, carried an average of just 131 total riders a day in the last week of February.
Tax-the-Rich Obama Fairy Tale Won't Magically Restore Public Services. [Scroll down] The perceived decline in transportation infrastructure, depicted with cracked and potholed streets in the Asner video, also bears less connection to overall funding cuts, which never occurred, than to the futile folly of diverting highway money to wildly impractical mass transit boondoggles. Since the era of Reagan and Bush tax cuts, government at every level has invested lavishly in ill-considered and outrageously expensive train systems in Seattle, Portland, Atlanta, Detroit, Los Angeles, and countless other cities, delivering pointless projects, that have done nothing to relieve traffic or reduce commute times.Which Is Better for the Environment: Transit or Roads? If transit costs far more than driving and does not save energy or reduce air pollution or greenhouse gas emissions, then there is little justification for increasing federal subsidies to transit infrastructure. In fact, those federal subsidies may be one reason why transit has become so costly and ineffective. Since transit agencies get most of their money from taxpayers rather than transit riders, they cater to elected officials rather than their customers, building expensive transit projects that the elected officials can take credit for even though those projects do little to improve actual transit service.
MTA proposes strapping straphangers with $1 'green fee' on each new MetroCard. A new MetroCard could soon cost a buck more — and that's before you even put any money on it. Under an MTA proposal, straphangers would be forced to pay a $1 "green fee" on each new MetroCard they buy. The Earth-friendly, wallet-hostile proposal appears in the MTA's preliminary budget for next year.
MetroCard initiative would reap $20 million. A Metropolitan Transportation Authority spokesman couldn't immediately say how many MetroCards wind up in landfills, but the agency prints about 160 million of the plastic travel passes a year. It's simply too much for the origami enthusiasts to take care of. If the environment, and not raising money, is the concern then the MTA could just as easily program MetroCard vending machines to give a small discount for recycling a card and extending its useful life.
NJ Transit to get $76M to upgrade its bus fleet, reduce commute times. The grant is part of $787 million being given out to support projects in 48 states.
Amtrak's high-speed Northeast Corridor plan at $151 billion. Amtrak's updated plan for high-speed train travel on the East Coast envisions 37-minute trips between Philadelphia and New York, after a $151 billion redevelopment of the entire Northeast Corridor. Faster service would be phased in gradually, as Amtrak improves existing tracks, signals, bridges, and power lines and then builds a separate high-speed corridor between Washington and Boston to accommodate trains traveling at 220 m.p.h.
South San Francisco ferry loaded with subsidies. That new ferry line to South San Francisco opened to a lot of fanfare, offering rides to and from Oakland and Alameda in less than 55 minutes. What's not being talked about is that for every $14 round-trip ticket sold, the public will be kicking in a subsidy of nearly $100. People who pay taxes and tolls will be picking up the bill for an armada of costs for the new ferry over the next 20 years.
Virginia has already paid plenty for Dulles Rail. Democrats in the Virginia Senate have hijacked the state's two-year, $85 billion compromise budget. They are holding it hostage until Republicans accede to their demands: $300 million in additional funding for Phase 2 of the Dulles Rail project.
A streetcar named debt. The District [of Columbia] on Friday [4/6/2012] completed the first phase of testing for its $1.5 billion streetcar project. The nation's capital joins big cities like Los Angeles in advancing the revival of a transportation option that has been obsolete for more than half a century. The Obama administration is spearheading the effort to turn back the clock. If $1.5 billion seems like a lot — it's an entire year's income-tax revenue for the city — Washington bureaucrats have a ready answer.
Longest distance Metro riders to shoulder brunt of fare hikes. Metro's longest distance riders — suburban commuters — are likely to bear the brunt of new fare hikes, especially those who ride during the least busy times. Metro has said that the fare increase that the board preliminarily approved last week will raise rail fares by an average 5.7 percent. But for those traveling the longest distance, fares will jump 15 percent during peak travel and 27 percent during off-peak times.
Even with big salaries, Metro can't fill its jobs. The mechanics tasked with maintaining the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority's chronically broken escalators start at $81,000 a year. Bus driver pay goes as high as $114,000 for anyone with a driver's license and a GED. Yet despite an economy that has left people from all walks of life looking for work, Metro says it can't find qualified job applicants.
Obama budget contains nearly $35 billion for passenger rail. The Obama administration, which has been urging California to push through growing opposition to its high-speed rail project, asked Congress on Monday for nearly $35 billion in passenger rail funding over the next five years. 1.7 miles for $1.6 billion.
Central Subway funds get a key OK. San Francisco has received a key approval from federal officials to move forward on its 1.7-mile Central Subway, Mayor Ed Lee said Wednesday. In Washington for the U.S. Conference of Mayors annual meeting, where he met with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Lee said the city has received a "letter of non prejudice" from the Department of Transportation that will allow the city to proceed with one of the largest phases of the $1.6 billion subway — to dig a tunnel under Stockton and Fourth streets, from the downtown Caltrain station to Chinatown.
Sydney monorail set to be torn down. The 2.2 mile line opened in 1988 and was supposed to attract 12 million passengers a year, but most days attracts just a smattering of tourists on what has been labelled one of the most expensive commutes — per yard — in the world. Each ride costs £3.30 for a trip that can be as short as 160 yards.
Urban Transit: The beginning of the end for private transit came in 1964 with the Urban Mass Transit Act. The act promised federal capital grants to any public agencies that took over private transit companies. Within a decade, the private transit industry was virtually wiped out, replaced almost completely by tax-subsidized public agencies. Today, city governments that are frustrated with automobiles and congestion are turning to the 19th century technology of rail transit for relief. But pumping subsidies into rail transit is based on a nostalgic view of the past and is not economically sound. It also won't solve America's congestion woes.
Fast Train To Hell. Localized rail transit is a planner's dream and a city's nightmare. Urban rail systems are costly and ineffective and never go away, saddling local governments with continually escalating costs and stagnant revenues. The list of ancillary costs and aggravations, rarely revealed by rail enthusiasts, includes the expense of rights-of-way; land and construction outlays for stations and parking lots; constant maintenance of rolling stock, tracks and signals; union infiltration and exorbitant wages; constant delays; and security requirements for stations and rail cars. As one official in a Southern city saddled with a new rail system confessed, if we picked up each passenger in a limo every morning and brought them home at the end of the day, it would be less expensive than paying for the rail transit system.
Metro injury rate costing agency millions. Metro's workers are getting hurt on the job more often than their counterparts at other transit agencies, and it's costing the agency millions. Metro paid out $22.4 million in worker's compensation claims in fiscal 2010, according to the agency's records. It is now on target to pay out the same amount this year, having spent $11.2 million in the first six months of the budget year.
Metro spends $49 million in OT in seven months. Metro spent $49 million in overtime in the first seven months of its fiscal year, blowing through its entire $48 million overtime budget and on pace to spend far more than it has in recent years. The transit agency spent $49 million on overtime by the end of January, an average of about $7,000 for each employee. That could put its overtime costs at $84 million for the year if the pace continues, far more than the $75 million it spent last year.
Md. bill would create sales tax on gasoline. Democratic leaders in the Maryland Senate are proposing a new sales tax on gasoline — roughly equal to $2.16 per tank — with a bill that would steer one-quarter of the revenues from Montgomery, Prince George's and Baltimore counties to the jurisdictions' billion-dollar light rail projects. Maryland currently charges drivers a fixed 23.5-cent-per-gallon tax on gasoline. Tacking on a sales tax would not affect the state's per-gallon rate, but instead would tie any tax increases to the cost of gas.
BART Transbay speedup on hold. After pumping $80 million into the project, BART is poised to scrap its long-planned automated train-control system that was envisioned to move more cars through the Transbay Tube during rush hour, officials announced Friday [6/16/2006].
BART study considers charging more in rush hour. Bay Area Rapid Transit officials are looking at charging more to use trains during peak hours to get riders to travel at other times. BART has initiated a study that also considers increasing fees for parking in BART lots and using certain stations during rush hour to reduce congestion.
New "Heathrow Connect" Trains - do not want to go to Heathrow! A new electric train service has just started between Heathrow Airport and Paddington Station in West London, UK. … The one mile link between the last station on the mainline and Heathrow Airport itself is priced at six UK pounds, making it the most expensive train fare in the world for the distance.
New Heathrow Connect Trains – Now Can't Even Connect! The new trains while widely advertised as "Heathrow Connect" have now stopped connecting to Heathrow altogether! Passengers are now being advised to detrain at [the last] local stop and catch a bus to the Airport.
True cost of Florida rail will far exceed Obama's $1.25 billion grant. President Obama's announcement of more than $8 billion in economic stimulus program grants for high-speed rail transit projects in 13 "transit corridors" is supposed to make possible 168 mph passenger trains routinely running between major cities. But $8 billion now is only the beginning because costs are likely to increase on these projects faster than a speeding bullet train.
Florida Lawmakers OK Massive Rail Deal. The most expensive rail deal in U.S. history has become law in Florida. Critics charge the price was vastly inflated. After failing twice before, a plan that will link several central Florida communities and clear the way for new commuter and high-speed rail systems in the state won approval during a six-day special session of the Florida legislature. Governor Charlie Crist (R) signed the bill into law soon after its passage in December. It allows the state to purchase 61.5 miles of track from the freight railroad CSX for $432 million. CSX will then lease the track from the state.
Obama's Expensive Train Set: There's just one thing wrong with Barack Obama's $8 billion economic stimulus plan to build high speed railroad lines he claims will create lots of jobs, move millions of people, curb traffic, clean the air and make intercity travel more cost-efficient and fast. It won't. It will create relatively few high paying jobs because the companies who build high speed trains are mostly in Europe and Asia.
NJ Transit Plans 25% Fare Increase Amid Deficit. New Jersey Transit proposed raising fares by a record 25 percent system-wide and reducing service to help close a $300 million budget deficit. The changes would take effect May 1 and generate $140 million in revenue, NJ Transit said in a statement today.
Metro examining 50-cent surcharges during rush hour. Metro's rush-hour commuters may have to fork out 50-cent surcharges on top of already hefty fare increases under a new proposal, although riders who park at rail stations or take trains late on weekends may get a reprieve. A Metro board committee asked agency staff on Thursday [4/29/2010] to begin lengthy programming and marketing preparations for a June 27 fare hike, the largest fare increase in its history.
For Whom The Turnpike Tolls. Tolls are appropriate because they are imposed directly upon travelers for their use of roads. However, the plan to toll I-80 represents more than a toll. It is also a tax on drivers because more than $160 million in toll dollars from the highway will be funneled to mass transit systems, primarily in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Taxing drivers in the northern tier to subsidize mass transit users in the southeast and southwest is bad public policy.
More about toll roads.
The Brown Wall. [Scroll down] After the  quake damage was repaired, California lawmakers and bureaucrats studied and debated the situation until they eventually recommended replacing the entire east span of the bridge in late 1996. At that time, the state government agency Caltrans estimated the cost to be less than a billion dollars. A few months later, the California legislature funded the project at $1.28B. Then the professional control freaks intervened. Busybody eco-fascists demanded that the bridge carry public transit trains, even though that would have added billions to the cost, and BART already follows that same route under the bay below.
Metro's Dulles Rail needs life-cycle accounting. [Scroll down] For example, the cost of the New Jersey rail tunnel under the Hudson River, originally projected at $5 billion, somehow doubled to $10 billion in five years even though inflation is all but nonexistent, prompting Gov. Chris Christie to suspend construction altogether. The federal government is now demanding that New Jersey return $271 million that has already been spent in start-up costs. Life-cycle accounting makes it more difficult to low-ball initial estimates and then pad the construction budget later on projects that don't deserve to see the light of day.
Rails Won't Save America. Amtrak spent more than $3 billion carrying people about 5.4 billion passenger miles in 2006. This works out to 56 cents per passenger mile, more than four times the cost of flying. Also in 2006, America's urban transit agencies spent about $42 billion on 49.5 billion passenger miles, for a cost of 85 cents per passenger mile, or more than three times the cost of driving.
Light Rail Isn't the Track to the Future. As America's largest city without rail transit, some people want San Antonio to "keep up" by building light rail. You need to know only one thing: Light rail is really expensive. I mean, really, really expensive. The average mile of light-rail line costs two to five times as much as an urban freeway lane-mile. Yet in 2007 the average light-rail line carried less than one-seventh as many people as the average freeway lane-mile in cities with light rail. Do the math: Light rail costs 14 to 35 times as much to move people as highways.
This is an original compilation, Copyright © 2018 by Andrew K. Dart
Metro sank into crisis despite decades of warnings. Metro's failure-prone subway — once considered a transportation jewel — is mired in disrepair because the transit agency neglected to heed warnings that its aging equipment and poor safety culture would someday lead to chronic breakdowns and calamities. For nearly half a century, almost since construction of the subway system began, federal experts, civic and business groups, private transit organizations, and some Metro general managers and directors have raised red flags.
San Francisco's Growing Class Conflict. [Scroll down] Some criticism of these private services has been valid, such as concerns about road safety and infrastructure use. But much of it seems simply to be because these services are superior to the city's public transportation. Uber lets customers locate rides through a phone app, making it faster, but more expensive, than regular taxis. The tech buses, which are offered by companies such as Google, are sleek and WiFi-connected, but available only to employees. Thus, both services are thought to symbolize exclusivity in an increasingly class-divided city. But if officials are concerned about disparity, they should set about improving public transportation, rather than discouraging better private services. They could do so by reshaping San Francisco's public transportation to reflect the efficiency of these private companies.Which Is Better for the Environment: Transit or Roads? Compared with driving, rail transit is slow, inconvenient and expensive. Although some rail lines may bypass congested roads, most people do not live and work right next to rail stations or transit stops, meaning door-to-door travel time for transit tends to be far longer than for driving.
Mass Transit: Separating Delusion from Reality. The diversion of federal road user fees to non-highway projects began in 1982; since that time, annual transit expenditures have doubled, after adjusting for inflation. Fair value would have been for transit ridership to double. It hasn't even come close. ... The massive diversion of highway money to transit did not reduce traffic congestion or road use. In every one of the nation's urban areas with a population of more than one million (where more than 90 percent of transit ridership occurs), road use increased per capita and by no less than one-third. Even worse, peak-period traffic congestion rose by 250 percent.
Liberalism 101: Transit is one of the greatest failure stories in America, on par with the welfare system prior to the reforms of 1996. Even as subsidies have skyrocketed, transit's share of the transportation market has been steadily diminishing for decades. By any measure, productivity in transit has been declining while the rest of the economy has become much more efficient. And yet, like welfare before it, transit (government-run transportation) is one of the most cherished programs of the left. If you ever feel the need to be compared to Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini, suggest the elimination of government-run transportation systems.
Urban Rail: Uses and Misuses. Virtually no traffic congestion reduction has occurred as a result of building new urban rail systems. Virtually any public benefit that has been achieved through urban rail could have been achieved for considerably less by other strategies. There are simply not a sufficient number of people going to the same place at the same time to justify urban rail. As a result, it is typically less expensive to provide a new car for each new rider than to build an urban rail system.
High gas prices lead to surge in mass transit. It's standing-room-only on many commuter buses from Washington's suburbs. Rail systems from Boston to Los Angeles are begging passengers to shift their travel to non-peak hours. And some seats have been removed from San Francisco's subway cars to allow more people to cram in. Around the country, high gas prices are helping to push more people to leave their cars at home and crowd onto trains, buses and subways.
Most mass transit riders in 50 years: Good news or bad? Did you know that there were more people using mass transit during the '40's and early '50's than there are today? I most certainly did not. This is an astonishing revelation when you think about it. First of all, the population of the country was barely half what it is today — and yet more people rode mass transit. Moreover, during the last 50 years we've poured literally hundreds of billions of dollars into the most expensive, glitzy, ambitious mass transit projects in history.
Cars are better for the environment than buses. Contrary to what transit advocates would have you believe, taking the bus is more energy intensive per passenger mile than taking a passenger car.
Transit: The Politician's Best Friend. There is only one way to accommodate more highway demand, and that is creating more highway capacity, whether through expansion of the roadway network or more effective traffic management. Any politician who suggests otherwise either defies reality or just doesn't know.
Light Rail: The Solution to No Problem. Despite claims to the contrary, light rail does not reduce traffic congestion, and is a highly expensive strategy. US federal research indicates that quality bus systems are one-fifth the cost per passenger mile of light rail per passenger mile, can accommodate the volumes and operate as fast. Offering no speed or capacity advantage over buses, new light rail systems are simply obsolete.
Metered Miracles For Motorists: There's a good reason why rails don't work. Denver light-rail lines average just 18 mph, so they attract few people out of their cars. Since most rail riders are typically former bus riders, rails are ineffective at reducing congestion.
Paid for not taking the car to work. Amgen spends slightly more than $1 million per year encouraging the 800 employees at its Interbay campus and 200 in Bothell to bike, car pool, take the bus or share a van. That averages $1,000 per employee.
Political Correctness and Urban Transportation: Light rail is PC. Busses are PC. Freeways are not PC. How else to explain why voters sometimes are willing to spend vast sums on an outdated, inefficient, costly system for which there is almost no demand?
Average Light Rail Line Carries 1/5 Freeway Lane. Proponents often claim that light rail is the equivalent of 6 freeway lanes. An analysis of actual US data on all new light rail systems indicates that no system carries more than 1/3 of the volume of a single freeway lane. The impact on traffic congestion is even less, since on average fewer than 25 percent of light rail riders are former automobile drivers.
Why Not Just Buy Them Cars? A new report from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis confirms what many light rail skeptics have been saying for some time: It would be less costly to buy new cars for transit riders than build and subsidize new rail systems. The Fed report says it would be considerably cheaper to give a new Toyota Prius to each low-income rider of the St. Louis light rail line, and replace it with a new Prius every five years, than it is to operate that rail line.
Editor's Note: That sounds nice, but it's probably not true when all the costs are included. Many of the people who ride the train aren't licensed to drive. Many others haven't driven on a freeway in years, and are likely to cause an accident if given a car. Still others do not have the mental capacity or the quick reflexes necessary to drive on a freeway or anywhere else. And there's one other factor: If you give an automobile to someone (and replace it every five years), that car won't be preserved and protected like a car that someone has bought with his or her hard-earned money. In my opinion, the people on the trains and buses should stay there until they can afford vehicles of their own.
President Obama: Neo-Marxist. Private business built the first leg of the New York subway system. And it made money — at least before local government used taxpayer money to build competing systems and undercut the fare charged by the private operator. Tax dollars hid the true cost, allowing the city-owned service to charge less. Ultimately, the private operators sold out to the city.
Where the buses run on time. Companies in Chile pay bus drivers one of two ways: either by the hour or by the passenger; paying by the passenger leads to significantly shorter delays. Give them incentives, and drivers start acting like regular people do; they take shortcuts when the traffic is bad, they take shorter meal breaks and bathroom breaks and they want to get on the road and pick up more passengers as quickly as they can.
Proposed Honolulu Rail Will Rocket Hawaii's Electricity Rates – Who Will Pay?: Nearly all modern-day rail systems are run on electricity. Now Hawaii has the highest electric rates in the country. So the question is, what is going to happen to prices, supply and demand when the rail project is finally built and increases demand on the system? Who is going to pay for the additional oil and other resources to augment the supply?
Hawaii Superferry to Set Sail Dec. 1. Hawaii's new inter-island ferry, idled for weeks by protesters and court rulings, will resume daily service between Honolulu and Maui beginning Dec. 1, the company said. Critics had argued the 350-foot catamaran could harm whales and damage the area's fragile ecology.
Superferry awaits signal from Kauai. The Hawaii Superferry, which hasn't sailed to Kaua'i since harbor protesters blocked its arrival in August, intends to resume trips there only if the community signals it wants the service restored, the company's new chief executive said yesterday [5/6/2008].
Former Hawaii Superferries to be auctioned off by federal government. Hawaii Superferry Inc. ordered Huakai and Alakai, 300-foot-long ferries that could hold more than 800 passengers and travel up to 35 knots, in 2004 under a $190 million contract. The company planned to use them to ship people and goods around the different islands in Hawaii. But that state's Supreme Court effectively shut the service down in March 2009 when it ruled that a state law allowing the company to operate while an environmental study was being conducted was unconstitutional.
The fools, liars, layabouts and thugs who work on our railways. I have just got back from a return journey to Ipswich that should have taken an hour each way from Liverpool Street. Instead, it took three hours to get there, and three and a half to get back, because of the snow. Of course I understand that bad weather makes things tricky — though it really wasn't that cold, or snowy, in East Anglia. But what is unforgiveable is the attitude of those who work on the trains. Their incompetence adds hours on to the journey. Their rudeness, aggression, laziness and ignorance add an infuriating psychological layer to the experience. At least in a car, you only have your own demons to fight with — a delayed train journey means dependence on, and intense anger with, a series of unhelpful, unpleasant, positively obstructive human beings. Better to take things into your own hands on the roads, however dangerous and congested they might be.
A High-priced Train Wreck. High-speed rail may sound like a good idea. It works, and reportedly even makes a profit, in Japan and France. If they can do it, why can't we? A look at some proposed projects gives the answer. Take the $2.7 billion, 84-mile line connecting Orlando and Tampa that incoming Florida governor Rick Scott is mulling over. It would connect two highly decentralized metro areas that are already connected by Interstate 4. Urban scholar Wendell Cox, writing for the Reason Foundation, found that just about any door-to-door trip between the two metro areas would actually take longer by train than by auto — and would cost more. Why would any business traveler take the train?
Mass Transit Mess: The "Feds," it seems, possess a kind of magical power — call it an inverted Midas touch — that ends up destroying nearly everything it comes into contact with. They can't even give money away without attaching conditions that assure failure. The federal government's role in "assisting" public transit has been variously described as inconsistent and ill-conceived, self-defeating, ineffective, a total failure.
Who's Riding the Manchester Airport Bus? No One. The city buses that travel to the airport are nearly empty, a symptom of an inefficient system of bus routes that critics say needs to be reshaped in order to improve efficiency, convenience and ridership.
Rails Won't Save America. Although media reports suggest that many people are taking public transit instead of driving, actual numbers show that recent increases in transit ridership account for only 3 percent of the decline in urban driving. Also, contrary to popular belief, rail transit does not save energy. Many light-rail operations use more energy per passenger mile than the average sport utility vehicle, and almost none uses less than a fuel-efficient car such as a Toyota Prius. People who respond to high fuel prices by taking transit are not saving energy; they are merely imposing their energy costs on someone else.
Mass transit is unpopular
You don't have to try very hard to find an empty bus or train driving around town. It is the transportation mode of last resort.
President Obama Busts the Budget for Pie-in-the-Sky Amtrak and "Livability" Proposals. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has been pressing for an expansive and costly "livability" effort and formally defines livability as "being able to take your kids to school, go to work, see a doctor, drop by the grocery or post office, go out to dinner and a movie, and play with your kids in a park, all without having to get in your car." In order to achieve the LaHood vision for America, government must nudge/force/coerce people into buses or trolleys and create tighter living arrangements. The President proposes a total of $7.8 billion in livability spending for FY 2012 and $48.1 billion over the next six years. More than half of these funds would come from shifting money from roads.
The Way We Drive Now. For most Americans — make that most of mankind — the car is an instrument of mobility, flexibility, and speed. Yet officials in Washington, transportation experts, state and local functionaries, planners, and transit officials are puzzled why their efforts to lure people from their cars continue to fail.
Decline in ridership costs commuter rail. The Virginia Railway Express, after years of strong growth, has suffered about a two percent drop in daily ridership that cost the commuter railway more than $1 million in operating revenue.
Spontaneous Order. At last month's State of the Union, President Obama said America needs more passenger trains. How does he know? For years, politicians promised that more of us will want to commute by train, but it doesn't happen. People like their cars. Some subsidized trains cost so much per commuter that it would be cheaper to buy them taxi rides.
Census Shows Commuters are Rejecting Transit. A failure of this magnitude should encourage Washington to re-examine the federal role in transit and determine whether the billions of dollars it takes from fuel taxes paid by motorists to subsidize transit is an effective use of federal money. Under current law, about 18 percent of these federal fuel tax revenues paid by motorists throughout the country is devoted to transit, thereby providing less than 5 percent of commuters with almost 20 percent of the money. Compounding this inequity, transit ridership is concentrated in just a handful of metropolitan areas.
Governing against the People. [Scroll down] A rail link [between Milwaukee and Madison] was abandoned decades ago for want of ridership. Despite the fact that a majority of the public is against the project, Governor Jim Doyle (D) and the Obama administration insist on proceeding. Stating that the project would create "more than 5,500 construction and engineering jobs," Doyle immediately went abroad and arranged for the purchase of the locomotives and cars in Spain. The Spanish company has committed to renovating an old plant in Milwaukee for some of the work, but the bulk of the work, and the profits, will go to Spain.
Where Rail Transit Works, and Why. There are two places in the world where rail's success is not accompanied by excess costs and is felt throughout the urban area: Tokyo (Tokyo-Yokohama) and Osaka (Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto). … [But] even if the necessary trillions of dollars could be found to superimpose the Japanese transit systems on U.S. urban areas, they would be far less automobile-competitive here than they are in Japan. On average, urban traffic speeds in the U.S. are at least double that of Tokyo and Osaka.
The wealthy elite want you to ride mass transit while they stay in their cars.
Olympic VIPs will be whisked around London in 4,000 BMWs. They have been billed as the 'greenest' Olympic Games in history, with spectators urged to abandon their cars and embrace public transport. But a row has erupted after it emerged that thousands of VIPs will travel to events in London this summer in a rather more luxurious style. BMW is to ship 4,000 brand-new luxury vehicles in from Germany to escort dignitaries and officials in a move described as 'lunatic' by critics.
Why Your Highway Has Potholes. [Scroll down] Transit is the biggest drain. Only in New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. does public transit account for more than 5% of commuter trips. Even with a recent 2.3% gain in bus and rail use due to high gas prices, public transit still accounts for a mere 2% of all inner-city trips and closer to 1% outside of New York. Since 1982 government mass-transit subsidies have totaled $750 billion (in today's dollars), yet the share of travelers using transit has fallen by nearly one-third, according to Heritage Foundation transportation expert Wendell Cox. Federal data indicate that in 2010 in most major cities more people walked to work or telecommuted than used public transit.
New Light Rail Ridership Falls Short by More Than Half. Although Los Angeles County's Metropolitan Transportation Authority claims 44,000 people rode the train during a free-ride opening weekend, this figure either dropped rapidly once the Expo Line began weekday service or was vastly inflated. (Weekday transit use is traditionally much higher than weekend use.) Observed passenger rates indicate the Expo Line is carrying no more than 13,000 people a day. We have inflated our estimate by presuming that all trains, all day, are running at the observed peak ridership of 50 people.
Cost overruns and wasted taxpayer dollars
Cost overruns are a matter of routine. Nobody is surprised when a rail line ends up costing twice the original estimates. Of course, the same is true of tunnels and stadiums, too.
Australians Want Light Rail Contractor to Quit Climate Crusade, Get Back to Building. As nauseating as corporate-sponsored celebrity climate-change videos can be, they are rarely the target of political outrage. Not so for the Spanish firm Acciona's clip featuring the Australian actor Liam Hemsworth (of Hunger Games fame) plugging the company's role in building "sustainable solutions in infrastructure" and asking us all to think about how we might invest in the planet. After Acciona shared the 30-second video on its Facebook page this past week, it got a sharp rebuke from politicians and media in Sydney, Australia, who would prefer that Acciona drop the climate crusade and stick to its day job: building Sydney's overdue, overbudget light rail extension.
'Rigorous' meetings for CTA pension officials — in Hawaii, Vegas. Pension officials with the Chicago Transit Authority need much more than a Ventra Card for some of the taxpayer-funded travel they've been doing in recent years. The CTA's retirement plan and health care trust spent close to $60,000 since 2010 to travel to places such as Honolulu, New Orleans, San Diego and Las Vegas for pension-related conferences.
Head of Chicago area public transit system quits, gets $442K severance. Whenever I've quit a job, except for a week or two of unused vacation pay and maybe a pen (accidentally) left in my pocket, I've gotten nothing. But I've never worked in the public sector. As for the bureaucrat leaving by way of a golden parachute, his leaving is less dramatic than that of his predecessor.
Fantasies Filling the Heads of San Antonio Streetcar Backers. The idea that an expensive 19th Century technology will help meet the transportation and economic development needs of 21st Century urban areas makes sense only in a fantasy world where cost is no object and transport consumers are so hypnotized by shiny steel wheels on steel rails that they ignore the huge inherent disadvantages of a fixed-guideway system that doesn't go where people want to go, takes a long time to get to where it does go, and can't get out of its own way in the event of any kind of a problem. Yet that's what's afoot in San Antonio, Texas.
Report warned NJ Transit officials of flood risk. A report on climate change completed for NJ Transit months before superstorm Sandy struck New Jersey urged the agency to begin planning for higher storm surges that could envelop rail yards, destroy track beds and corrode switches, gates and signals. The Oct. 29 storm caused more than $400 million in damage to the agency's system.
Not only did they keep their jobs...
Emails tracked NJ Transit's plan for rail fleet during Superstorm Sandy. The day before Superstorm Sandy made landfall in New Jersey, more than a dozen NJ Transit workers — from yardmasters to the top executive — shared emails describing where and how the agency's rail fleet was being moved to shelter it from the storm. In one of the most questionable decisions made during the storm, many locomotives and passenger cars were parked in low-lying areas in Hoboken and Kearny — a key move that caused more than $120 million in damage after the storm surge flooded the rail yards with brackish water.
NYC Subway-Station-Turned-Fish-Tank Poses $600 Million Dilemma. In March 2009, Elliot Sander stood in Lower Manhattan outside South Ferry, New York's newest subway station. Addressing a crowd, the head of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority hailed it as the first major transit project to open downtown since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. "This artistically beautiful and highly functional station is a tangible reminder that when the MTA is provided with adequate capital funding, we build monumental works that will benefit generations of New Yorkers for many decades to come," Sander said that day. Three-and-a-half years later, the station lies in ruins.
NJ Transit parked rail equipment in locations predicted to flood during Sandy, report says. Twenty-four percent of NJ Transit's rail fleet was damaged during Hurricane Sandy after rail cars and locomotives were stored in two rail yards that forecasters predicted would flood, according to a report on Reuters.com. The decision might cost the transit agency tens of millions of dollars to make the necessary repairs, which could take months, Reuters said.
NJ Transit boss defends decision to leave trains in area hit hard by Sandy flooding. The executive director of NJ Transit is defending the agency's decision to leave trains in rail yards that ended up under water during Hurricane Sandy, saying those locations had no history of flooding and that no one could have predicted the extent of the storm surges that left some stations with six feet of water.
Nobody's job is in danger no matter what happens.
New Urban Rail Not Justified. Despite claims to the contrary, light rail is less safe than buses and autos, and more energy intensive. And commuting by rail is generally slower than by express bus or auto. So what is driving the rush to rail? The federal government has made billions of dollars available. Local and state governments have sought the money simply because it is there. The competition would be no less fierce if Congress had earmarked funding to build monoliths. And, like tax-supported stadiums and convention centers, rail is considered to be a prerequisite to world class city status.
Bridge To Our Wallets. A 12-member commission created by Congress in 2005 issued its report Tuesday [1/15/2008], recommending that the current 18.4 cents per gallon tax be hiked over a five-year period by 5 to 8 cents each year. After that, the tax would be indexed to inflation. The goal is to repair and extend the highway infrastructure, expand public transit, boost railway transportation and increase rural access. Public transit and railways? Aren't revenues from the federal fuel tax restricted to financing our roads and highways? Certainly motorists should pay for the roads they use. But it is patently unfair for them to subsidize users of public transportation and rail travelers.
How to Unclog the Nation's Highways — Transit is not the Answer. Most transportation planners believe "we can't build our way out of congestion." The problem, they think, is too much driving, and their solution is to pour money into transit rather than roads. Yet transit accounts for only about 2 percent of urban travel, and its share continues to decline.
Chicago Mayor Puts Brakes on 'Super Station' Project for Now. To build the station as originally planned, total spending would be about $320 million, more than $100 million over budget, according to city officials. Skeptics say the estimate of an additional $100 million may be low, noting the city has repeatedly underestimated costs on major projects ranging from football stadium renovations to park construction. The setback comes as no surprise to the many transportation experts and Chicago political observers who predicted the express train service would never come to fruition.
Massive WTC Cost Overruns Look 'Grim'. At least one project, the much-heralded but costly Santiago Calatrava-designed transit center, may not get built. The futuristic $2.2 billion transit hub, which is two years behind schedule, was $1 billion over budget when the project's cost was capped at $2.5 billion recently.
Washington Metro farecard fraud: Allegedly the accused would buy a paper farecard; split the ¼"-wide magnetic strip into four ribbons and glue each atop a blank card. Then they'd trade in the card by adding some small cash value, getting a new card in return.
Ineptitude Has Become a Hallmark of the Port Authority. The West Busway cost $260 million to build. At an 8 percent annual opportunity cost of the capital, the yearly capital cost is $20.8 million. Under PAT's projections, the busway will carry an average 11,500 riders or 5,750 roundtrips per weekday through the first 10 years of operation — about 1,600,000 roundtrips per year. That means it is costing taxpayers $13 per day for each commuter using the busway. And since the farebox recovers less than half the operating cost of bus service, the total daily subsidy per commuter is over $16.
Madison Commuter Rail: Let Taxpayers Beware! How would you feel if you bought a fancy new DVD player for Christmas, only to find the next day the same store was selling another DVD player just as good — but at one-fourth the cost? … We know salesmen rip us off sometimes. But we don't expect that same sort of behavior from public servants, who are supposed to carefully manage our hard-earned tax dollars.
CTA: Chicago's Unsustainable Transit System Hurts Taxpayers. Anti-car environmentalist groups regularly denounce the automobile-based urban mobility system that prevails in Western Europe and North America. They say automobility is "unsustainable." But in Chicago, unsustainable urban transport bears the logo of the Chicago Transit Authority — CTA. The CTA, as we know it, is fiscally unsustainable, and proof can be found in budget crises that have plagued the system for decades.
Chicago Taxes Jump $530 Million to Pay for Mass Transit. A year after Illinois lawmakers began discussing a plan to bail out the Chicago region's mass transit system, the final piece of the plan fell into place. The Chicago City Council in February enacted a real estate transfer tax increase, proceeds of which are to go to the Chicago Transit Authority.
"Smart Growth" Research: As much as 20 percent of federal transportation funding goes to transit, which serves less than 2 percent of travelers. … Since transit service is so much slower than cars and is focused principally in the core and central business districts of major metropolitan areas, people who use transit because they do not have a car face limited mobility and diminished job prospects.
Light rail gravy train rolls toward Clackamas. Regional transportation officials are obsessed with building light rail to Clackamas County, despite the fact that rail is the most expensive transportation option being studied, there is no strategy to pay for it, there is virtually no interest among county residents in using it, and it will provide no relief to traffic. Twice the voters have killed light rail, yet Metro officials continue to study it. … Ultimately people cannot be forced to ride light rail, or work near it. If pressed hard enough, they will simply vote with their car tires to move out of Portland.
Taken for a ride: There is no such thing as a free ride. Washington, D.C.'s transit system, known as Metro, provides ample proof. Years ago, when friends or relatives would visit and marvel at our clean, state-of-the-art subway system, I'd quip, "Enjoy it; you paid for it." Federal taxpayers were responsible for more than two-thirds, $6.4 billion, of the $9.4 billion cost of building Metro.
No money for another study! In 1973 the gullible, but well intentioned folks in Denver voted themselves a half cent per dollar sales tax to purchase a transportation system right out of a "Jetsons" cartoon. It was called Personal Rapid Transit: 100 miles of track with 800 small, driverless, automatic cars that would zip passengers to their destination with the press of one button, without any stops in between. The tax, which was to retire in the early 1980's, is still in place today, but all RTD has to show for this system is some rusted test track by Broomfield.
Car-Hating Puritans are Destroying Colorado. New government transit systems will make little difference even in the corridors in which they are built. The much heralded I–25 light rail line will not attract enough new riders to equal even a single lane of traffic. The I–25 light rail line will be much more expensive than constructing a new freeway lane — and this is using the typically overly optimistic projections of the rail advocates. Origins and destinations are simply too dispersed for government transit of any form to make a difference.
More roads, not rail. Public transit backers failed last Tuesday to gain corporate support for legislation that would increase sales taxes for expanded public transit — otherwise understood to be an "ambitious" regional rail network. It's hard to tell whether the transit tax champions are giddy at the prospect of new taxes in general or at their plan's premise to get people out of their cars. Either way, taxpayers should grab their wallets and run.
The Runaway Subsidy Train. Supporters say high-speed rail is a cost-effective, "green" solution to airport and highway congestion. In reality, it is costly to build and operate and has a negligible impact on highway and airport traffic. High-speed rail is driven by little more than a romantic notion to confer a European ambiance on American cities. Proponents also claim that high-speed rail is profitable, but this too is off the mark. Internationally, only two segments have ever broken even: Tokyo to Osaka and Paris to Lyon.
Off the rails. The federal government is running annual budget deficits of $1.5 trillion, and the state of Florida is having to cut spending by billions of dollars every year to stay out of the red. Yet both are willing to commit billions that they don't have to fund high-speed rail service between Orlando and Tampa. Talk about fiscal discipline jumping the tracks. This is the equivalent of buying a 50-inch plasma TV while your home is in foreclosure.
$239,000 Conductor Among M.T.A.'s 8,000 Six-Figure Workers. In an era of generous municipal salaries and union-friendly overtime rules, it may not come as a complete shock that there are thousands of Metropolitan Transportation Authority employees — 8,074, to be precise — who made $100,000 or more last year.
Sunlight Foundation Discovers 120M in Unspent, Lapsed Transit Earmarks. Based on documents Sunlight obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), local recipients never spent $119.2 million set aside by Congress through over 150 earmarks in 2006 and 2007 that should have funded mass transit projects in several communities across the U.S. These funds were allocated under The [SAFETEA-LU Act] and should have been spent by September 30, 2009 at the latest.
Top NY state bureaucrats earn nearly $128,000/year. Almost 5,000 bureaucrats who work for New York public authorities earned an average of $127,915 in 2009, according to the first report by an agency created to safeguard the public interest. ... The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, often criticized for an over-abundance of administrators, had the highest number of workers — 3,026 — who earned at least $100,000 a year, said the Independent Authorities Budget Office's report.
Subway workers caught snoozing on the job. All aboard the Zzzzzz train! Three transit workers who should have been fixing hydraulics in the city's aging subway system instead decided to catch some winks. The [New York] Post caught subway maintainers Frank Ryan and Robert Malandrino taking a two-hour snooze downtown when they should have been working on broken station equipment.
S.C. State board calls for audit of transportation center spending. S.C. State University's board voted unanimously Tuesday to conduct an external audit on the James E. Clyburn University Transportation Center to find out how millions of state and federal dollars have been spent. ... The audit will be the first comprehensive review of the center, through which more than $50 million has flowed since it was launched in 1998. S.C. State leaders have about half that money on hand for the building's first phase. But they've been unable to explain where the rest of the money went.
DC missed the train: How the stimulus stoked MTA bad news. To see what the federal stimulus package really has accomplished, take a look at this week's MTA news. Then, expect more of the same: paying more to ride on aging transit systems that break down all the time.
Democrats party while nation suffers. Another $8 billion in stimulus money is being sunk into creating a high-speed passenger rail network for the benefit of the tiny fraction of Americans who travel by choo choo, like Mr. Biden. Earlier this month, the Federal Railroad Administration announced it had $2.3 billion in rail grants available, but 10 states together submitted requests for $7.8 billion in high-speed rail "development" programs, which suggests the full pricetag for this boondoggle could reach staggering levels if it's allowed to spread.
New Jersey toll-road managers to slash employee perks. New Jersey toll-road managers said they would eliminate perks, bonuses, payouts, and free employee E-ZPass trips after an audit released Tuesday [10/19/2010] found the New Jersey Turnpike Authority had wasted about $50 million since 2007.
California bullet train agency can't document details of officials' foreign trips. Officials directing the California High-Speed Rail Authority have taken a series of overseas trips paid for by foreign governments jockeying to help their homeland firms win contracts on the multibillion-dollar project. And the rail agency has been unable to document the costs, sponsors or other details of the trips as generally required by state ethics regulations. Several board members and the former executive director took tours of train systems in Spain, France or Germany last year, according to interviews and records.
Can streetcars save America's cities? The Obama administration recently offered some U.S. cities a piece of a $130 million federal fund for streetcar projects aimed at reducing traffic congestion, cutting pollution and reliance on foreign oil, and creating jobs. Transit systems in Dallas, St. Louis, Cincinnati and Charlotte, North Carolina, are slated to share grants from the Federal Transit Administration's Urban Circulator program. ... But not everyone is a fan of streetcars. "This is a waste of money," said Ron Utt of The Heritage Foundation. "Streetcars certainly create jobs, but they are a poor investment and create little lasting value," he said.
Metro pays driver during 13-year leave. One day last summer, a man wearing a bus driver's uniform showed himself into the offices of the general counsel for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, where he served court papers on a receptionist. It was an unusual event because process servers usually call up from the lobby. They tend not to be bus drivers, either. So WMATA officials launched an internal inquiry to find out whether the employee was serving court papers on official time. What they learned was that even though the bus operator had been on extended leave for 13 years, he still had an active identification card and continued receiving holiday pay and uniform-cleaning allowances.
Pork barrel politics
State and local politicians always seem so proud of themselves when they get federal funding for some hometown project. After all, if the federal government pays for something, it doesn't cost anybody anything, right?
Maryland accused of race discrimination over scrapping of Baltimore rail project. Civil rights groups are alleging Maryland violated federal discrimination laws when it canceled plans for a long-considered Baltimore transit line that would have benefited predominantly African American neighborhoods. In a Title VI civil rights complaint filed this week against Maryland, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) charges that the decision by the Republican governor, Larry Hogan, to eliminate the plans for an east-west light rail line in Baltimore — and transfer the state funds slated for it to road projects in largely white suburban and rural parts of the state — discriminates against the city's black residents.California High Speed Rail: At What Sacrifice? The system, which would connect Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Sacramento, and areas in between, would require as a down payment a $10 billion bond issue that voters will consider in November. The California High Speed Rail Authority admits the system could cost much more — $37 billion — but the truth is likely to be more like $75 billion.
High-Speed Rail Drives Obama's Transportation Agenda. The Northern Lights Express is little more than an idea — a proposal for a 110-mph passenger train between Minneapolis and Duluth, Minn., that has crept along in fits and starts for years. But the slow ride may soon be over. The project is one of dozens nationwide that are likely to benefit from President Obama's initiative to fund high-speed and intercity passenger rail programs ... .
High-speed trains to NYC could be on the fast track. You can be excused for thinking high-speed rail is merely the region's latest pipe dream. Years-long delays and scrapped plans on projects from Bass Pro Shops and the Peace Bridge to Adelphia and the Statler Hotel have conditioned people to roll their eyes and lower expectations. However, there are several reasons why high-speed rail across Western and upstate New York to Albany and New York City could become a reality.
Chicago-to-Detroit high-speed rail 'positioned' to receive stimulus funds. The Obama administration said Friday [3/20/2009] that a Chicago-to-Detroit high-speed rail plan is "well positioned" to receive federal stimulus funding, according to a state lawmaker. Michigan House Speaker Pro Tem Pam Byrnes said the description came from Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood during a day of meetings at the White House on the stimulus plan.
Obama Says High-Speed Rail Will Foster Energy Independence. President Barack Obama called Thursday for the country to move swiftly to a system of high-speed rail travel, saying it will relieve congestion, help clean the air and save on energy.
High-speed rail is about pork, not transit. As it is, rail passengers in the U.S. already receive massive public subsidies. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the net government subsidy for airline passengers is one tenth of a cent per passenger mile and a half penny for motorists. That compares to 22 cents for Amtrak riders and 61 cents for public transit passengers. The Obama administration's plans to pump billions more into high-speed rail will increase this already grossly distorted distribution of federal transportation funds.
Foreign firms eye Obama rail plan. Foreign companies that dominate the international high-speed rail industry are trying to cash in on the Obama administration's plan to pump billions of dollars into U.S. rail systems to help stimulate the economy. The stimulus plan sets aside $8 billion for high-speed rail, a figure that has ambassadors and foreign leaders jockeying to get their preferred companies in on the deal.
Obama expected to talk rail in Tampa. President Barack Obama, in a visit to Tampa next week, is expected to announce federal funding for one of the biggest transportation projects in state history: up to $2.6 billion for a high-speed rail system linking Tampa Bay to Orlando.
This sounds like pork barrel politics to me.
If you think our debt's bad now ... On day one of his vow to take "meaningful steps to rein in our debt," Barack Obama asked Congress to freeze portions of discretionary domestic spending. ... On Day Two, taking a break from the rigors of austerity, he was in Tampa, Fla., promising $8 billion for high-speed rail projects there and in a dozen other places. Four days later, he released a $3.8 trillion fiscal year 2011 budget that would add another $1.3 trillion to the national debt.
There can be no peace in the land of the easily offended.
Mixed reaction on MARTA's 'yellow line' rebranding. MARTA's decision to brand its train line into Doraville "yellow" has stirred quiet debate among some within Atlanta's growing Asian-American community.
Atlanta's Transit System Changes 'Yellow Line' to 'Gold' After Asian Outrage. Atlanta's transit system will rename a train route into the heart of the city's Asian community in response to complaints that calling it the "yellow line" showed a lack of racial sensitivity.
The Editor says...
Apparently they're still using exactly the same color, just calling it a different name.
Rev. Jesse Jackson, transit workers rally in DC. Transit workers are rallying in the nation's capital to call for more support of mass transportation.
The Editor says...
If Jesse Jackson and a bunch of unionized leftists are in favor of mass transit, what does that tell you?
Transit Equity? The Obama administration announced new criteria for awarding Department of Transportation grants under the Federal Transit Administration. The Bush administration's coldhearted measurements like improving efficiency and shortening commuters' travel time are out. Fairness is in.
An atmosphere of secrecy, corruption and graft
Government agencies always find a way to expand, by hook or crook. Political favors are a form of currency, exchanged between bureaucracies. Sometimes those favors can be converted into more conventional currency.
Ex-MARTA exec pleads guilty in $500K fraud scam, had previous drug-related conviction. MARTA's former senior director of operations pleaded guilty in federal court to his role in a misappropriation of funds scam, federal officials said Wednesday [9/20/2017]. Joseph J. Erves, 52, of Lithonia, who worked for MARTA since 1993, funneled the majority of $500,000 in taxpayer money for MARTA projects into his personal bank accounts, U.S. District Attorney John Horn said in a statement. The theft was "a blatant display of his desire for self-enrichment at the expense of the public interest," Horn said.
Port Authority reconsidering $1-a-year lease to NJ Transit for North Bergen parking lot. Port Authority officials are reconsidering a controversial deal that gave NJ Transit a $1-a-year lease on valuable land in North Bergen, officials said on Wednesday [3/19/2014], one of several moves taken as the agency tries to right itself after months of tumult and criticism. The 2012 decision to reduce the rent paid by NJ Transit by more than $900,000 came at the same time that NJ Transit was a private client of Port Authority Chairman David Samson's law firm. The vote was just one in a series of apparent conflicts of interest that has come to light recently, prompting federal authorities to look at Samson's dealings and opening a debate over the agency's shadowy decision-making process.
Questions on Port Authority Chairman David Samson's PATH station vote. Port Authority Chairman David Samson voted for a $256 million reconstruction of the rundown PATH station in Harrison three months after a builder represented by his law firm proposed converting a nearby warehouse into hundreds of luxury apartments, according to records and interviews. Samson, now embroiled in the George Washington Bridge lane-closure controversy, wasn't the only commissioner with ties to land around the train station.
NJ Transit conductor charged in train ticket scheme. It was supposed to work like this: An NJ Transit conductor would take a stack of train tickets that hadn't been punched. He would sell them to a New York Penn Station newsstand vendor, who would in turn offer cut-rate tickets to customers — and no one would be the wiser. But the plan backfired when an informant bought hundreds of tickets, turned them over to police and the conductor was arrested and suspended without pay, officials said today [9/23/2013].
The new Labor Secretary pushes Jerry Brown to exempt the Teamsters.
Chicago whistle-blower implicates top state Democrat. A former Chicago-area executive is blowing the whistle in the latest case to showcase what is derisively known as the "Illinois way" — politicians' practice of doing business by dishing out favors to friends who contribute generously to their campaigns. This time, a top-ranking Democrat has been implicated. The case involves Illinois' most powerful Democratic leader — state House Speaker Michael Madigan — and the former head of the Chicago area's commuter rail service, Metra.Richardson contributors have rail project interests. Contracting and development executives with a financial stake in the New Mexico Rail Runner have contributed thousands of dollars to Governor Richardson's presidential campaign. They've also provided Richardson with use of corporate airplanes. The $400 million commuter rail system has been pushed by Richardson.
A 40-Year Wish List: You won't believe what's in that stimulus bill. [Scroll down] Most of the rest of this project spending will go to such things as renewable energy funding ($8 billion) or mass transit ($6 billion) that have a low or negative return on investment. Most urban transit systems are so badly managed that their fares cover less than half of their costs. However, the people who operate these systems belong to public-employee unions that are campaign contributors to ... guess which party?
High-speed rail is about pork, not transit. As it is, rail passengers in the U.S. already receive massive public subsidies. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the net government subsidy for airline passengers is one tenth of a cent per passenger mile and a half penny for motorists. That compares to 22 cents for Amtrak riders and 61 cents for public transit passengers. The Obama administration's plans to pump billions more into high-speed rail will increase this already grossly distorted distribution of federal transportation funds.
High-Speed Rail Is Not "Interstate 2.0". The administration has likened President Obama's high-speed rail plan to President Eisenhower's Interstate Highway System. Yet there are crucial differences between interstate highways and high-speed rail. First, before Congress approved the Interstate Highway System, it had a good idea how much it would cost. In contrast, Congress approved $8 billion for high-speed rail without knowing the total cost, which is likely to be at least $90 billion. Second, highway users paid for interstate highways, whereas high-speed rail will be almost entirely subsidized by general taxpayers who will rarely use it.
Federal oversight of subways proposed. The Obama administration will propose that the federal government take over safety regulation of the nation's subway and light-rail systems, responding to what it says is haphazard and ineffective oversight by state agencies.
The Editor says...
If you like the way airline passengers are treated by the TSA, you're going to love Obama's new and permanent bureaucracy, ostensibly set up to keep everybody safe all the time. But the ultimate goal is not passenger safety — it's the employment of more unionized federal workers all over the country — another venue for affirmative action.
Transit Agencies Should Open Their Books. Last year, Texas' metropolitan transit authorities (MTAs) spent more than $4 billion of your transportation tax dollars. If you're curious to know why, how, or on what, good luck. Despite all the open-government reforms that have taken root in Texas the past several years, most of Texas' MTAs still don't provide the public with basic spending information online, such as budgets, check registers, and financial reports.
Metro takes the omnibus. The political football that is the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (or Metro) is now loose in a Senate spending rumble. The Advance America's Priorities Act, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's inaptly named omnibus bill for earmarks and pet projects, contains $1.5 billion in federal funding for Metro.
D.C. Metro Tickets and Fare Cards Now Bear Image of Obama. The Washington, D.C., Metro system is now selling paper tickets and plastic "SmarTrip" fare cards that bear the smiling image of President-elect Barack Obama. ... President George W. Bush's face was not put on the Metro fare card in 2001 because his inauguration did not generate enough positive public attention, Angela Gates, a spokeswoman for the D.C. Metro, told CNSNews.com.
The Editor says...
I guess it depends of what the meaning of the word "positive" is.
Metro derailed by culture of complacence, incompetence, lack of diversity. Ninety-seven percent of the bus and train operators at the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority are black, with only six white women out of more than 3,000 drivers, according to Metro documents — a lack of diversity at one of the region's largest employers that has led to an acknowledgment of failure in affirmative-action documents and spawned a series of lawsuits. The homogeneity, interviews with dozens of current and former Metro workers indicated, is a proxy to a clubby culture of favoritism in which merit has little to do with promotions, and accountability, such as noting safety violations, is a career death knell.
Mass transit would be used by almost no one, except for the pressure exerted by big government to encourage ridership.
Separate but equal:
The real reason for New York City's traffic nightmare. City officials have intentionally ground Midtown to a halt with the hidden purpose of making drivers so miserable that they leave their cars at home and turn to mass transit or bicycles, high-level sources told The [New York] Post. Today's gridlock is the result of an effort by the Bloomberg and de Blasio administrations over more than a decade of redesigning streets and ramping up police efforts, the sources said.
The Suburb That Tried To Kill the Car. It takes, in fact, a few extra minutes in the neighborhood to realize what's different — and what's missing. Downtown Evanston — a sturdy, tree-lined Victorian city wedged neatly between Lake Michigan and Chicago's northern border — is missing cars. Or, more accurately, it's missing a lot of cars. Thanks to concerted planning, these new developments are rising within a 10-minute walk of two rail lines and half-a-dozen bus routes. The local automobile ownership rate is nearly half that of the surrounding area.
Al Gore: Spend $90 Trillion To Ban Cars From Every Major City In The World. Former Vice President Al Gore and former Mexican President Felipe Calderon are pushing for $90 trillion in spending to ban cars from every major city in the world and make them more dense. Gore and Calderon presented a report from the Global Commission on the Economy & Climate (GCEC) and argued that fighting global warming will require making cities more compact and wholly reliant on public transit. This is the only way to make sure urban areas don't contribute to global warming, the two politicians argued.SF parking plan's message: Transit first. San Francisco's aggressive plan to install thousands more parking meters and to expand the hours they operate has an overarching goal of making the streets friendlier for transit, cycling and walking.
City employees ordered to use public transportation. City employees will be required to take public transportation to meetings and assignments during the work day or explain why not, under a strict new mileage and travel reimbursement policy tailor-made to save $1 million. Mayor Rahm Emanuel ordered City Comptroller Amer Ahmad to craft the crackdown after a string of abuses made possible by the city's liberal reimbursement policy.
The Threat to the Car: No device is more in keeping with the American spirit than the automobile. Privately owned cars and trucks allow us to go where we want, when want. They are freedom machines. Still, some liberals would like to use government to force Americans out of their cars. They believe in socialized transportation, not free-market transportation. In a socialist transportation system, the government takes the taxpayers' money and purchases vehicles — often buses or trains — for itself or a government-funded agency. Where and when these vehicles go is determined by the government.
Sane and Rational Government? According to the "The Committee for Even Minimally Sane and Rational Government," Austin, Texas, is the largest city in the country that does not synchronize traffic signals; the goal is to make driving unpleasant so people will support more "public transportation."
Environmental regulations may be backfiring. State environmental regulations designed to reduce air pollution and encourage the use of public transportation by keeping parking lots closed until after rush hour may be backfiring because people sit in idling vehicles waiting for the lots to open.
The Mythical World of Transit-Oriented Development: In much of the literature regarding Transit-Oriented Development there is an explicit or implicit expectation that people will change their behavior to conform to the worldview of planners. … Steele Park was planned to discourage car ownership and use. The roads are narrow and parking is scarce. Public parking is only allowed on one side of each street in the development. The plan tried to encourage one-car families.
"There is a direct relationship between personal mobility and freedom. No authoritarian leader really wants to see his people able to move about freely, associating with whom they please, with the inevitable exchange of ideas and information and the independence these freedoms bring. ... It is much easier to control people if they stay put or move about only on mass transit."
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Updated August 27, 2018.
Entire contents Copyright 2018 by Andrew K. Dart