Copyright © John Jones, (2/17/10)
In the USA we have a representative form of government. This is a very effective type of governing however it has its good points and bad points. This past summer we saw how the Democrats tried to slam Obama care down our throats, and when we disagreed we were called unpatriotic and trouble makers. (That story is for another day!) The same Democrats told us that they know better and to trust them to make the right decision for us. This type of attitude has increased in strength over the years so now more than ever it's important that our lawmakers know how we feel and that they serve at our pleasure not to fulfill their own needs or ambitions.
When it comes to spending money on huge public projects, which obviously is done a public expense politicos seem to vote with their next term in mind not what's really best for their constituency. Public Rail Initiatives can seem great at first but one has to really break them down into three parts in order to get a good understanding of it. These three areas are Cost, Construction, and Consumers.
Coming up with the billion plus dollars to build regional rail systems will be easy. Where do you think this money will come from? Can you say Taxes. Then Say Taxes. Then say Taxes one more time. That's right tax increases will pay for it. This is something you can count on. One cent, two cents, everywhere a cent cent. Tax increases are notorious for lasting forever. Many, if not all, sales tax increases are RENEWED before they sunset therefore can be considered a permanent tax increase.
In addition, government projects are notorious for cost over runs budget problems. The Big Dig was the most expensive highway project in the U.S. Although the project was estimated in 1985 at $2.8 billion (in 1982 dollars, US$6.0 billion adjusted for inflation as of 2006[update]), over $14.6 billion ($8.08 billion in 1982 dollars) had been spent in federal and state tax dollars as of 2006[update]. A July 17, 2008 article in The Boston Globe stated, "In all, the project will cost an additional $7 billion in interest, bringing the total to a staggering $22 billion, according to a Globe review of hundreds of pages of state documents. It will not be paid off until 2038.(1) This was a regional project similar in size and scope to construction a metro rail project.
Denver voters approved a 119-mile rail system in 2004 on the promise that it would cost $4.7 billion to build it by 2017. The current estimate is up to $7.9 billion, and the regional transit agency says the system might not be complete until 2034. (2)
The cost of the current light rail system in salt lake staggers over 1 billion dollars. (3) In 1965, the House Ways and Means Committee estimated that the hospital insurance program of Medicare - the federal health care program for the elderly and disabled - would cost $9 billion by 1990. The actual cost that year was $67 billion. In 1967, the House Ways and Means Committee said the entire Medicare program would cost $12 billion in 1990. The actual cost in 1990 was $98 billion. In 1987, Congress projected that Medicaid - the joint federal-state health care program for the poor - would make special relief payments to hospitals of less than $1 billion in 1992. Actual cost: $17 billion. The 1993 cost of Medicare's home care benefit was projected in 1988 to be $4 billion, but ended up at $10 billion. The State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which was created in 1997 and projected to cost $5 billion per year, has had to be supplemented with hundreds of millions of dollars annually by Congress. (4)
With this kind of track record how can we be assured to same won't happen during the construction of a rail system? Better question is how much of it has already happened in the metro areas that have spent billions reviving a flawed transportation scheme.
The constitution guarantees us property ownership. However, there is a clause that allows government to take up homes and business for just compensation for public use (5). Unfortunately, government has abused those rights. Now our property can be taken and given to private developers to "increase the tax base", or for some politicians pet project, or for some other nefarious private reasons. The references below provide numerous examples of the execution of this policy.
With the current population density of the many metro areas the construction of ANY type of rail system would in fact REQUIRE the local or state government to utilize eminent domain to build the track bed, build stations AND surrounding pedestrian neighborhoods. Thus, dislodging compensated or not, Americans from their homes and businesses for something they never asked for. Supporters also say we can build tracks in the medians of the interstate system. That's great for when there is actually one. What happens when there is no room? You got it its E.D. (Eminent Domain) time.
Here's is four good examples of failed eminent domain projects. New London, Connecticut. The City's redevelopment plan began in early 1998 when pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced it would build a $270 million research facility in a town facing financial decline. Unbeknownst to Susette Kelo or her neighbors, the City had already reached an agreement in which the New London Development. Under the terms of the agreement, the NLDC would own the land located in the development area but lease it to private developers for $1 per year. Now, TEN years later, the City has nothing to show for a neighborhood it destroyed with threatened and filed condemnations. Today, vast empty dirt fields span acre after acre where New London's grand plan was to be constructed. (6)
Chicago, Illinois- In 1973, Chicago politicians decided that revitalizing downtown was imperative, and they commenced kicking people out of their homes and businesses. Block 37, as it is still called, became the focus of efforts to eliminate poverty in the city. Decades later-after demolishing 16 buildings and displacing hundreds of hardworking families-this redevelopment project shows exactly what can happen when the government razes neighborhoods in the name of progress. The plan failed catastrophically. It took five mayoral administrations for the City to finally sell the condemned property to private developers-and they did so for 33 cents on the dollar.(6)
Vancouver, Washington, In November 1999, the City filed suit to condemn the Monterey Hotel, an old three-story hotel in downtown Vancouver that housed mainly low-income people. A developer from just over the state line in Portland owned most of the block around the hotel, and City officials wanted to clear out the remaining property so the developer could build a planned six-story residential, office and retail development and adjacent parking structure. The hotel's owners, R.K. and Geetaben Patel, challenged the condemnation, arguing that the City lacked a public use. However, the trial court ruled in favor of the City. Just as the Washington Court of Appeals was about to hear the case, the Patels reached a settlement with the City and agreed to sell. However, in the meantime, the planned development fell through. The lot on which the hotel used to stand is still vacant.(6)
Phoenix, Arizona, In 1998, the City of Phoenix condemned a grocery store and several other small businesses on the corner of 24th Street and Broadway, intending to transfer the land to a private developer. Though none of the businesses were blighted, the City justified the takings under Arizona's vague redevelopment statute by declaring that the area was "overrun with crime." Rather than taking steps to lower crime in the area, the City instead chose to redevelop at the expense of innocent businesses. However, the condemnations did nothing to improve the area. The City still has not been able to find a developer willing to buy the property, and it remains vacant eight years later.(6)
These great examples from the article referenced, but there are dozen more where homes and businesses have been taken in the name of private use, public use, even for the public enjoyment. Although, the latter would not be admitted to by the seizing authority but its clear what the intention is. How many homes and business would need to be seized for a new rail transportation system in your metro area??
If station neighborhoods are developed who decides who gets a home and who gets a business there. Will it be first come first serve or will it be people and companies designed for the sole purpose of getting maximum tax value from the land? I'd bet the authority will surely maximize the values that are charged and collected to get the "Right" kind of people there, and leave the rest of us "on the wrong side of the tracks."
Thanks to the invention of the car light rail systems were discarded years ago. Now many municipalities want to spend billions to bring them back. The reality is we do not live in centralized neighborhoods. Thanks to the cars everyone moved to the ‘burbs, and left the crowded central cities behind for an open sprawling countryside. Duh! For rail systems to work and be affordable we'd all have to move within shouting distance of a train platform. Just how are we supposed to do that? Oh wait that land would be bought up and controlled by the authority and given to who they want near the tracks not who needs to be there. Hmmm!
Since the majority of people do not live near projected stations what's a person to do? Stations would need massive parking areas, because cars would have to be driven to the station and parked there. During sport events or conventions large parking areas at stations would need to be provided thus increasing traffic and congestion on local streets and roads. So in essence, rail stations would cause more of the problems they were meant to decrease. Yet again hmmm!
Ticket costs would also be outside the range of most consumers. Prices consistently increase on public transportation all over the country. We can expect the price of a ticket to increase 10-40% per year or more. At some point people will just get fed up and start driving or just taking the bus again, with millions wasted! Dare I say hmmm a third time?
The interstate system is a vital part of our transportation system. I agree that it was great for its time. I also agree that something must be done because the roads were NOT designed to handle the amount of traffic it is subjected to today. We need new system of designing and building roads. We need system that does not cost upwards of 1.5- 3.5 million for just one mile of freeway.(7) We need a revolutionary new system that doesn't cost, and arm, leg and 9 of 10 fingers, and yet allows traffic not to have to stop at thousands of traffic lights and stop signs or be in grid lock during rush hour.
WE COULD SOLVE MUCH OF OUR ROAD CONGESTION IF PEOPLE WOULD JUST LEARN HOW TO DRIVE. That's right I said it. If people would learn how to drive there would be significantly less problems on the road. For instance: Red light runners, tailgaters, aggressive drivers, and speeders cause traffic slowdowns when they wreck or cause a wreck. People who stop for no reason in the middle of the road, or who do not change lanes or merge incorrectly cause traffic slowdowns when they wreck or cause a wreck. People who think they own the road or people who are distracted cause traffic slow downs when they wreck or cause a wreck. People who just DON'T KNOW HOW TO DRIVE A CAR or people who don't pay attention to the road cause traffic slowdowns when they wreck or cause a wreck. Need I go further? So instead of spending a billion dollars on a rail system you can improve the roads and TEACH PEOPLE HOW TO DRIVE THEIR CARS. That alone would theoretically reduce deaths and congestion by a significant amount, at a minimum less people would die from car accidents, and that would surely be a good thing!!!!