February 13, 2013

Dear Mayor Ballard and members of the Indiana Legislature


From around 1900 through about 1930 there existed throughout Central Indiana a series of light rail networks connecting the towns and cities called the Interurban. In those days your common man did not own an automobile, and the highways were rough two-lane affairs, remnants of the horse and buggy age.

In those early years of the twentieth century there were no sprawling shopping malls dotting the suburbs. In fact,  for many residents of Central Indiana, the only place to find a big department store outside of the limited offerings of the town square was in downtown Indianapolis.

In other words, light rail and public transportation made sense. Yet it was an economic failure. The interurban went the way of street cars, covered wagons and passenger trains. The tracks are gone, the stations torn down. Riding the interurban is now but a lost memory of your grandparents' parents.

What makes anyone think the economic variables of a light rail business model that failed a century ago, in far more favorable conditions, is a good idea today? IndyGo bus service is losing money, so the concept of expansion makes no sense either. Even more of a bad idea does not make it better.

What is it about politicians that makes them lose sight of the basic fact that every penny a government spends -- at the local, state and federal level -- comes from the hard earned wages of a working taxpayer?


Fuzzy Curmudgeon said...

Mayor who?

Fuzzy Curmudgeon said...

Light rail would succeed anywhere if the powers that be were willing to charge what it actually costs to ride the system. But nobody is going to pay $20 or more to get a ride from, say, Carmel to downtown Indy.

The Washington Metro -- with which I am quite familiar -- runs at a tens of millions of dollar deficit every year, which has to be made up by taxpayer subsidies. But you can ride it from one end to the other for $5.75 at peak and $3.50 off peak. The trip probably ought to cost $30 at peak and $20 at off peak, but nobody would ride it at such an outrageous price...even though you'd pay just as much to drive and park.

You know, a cab to the airport from my home costs well north of $30 (probably closer to $50), but if we had a subway system, the fare from here to there -- even if I had to take it downtown and change trains -- would probably be only a few dollars.

Of course private cab companies aren't subsidised out of my tax money; I have to choose to pay them a fair fare.

You'll note that at the same time the paid idiots at the Indianapolis Star keep advocating light rail as something whose time has come, they don't seem to be talking much about what it would actually cost, or how it would be funded. Personally I like the "pay as you go" model a lot better than the "cheap fare subsidised by the taxpayer's wallet" model. That way the people who actually use the system are the ones who pay for it; and if they won't pay for it, then clearly we don't need it.

Galt-in-Da-Box said...

This is ANOTHER government boondoggle: there is some fatcat/group of fatcats who are owed a favor by the dear Mayor. If it goes through, he benefits.
It's not unlike the same old stretches of perfectly good road that get ripped out & rebuilt after an "infrastructure" bill is passed by Congress.

Joe said...

Brain Fart. Fixed.

The problem when they do the ballot initiative it will not say "are you willing to have your taxes increased to pay for mass transit?" No one would vote for it. People are all for a bus line and light rail, as long as they think someone else is paying for it.

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