Rail Runner Ridiculousness

I just love how advocates for massively-subsidized transit will obfuscate reality and throw up smokescreens in order to defend their favorite boondoggles. A case in point is the article in today’s Albuquerque Journal by Ike Benton and Chris Blewett. The article is downright silly in so many of its statements in response to Mark Mathis’s recent, excellent column on stopping the Rail Runner that it almost doesn’t deserve a response, but the issue is sufficiently controversial, that I’ll respond below. In the meantime, if you want to find out more about the ways in which transit advocates attempt to sell these projects, regardless of their impact on taxpayers, attend our meeting with transportation expert Randal O’Toole on Thursday, May 6.

First and foremost, regardless of the exact costs of construction, both sides agree that the Rail Runner cost in excess of $400 million to build. 100% of this money comes out of taxpayers’ pockets. This is a huge expense that Benton and Blewett do not honestly account for. After all, a highway lane would be paid for by gas taxes (a user-fee paid by motorists);

Then, Benton and Blewett make the argument that the “real” congestion problem is not BETWEEN Albuquerque and Santa Fe, but WITHIN the two cities. Fair enough. So, why would we build a commuter rail train (the RailRunner) between the two cities? After all, the Rail Runner only has only three stops within each city. The train runs for more than 100 miles between Belen and Bernalillo. Why didn’t we spend the money — far less would be necessary — on bus rapid transit or something that will actually target our “real” congestion issues?

Then, there is the issue of other cities and their rail boondoggles. Benton and Blewett imply that it is inevitable that cities embark on these projects at some point in the future. The fact is that the rail projects in these other cities are every bit as wasteful and unnecessary as the Rail Runner. Unfortunately, there is a transit lobbying interest that holds a great deal of sway in pushing these projects forward. If you want to find out more about this transit lobby (and arm yourself with ways to stop it), I cannot stress how important Randal O’Toole’s presentation is.