Out of Control Policy Blog

Doing it for the children ÷ or the grandchildren ÷ great-grandchildren?

The feds just signed over $193 million to Charlotte officials to be used for the 9.6 mile light rail line, currently priced at $427 million.

In other words, rail backers have their first line. And the awkward partying-down has begun:

    After hammering a golden spike into a section of track, a giddy Mayor Pat McCrory simultaneously hugged [FTA head Jennifer] Dorn and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C.

    "We are doing this not for you in this audience," said McCrory, who has been pushing for transit since he became mayor 10 years ago. "We are doing this for future generations."

You got that right. It takes a lot of money to build rail systems, but it also takes a lot of time.

Way back in 1980 local leaders in LA promised a sales tax hike would pay for 11 rail lines. After yet another tax hike and a quarter-century wait, LA has four rail lines.

Then there's San Diego, which became our nation's first light rail city in 1981. There has been more rail building since, and more is in the works. Yet the local metropolitan planning organization projects that the roadway system will still carry more than 90 percent of commute trips by 2030.

Or take San Jose. Even though light rail opened for business in1988, last year a high-ranking local transit official admitted that the system still had "a long way to go." This is what he told a Mercury News reporter: "Come back in 40 years and then maybe we can write a story on what success there has been.''

In other words, just sit tight till 2044.

Ted Balaker is Producer


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