Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Transit expert calls Mayor Barry's light-rail plan "simply a bad investment."

Randal O'Toole, a public policy analyst with the Cato Institute, has publicly criticized Barry's light-rail transit proposal, saying it is "simply a bad investment." Mayor Barry has proposed spending $5.2 million to build a 26 mile light rail system. To fund the system, Mayor Barry is proposing a sales tax increase that will make Nashville the city with the second highest sales tax rate in the nation. 

O'Toole's article titled, "It’s the Last Stop on the Light-Rail Gravy Train," appeared in the Wall Street Journal. Unless one is a subscriber to WSJ one can not access the article. Below are  excepts. The highlighting is mine.
When it comes to mass transit, politicians never learn. Last month, Nashville Mayor Megan Berry announced a $5.2 billion proposal that involves building 26 miles of light rail and digging an expensive tunnel under the city’s downtown. Voters will be asked in May to approve a half-cent sales tax increase plus additions to hotel, car rental and business excise taxes to pay for the project. …
These proposals are questionable at best and reckless at worst, given that transit ridership — including bus and what little rail these regions have—is down in all three jurisdictions. This is a nationwide trend: Data released this week by the Federal Transit Administration shows that ridership is falling in nearly every major urban area (with Seattle as a notable exception). 
The main reason for this drop-off is that low gas prices and ride-sharing services have given people better options. Census data show that 96% of American workers live in households with at least one car, and anyone with a smartphone can summon an Uber or Lyft.

That said, transit ridership has been sliding for decades as jobs have become less highly concentrated in city centers. Since 1970, the number of transit trips taken per urban resident has fallen more than 20%. Outside the areas of New York, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Washington, transit carries less than 1% of passenger travel. This belies the claim that mass transit is vital to urban economies…According to the Department of Transportation, the nationwide transit maintenance backlog is approaching $100 billion, .... Instead of spending billions on new rail lines, cities like Nashville, San Antonio and Tampa ought to use buses to move people faster, more safely, and for far less money. Rail is simply a bad investment.
Some analysts predict that by the middle of the next decade, calling a driverless car will be as easy as hailing an Uber today. Why walk in the heat or cold for a bus or streetcar when you can hail a driverless car to your door for less money than the transit fare? Nashville’s first light-rail line won’t even open until 2026. By then, who’s going to want to use it?

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