Light Rail Short Snippet, Bullet Points

COST Commentary: This posting is for those looking for very brief summary points regarding the proposed light rail being presented by the City of Austin as Proposition 1 on the November ballot for voters to consider.

More detailed presentations on each of the snippet subjects can be found in articles on the COST site, by clicking on “News Articles,” including, but not limited to:

Austin Citizens Should Reject Urban Rail – 6 Major Reasons

Oakey: Why You Should Vote Against The Rail
Bonds On Nov. 4th

Los Angeles Rail Ridership is Declining: “Prius Cheaper.”

Cheaper to Buy New Cars than Build Light Rail

Portland Transit Implodes: Trains, tracks and systems wear out

Denver transit-oriented developments reflect planners’ misguided mania for density

Rail Bond Vote: Greatest Risk in History and Historic Tax Increase

Austin’s Urban Rail has Many Unanswered Questions

24 Key “Guiding Principles” for Austin Area Transportation and Mobility

Austin’s Mission is Missing!

Austin’s Declining Affordability and Urban Rail

Project Connect’s Proposed Austin Urban Rail is Misguided

If You Think Austin Needs Urban Rail, Read This Report


This first section is, “A Fair Message to Voters from concerned citizens,” for voters to consider based on their position on key issues:

If you support money for roads, you have no guarantee that will happen if this proposition passes. You should vote No.

If you support money for roads, you deserved a chance to vote for them, a chance you do not have on this ballot: You should vote No.

If you support rail for $600 million, you have a dilemma, because, it will cost $1 billion to get this rail project funded ($600 million + meeting the legal condition of $400 million for roads). If you think that is unaffordable: You should vote No.

If you do not believe this light rail will reduce congestion, cost-effectively: You should vote No
If you want a different route or plan for rail, this isn’t likely to happen in the next decade if this proposition passes: You should vote No.

If you think big, expensive decisions like this should be made in an open process and be part of a comprehensive and affordable transportation plan: You should vote No, if for no other reason than to teach the City Council (and others) a lesson.

If you think, regardless of whether it’s for rail or road, increasing debt on local taxpayers by $1 Billion is unaffordable (especially considering taxpayers will have to pay interest on top of the $1 billion):
You should vote No.

If you think you should know the City’s planed rail expansions, costs, and future tax increases, before approving this initial plan: You should vote No.

“If you prefer to have bond propositions separated, as they always were for decades in Austin, then: You should vote No.”

This section is primarily about the light rail’s: funding and risks, very high costs, very low ridership, congestion creation, current and future tax increases

This rail is projected to cost $1.4 billion. This is $147 million per mile or almost $28,000 per foot, excluding bond interest costs, significant supporting road costs and probable overruns (average is 40% for early estimates).

– Rail Proposition 1 is for the largest bond/debt commitment in Austin history and will double the City’s general obligation debt, preventing additional debt for many years. It will tie the hands of the new 10-1 council.

The City states this rail is “just the beginning” and there is “much more to come.” No plan with cost, schedule and tax increases has been revealed to citizens.

– This Light rail is projected to carry a total of 18,000 (0.2%) of the regions more than 9 million daily people trips in 2030, making the rail inconsequential and no help to traffic congestion.

– Light rail is not cost-effective. Three improved roads (183A, 290 E., MoPac being done) will have 6 times the lanes/track miles and serve 40 times the number of daily rail trips. Total road costs are the same as the rail (today’s dollars)

– The City has not revealed it will spend, perhaps, hundreds of millions of tax dollars before it knows whether the U.S. Government will pay matching funds for rail.

– It is highly unlikely the U.S. government will fund Austin’s rail because of severe budget issues and there is a long line of funding requests ahead of Austin.

– Light rail operations will force Cap Metro into debt resulting in higher costs with reduced bus service and higher fares, hurting those who most need transit.

– Light Rail is projected to attract 3,250 new daily transit riders taking 6,500 trips in 2030 at capital costs of almost $500,000 per new rider. Other riders come from buses. It would be cheaper to give all new riders new car and gas each year for 25 years.

– At Austin’s estimated current growth of 70 new cars per day, this $1.4 billion light rail’s “10,000 cars off the road daily in 2030” would be totally offset by Austin’s daily new car growth in about 50 days. So, $1.4 billion would delay traffic by 50 days. with today’s car growth level It will be fewer days because 10,000 is exaggerated. By 2030, it would only take about 33 days to offset the train investment as more cars will be arriving daily.

– Light rail will increase congestion in central Austin by using car lanes and with a 4 mile “rail barrier,” which all vehicles cross to/from central Austin just west of IH-35.

Light rail will continue to increase congestion on major roads throughout the city, as the rail siphons funds from projects which can help mobility.

Austin transit ridership has not increased for 15 years and population has grown 56%. MetroRail has not changed this trend. U.S. transit has been stagnant for 57 years.

– Total transit ridership in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Austin is less today than 15 years ago; after spending many billions on rail and being among the 10 fastest growing major U.S. cities.

-The Dallas regions light rail is often hailed as a strong success. Facts are different: Dallas has 3.6 times Austin’s population, but only 2 times Austin’s transit ridership with 3.3 times Austin’s operating costs. Only 1.5% of Dallas’ workers use transit, the lowest percentage of all major Texas cities (2.3% in Austin), after billions have been spent on light rail.

Transit is the fifth most used form of work commuting behind driving alone, carpools, working at home and biking/walking.

Every official committee in the past 20 years has chosen a different proposed route for rail because a young growing city needs flexible, rubber tire transit.

Light rail has the highest cost and least flexibility of urban transit modes and a young city, like Austin, needs cost-effective transit with flexibility.

– Light rail will not produce added tax base because people come to Austin for jobs and not for trains: Taxpayers subsidize all rail riders and therefore pay for new rail jobs in construction and operations.

– More than 99% of people’s passenger miles in this region are on roads which offer the greatest mobility for private, public transit, shared, hired, commercial and emergency vehicles.

– Recent road upgrades have been 80-100 times more cost-effective than rail, serving more people with a much broader spectrum of users including much enhanced transit.

– More than 3 years ago, the Mayor established 30 questions to be answered before proceeding with rail and few have been answered but the city is proceeding with the greatest risk of taxpayer funds in history.

– The construction of this rail will cause the failure of many small businesses on the route as has been experienced in many cities.

– The $400 million proposed for roads do not contain a single mile of pavement to relieve congestion on Austin’s busiest roads. Costs support rail needs, road studies, overpasses, transportation center and an access to the airport.

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