Thursday, July 13, 2006

Quotes In IBJ

Reporter Chris O'Malley has an article in the current Indiana Business Journal on the proposed Nickel Plate corridor light rail system, from Noblesville to Indy, via Fishers. O'Malley requested the interview with me because when he was doing research on the article, he kept finding my name attached to commentary on the plans. Here's one quote, in context with others:

Still, it appears not everyone is sold on the massive expenditures necessary to launch a rail system or dedicated road for buses—the rapid-transit options local planners are contemplating.

Fishers resident Mike Kole recalls doing a double take at similar ridership projections he saw at an MPO meeting several months ago.

“I was surprised at how impassive the reactions were to the numbers,” said Kole, also a Libertarian candidate for secretary of state. “I was astonished. If we buy all this infrastructure, we’re going to be stuck with it for a long time.”

UCLA professor Peter Gordon isn’t surprised.

In other cities with new rail systems, at best 35 percent to 40 percent of passengers come from private autos—and many of them had been carpooling. Most are former bus riders whose routes were affected by the rail service, he said.

“Rail transit is a big waste today, but politicians love it as a jobs program that environmentalists support,” said Gordon, who teaches at the university’s School of Policy, Planning and Development and has studied the economics of some of the nation’s rapid transit systems.

That’s not the only reason for political support, said Randal O’Toole, senior economist at the Bandon, Ore.-based Thoreau Institute, an environmentally focused government watchdog.

Unlike federal highway funding, which is based partly on population and road miles, urban mass-transit projects tend to be funded based on which ones are most expensive, O’Toole said.

“Why do cities like Indianapolis want rail transit? Pork,” he asserted.

Interestingly, elected Hamilton County Republicans are leading the charge for this wasteful pork. They tout the importance of regionalism.

Well, understand then that regionalism means a giveaway to the people of Fishers and Noblesville, to be paid for by the people of Beach Grove, Southport, Greenwood, Avon, Carmel, Speedway, and Indianapolis.

In the end, three things are required for light rail to work:

  1. The urban center must have high density.
  2. The line must serve a lengthy commute.
  3. The passenger's ride terminates in a place where having a car is a liability.
None of these things apply in Indianapolis, whereas they all apply in New York City, where I was last week, riding the trains.

I ride mass transit where it works- in places like NYC. Here I stand in Queens on the platform of the #7 train, for a ride into Manhattan, July 7, 2006.

Light rail, or monorails are bad policy for Central Indiana, through and through. Bus lines can make sense where there is proven ridership. Hyperfix showed there is enough demand from Fishers to Indy to justify three morning buses and three evening buses. Add that- but a billion for rail? Madness.

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