Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The hidden cost of government

"These trains are magnets for money in every legislative session. No big thing except for one major thing. The more we pour in these 'black holes; the less we have in real traffic solutions. Solutions like 'lanes not trains'."

Moment of truth. I was born in Hennepin County. I was also baptized there, confirmed there, graduated from high school there, graduated from college there, and was married there. Hennepin County used to be the place to live in the Twin Cites. It had everything. Now I can't stand it. I can't get far enough away.

Today, there is a vote going on with the Hennepin County Commissioners concerning raising the Hennepin County sales tax to fund the lightly used southwest light rail. I know for a fact, Commissioner Jeff Johnson is going to vote against this boondoggle. Why? A huge waste of money. But Jeff is a minority stuck in the middle of progressive Hennepin titans, Who cares if this new choo-choo does not make sense? That it will not pay for itself. Lets build it anyway!

(Warning: This part is fable!) Years ago, someone from a utility company came in to see me a new water heater. "Don't worry about the cost - we will have someone else to pay for it". True words. It was fine. But then the monthly upkeep bills came in. Where were those "other people" who helped pay for the installation? I need help with the monthly maintenance costs. The others are long gone, long forgotten. They will be no help. As long as I live in Minnesota, I would be paying for this lemon.

Ready for this? This the  moment of truth. From the "proponents" of light rail. If we build this "thing" at a zillion dollars worth of taxpayer dollars, it would be fine. But it won't be. Each year, they project (this is from them, not the detractors), only 2 to 3% of the cars will be taken off the roads (on the Southwest Rail Route). I would challenge every traffic congestion driver to discern if the traffic is 3% better or 3% worse on any drive home.

Each year, every year, there will be a bill to pay. Just like with the North Star (and it is huge), as well as the other LRT trains, someone has to pay the care, maintenance and amortized costs of them. Any guesses who that would be? Look in the mirror. 

I remember from my business days, I always learned about the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership). The tool all costs, hidden and unhidden into baked into the account. The light rail system is fraught with hidden costs. And one of my favorites is the subsidy cost of running a line. Why my favorite? The "Free riders" of course - and Minneapolis is full of them. So who picks up the tabs for the Minneapolis "Free riders"? Once again, please look in the mirror.

These trains are magnets for money in every legislative session. No big thing except for one major thing. The more we pour in these "black holes" the less we have in real traffic solutions. Solutions like "lanes not trains". Stay tuned folks - this is about to get very interesting (and maybe expensive).

1 comment:

  1. The best argument for rail is that it has the ability to provide massive rush-hour passenger-carrying capacity without destroying the city through which it runs. Whether buried in a subway or operating quietly along in grassy medians, trains can be integrated into the public realm without diminishing the pedestrian-friendly qualities all urbanists should hope to encourage.
    I am an advocate for more Bus Rapid Transit (BRT).
    Better transit can come in many forms, but in a country in which the vast majority of people have no contact with public transportation this side of Disney World, making the argument for investments in more buses is difficult, to say the least.
    BRT is just not sexy until you’ve experienced it. Frequent, cheap, clean and rapid bus traffic in dedicated lanes can move the kind of numbers that will make existing roads able to carry the traffic now causing gridlock and lost productivity. BRT can adapt to changes in demographics, housing and industry rapidly and cheaply.
    Since Mpls/St.Paul have locked themselves into freeway systems difficult to expand, it is best to look at converting some lanes to BRT.
    Dave G