Sanity From the Sun Post?
By Andrew Richter
Just read this from the Sun post, I’m not even going to comment;
The Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority is seeking public comment on its “Draft Environmental Impact Statement.” This massive 834-page document was created to describe “the transportation and environmental impacts associated with the construction and operation of a light rail transit (LRT) project to improve transit service in the Bottineau Transitway Corridor in Hennepin County, Minnesota.” If that refrain promoting trains sounds familiar, it should.
Please consider “North Star Commuter Rail News, Fall 2002”, a document created by the Northstar Corridor Development Authority. Now 12-years-old, many of their projections have proven wrong.
The ridership forecasts of 10,000 a day were painfully optimistic. In 2012 it served less than 2,000 passengers each day, a total of only 700,276 riders. With total expenses of just over $16 million, that is a tax subsidized cost of $22.91 per ride. The passengers paid $3.67 on average. Is that acceptable?
It is hard to imagine that anyone could claim the Northstar Commuter Rail line has worked out as planned. The latest Met Council financial analysis for station areas along the Northstar Line from July, 2013 concludes, “based upon current market conditions projected rent levels do not support the cost of station area development.” Living adjacent to busy train tracks is not most people’s first choice.
We can’t see the future. Any forecast is, in the end, an educated guess. How accurate it can be depends on how accurate the information used in the decision making process is and what biases filter that information.
The railroad authority’s very existence is dependent on the development of light rail. That is a heavy bias to overcome. We have a dedicated, guaranteed sales tax of 0.25 percent to fund the authority – is it surprising that they promote light rail?
The recent uproar about the Southwest Corridor highlights what could be next for our community. After years and millions of dollars in studies that don’t resolve known problems and conflicts, it is often stated that too much has already been spent, and the only possibility is to move forward. That is seriously flawed reasoning.
The proposed Bottineau line was first imagined in the late ‘80s. If light rail must arrive in downtown Minneapolis and must pass through Robbinsdale, that really doesn’t allow many route options. If Bus Rapid Transit were seriously considered instead of light rail, would it still need to connect to the same two locations to help transit and alleviate congestion in the Bottineau corridor?
If the route selected does not move significant numbers of our fellow citizens easing traffic congestion, it will only help those on the train. We cannot afford another tax-subsidized project that does not also serve the needs of those who actually pay for it.
The whole process of deciding what modes of transportation would be best for Hennepin County and our region has been biased by the creation of the railroad authority. Bias in favor of what is nationally politically fashionable is not an acceptable way to make a billion-dollar decision that impacts every tax payer. Let’s get the politics out of it. Let’s recognize the economic realities of today and issues that existing rail corridors face.
We need to rethink Bus Rapid Transit with a fresh, unbiased perspective. Flexibility is essential in an uncertain future, and being able to change routes and capacities to accommodate real growth patterns is a huge advantage. Shouldn’t we have learned that lesson already?
This guy may not write for them much longer….