in Houston, Texas
‘Light Rail Country Club’ criticized by free-market nonprofit, as San Antonio moves toward $180 million, two-mile streetcar line
Wednesday, Oct 19, 2011, 01:05PM CST
By Mark Lisheron
streetcar

Before the San Antonio City Council votes tomorrow to back a $180 million plan to build a two-mile streetcar line a free-market nonprofit issued a final warning.

"They have a burning desire to become members of the Light Rail Country Club," Jeff Judson, a director of the Heartland Institute in Texas, told San Antonio’s News Radio WOAI today. "The initiation fee runs in the billions of dollars, and the monthly dues come at the expense of other important public investments. It makes no economic sense, but it supposedly says that we are a world-class city."

Despite discouraging reports of cost overruns and low ridership, the board for city taxpayer-supported VIA Metropolitan Transit voted Tuesday in favor of a plan to partner with the taxpayers of Bexar County, San Antonio and property owners in and around the rail line in a special assessment district.

The two-mile streetcar line is planned to run north and east through downtown San Antonio.

Judson issued a report citing other rail projects costing far more than anticipated and that took funding away from established bus service.

Austin’s 16.5-mile commuter rail got up and running earlier this year two years behind schedule and at $1.3 billion double its original projected cost.

The state of Texas made little effort to seek out stimulus funding for light-rail research, concerned that state taxpayers would bear the burden of operational costs when federal funding went away.

Republican governors in Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin earlier in the year sent back to the Department of Transportation seed money for light-rail projects that required state taxpayer participation.

"Rail is absolutely the most expensive thing that can be built to move people," Judson said.  "It is a great way to sink a financially stable transit system, to build a rail system like this."
 
***
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

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Photo of streetcars by flickr user ja4marti, used via a Creative Commons license.
Comments
RailAdvo
Wednesday, 10/19/2011 - 08:59PM

When you run a story, please make sure you have your facts correct FIRST.

Your comment:

"Republican governors in Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin earlier in the year sent back to the Department of Transportation seed money for light-rail projects that required state taxpayer participation".

Response:

These were not light-rail urban projects which run at low speed with lots of stops in short distances. All three states' governors rejected long distance HIGH SPEED RAIL funding to link major cities. The proposed San Antonio streetcar is for local service only. The Florida project would have been the incubator for Intercity rail service with the overwhelming funding coming from the U.S.D.O.T. By the way, Texas received some of the money that was turned back from Wisconsin, Ohio and Florida so that the engineering and environmental work could be done on 150 mile per hour Core Express passenger rail service between Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston. We're a bit smarter here.

Your comment:

"The state of Texas made little effort to seek out stimulus funding for light-rail research, concerned that state taxpayers would bear the burden of operational costs when federal funding went away."

Response:

The city of Dallas has received federal funding, coupled with other sources, for a starter streetcar line to link Union Station in Dallas (a big transit interchange) with the Oak Cliff area to rejuvenate an urban area and link with a major hospital. The McKinney Avenue trolley, which has been operating in Dallas for years, after exhausting studies, applied for and received funding to extend the line into downtown Dallas. Future operational funding will come from fares and a sales tax already dedicated for mass transit.

You can continue to spend funds to lay more concrete and asphalt and drive people further out in the country to drive on congested roads back into the cities, or you can do something to help reverse urban blight and allow citizens to return to urban areas to live and play by offering amenities such as a good transportation network of buses and, yes, rail service.

Ron Clark
Monday, 10/24/2011 - 02:03AM

How about getting your facts correct before publishing them? Austin's CapMetroRail line is 32 miles in length, around twice the 16.5 miles you wrote. And the costs were around $120 Million, ten times less than the $1.3 Billion you wrote. Did you check CapMetro's website for some basic facts? An educated, professional reporter would have.

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