Friday, December 4, 2009

East End Business Owners Not Happy with MetroRail

I just received this e-mail in my Inbox from the Harrisburg ad Hoc Business Coalition:
Harrisburg business owners fear impact of Metro rail expansion;
asks mayoral candidates to commit to new election

At a press conference set for Friday, December 4, an ad hoc
association of Harrisburg business owners will call for a new
referendum on the Metro rail plan...."We have seen what Metro has done to Main Street in Midtown. Few of us will survive if this plan goes forward," states business owner Luis Clavijo. "If Metro puts light rail on this street it will be make a wasteland of the primary Hispanic business thoroughfare in Houston. We don't want it and we don't need it. Buses are better."

The HAHBC believes that Metro should confess to the public that it does not have resources to complete the five new lines and that it is cutting bus service to help pay for rail. The members believe that Metro will be forced to drag out construction as it searches for additional funds. The coalition fears a wave of bankruptcies will sweep through the East End community.

The coalition calls for Metro to admit it is facing a shortfall, halt construction and announce a bond proposal that reflects the true cost of rail expansion. The members asks the candidates for mayor to pledge to schedule a new election on the rail plan.

[the cost for five rail extensions is estimated to exceed $4 billion, including the 10 mile University line which Metro announced this week will cost $1.5 billion. That is more than triple the $1.23 billion estimate published before the 2003 referendum. Metro assumes the federal government will cover half the cost, leaving Metro with a two billion dollar obligation. Since Metro voters only authorized $640 million in 2003 Metro lacks the money to build the new lines.]

Metro has tripled the cost of its rail plan and lacks funds to finish the project.

I note that there are huge discrepancies between Metro's cost projections and those of the FTA. Couple that with Metro's long history of stonewalling public requests for information you end up with a system that few trust, and even less want.

Yes, it's akin to beating a dead horse, but there's plenty of blame to go around in this mess, from Metro, to ChronBlog, to the InterLeft, (all of whom pushed a silly at-grade rail system who's main goal was to decrease available transportation options) to Republican groups & the Bloggers O' the Right (Who often refuse to listen to, or approve of, anything that's not bus-driven, centered exclusively around the automobile, or too limited in scope to be of much use. Lost in all of this was a transit plan that expanded bus service, did a good job moving people around the various activity centers of Houston and increased the total number of travel options without being punitive toward the most prevalent. (Which is still, and always will be the personal automobile)

That doesn't mean that trains don't play a role. The should, as in certain cities in Europe, play a large role in moving the populace from A to B. There's also a place for at-grade transportation, primarily in the form of street cars, which are required to obey the same traffic laws as automobiles. Commuter rail is another area where trains have promise, as well as high-speed Inter-City lines with few (if any) interim stops. Unfortunately, since the people who are pushing these solutions don't (as a rule) have the software or inclination to make pretty maps, their debate points are often snowed under a media avalanche who's bought into the Metro vision lock, stock and barrel.

The Government we deserve.

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