News & Commentary from the liberterrain…
“Dallas scores big in TIGER grants; Feds will fund street cars.” – Dallas Morning News headline
What Dallas actually gets is a boondoggle much beloved by, according to the Texas Public Policy Foundation, “Pork lovers, auto haters, and nostalgia buffs.”
The Austin, Texas research institution has produced seven reports on the light rail scam since 2000 and their most recent report, Great Rail Disasters, Impact Of Rail Transit On Urban Livability (PDF), issued in 2004 in conjunction with the Independence Institute, “compiles extensive, comprehensive data on the harmful effects of light rail on the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.”
Here are just a few of the highlights from the Executive Summary of the 84-page document:
- Rail transit is expensive and usually costs more to build and operate than originally projected.
- Rail transit costs four-fifths of transportation capital budgets, making it impossible to remove highway bottlenecks, leading to growing congestion.
- The average light rail line consumes more energy per passenger mile than passenger cars.
- Rail transit costs roughly $1 million per ton of air pollution eliminated.
The report’s conclusion is damning:
“Auto-haters love rail transit because it consumes funds that could otherwise be spent reducing congestion. Politicians love rail transit because the companies that will profit from it are a source of campaign contributions. Transit agencies love rail transit because it boosts their budgets and national prestige.”
But libertarians aren’t just spoilsports, they have a perfectly valid, workable solution: create a free market in public transportation.
Eliminate the city bus and taxi monopolies. Throw the streets wide open to entrepreneurs large and small. Anyone with a valid driver’s license and a street-legal vehicle gets to play. Buses, shuttles, taxis, limos, jitneys, vans, wheeled trolleys. Even light rail if some risk-taking venture capitalist wants to build it with private money.
So why do people keep voting for streetcars? James V. DeLong of the Reason Foundation, a libertarian think tank in California, claims it’s a driver’s fantasy. Writing in Myths of Light-Rail Transit (PDF) he says, “Drivers are indeed enthusiastic about rail lines, but only because they think that many others will ride the transit and leave the road clear for the driver. An endorsement of transit construction is a vote for an open road, free of all those pesky other drivers.”
Dallas streetcar enthusiasts accomplish little more than keeping the pork lovers, auto haters, and nostalgia buffs very happy.
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