Light Rail Now! - The Track to Better Urban Livability
Home Button Features Button News Button Events Button Facts Button Myths Button About Us Button Contact Us button Links Button Search
San Antonio LRT (simulation)
(Graphic: VIA)

Public Transport Industry Issues (Articles Index)

Rail Systems Directory
Planned/Under Development

camera logo
Photo Gallery

LightRail-Now Discussion Group

Freiburg LRT
Streetcar Systems

Dallas streetcar cameo
Heritage Trolleys

Campaigns logo
Rail Transit Political Campaigns

BRT bus
"Bus Rapid Transit" Analyses

Monorail & "Gadgetbahn" Analyses

Related Links

Light Rail Now Project can be contacted at:

Light Rail Now!

Light Rail Now! NewsLog

Produced by the Light Rail Now! Publication Team

This news feature provides an ongoing Weblog of particularly significant developments in public transportation and rail transit.

28 June 2010

San Antonio:
County approves plan for streetcar starter line

San Antonio — Plans for a light rail transit (LRT) streetcar-type system took a lurch forward on Feb. 9th when Bexar County commissioners (the governing body for the county) "unanimously approved a plan to build a 2.2-mi. (3.5 km) streetcar starter line along North St. Mary's Street", according to a report from Rail Transit Online (RTO, February 2010) posted on the APTA Streetcar and Heritage Trolley website.

The initial north-south line, with a projected capital investment cost of approximately $90 million, would be routed on Broadway and South Alamo Street from Josephine Street to South St. Mary's Street.

As the RTO report further indicates, project funding would involve $25 million hoped for from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), another $20 million from VIA Metropolitan Transit (the regional transit agency), $17 million each from the city and the county, and $10 million from the private sector. "Engineering and design would require two years followed by another 24 months of construction." If funding is secured, the starter line could possibly be opened in 2014.

VIA's board of trustees has actually approved two proposed streetcar routes, "along with authorization allowing staff to apply for a $25-million federal grant under a newly-enacted FTA policy encouraging rail circulator systems" according to the news report, which goes on to note that "The full system would include an eight-mile (12.9 km) east-west line and a 10-mi. (16.1 km) north-south route."

The second line "would run east-west along East Nueva Street between the AT&T Center and Our Lady of the Lake University, serving the downtown area."

"This is a game-changer for our community" declared VIA board Chairman Henry Munoz. "The time is now for mass transit."

Light Rail Now! NewsLog
Updated 2010/06/28

More on San Antonio Public Transport Developments

More on Rail Transit Development...

More on Streetcars...

1 June 2010

Las Vegas Monorail files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection

Las Vegas — Troubles continue to mount for the Las Vegas Monorail – the city's privately owned 3.9-mile elevated tourist line connecting several casinos and the Las Vegas Convention Center in the famous Strip district.

On January 13th, the line's private operator, Las Vegas Monorail Company (LVMC), filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, with officials laying blame on the current economic crash, leading to a drop in ridership as fewer people have been visiting the tourist-oriented city. "The current economic downturn, including a 30 percent decline in convention traffic to Las Vegas, has increased the financial strain on the Monorail, like it has with every other tourism-dependent Las Vegas company" said President and Chief Executive Curtis Myles, quoted by the Las Vegas Sun (Jan. 13th). However, Myles assured the public that the line would continue to operate.

According to an article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal (Jan. 15th),

Ridership has never met expectations since 2004, when the elevated train began providing service between the Las Vegas Convention Center and Strip hotels. Because the train's popularity was underestimated, the company has failed to pay off the $650 million in construction and start-up costs. In 2000, the state's Department of Business and Industry awarded the company the tax-exempt bonds in a three-tier structure with the company promising revenue after the monorail met the start-up costs. Monorail representatives told the state it anticipated about 20 million passengers a year who would pay a fee of $2.50 per trip. Its Web site says it has carried 27 million passengers in five years. Last year, the train carried 6 million passengers and brought in $27 million in fare box and advertising revenues. In prior years, ridership figures hovered between 7 million and 8 million.

LVMC CEO Myles told the Sun that the monorail had carried 40 million riders (rider-trips) since opening. However, that would still average less than 8 million a year – about 40% of the original projection.

In its documents filed in federal Bankruptcy Court, LVMC indicated debts of $500 million or more owed to hundreds of creditors, according to the Sun article.

While the paper notes that "The monorail has suffered from a poor local image", it nevertheless acknowledges that there have been "frequent calls to expand its service to McCarran International Airport."

CEO Myles affirmed that "We have long expressed the importance of expanding our system to the airport and other points within the resort corridor", but added, "It is necessary that the company first get through this process to address its current capital structure before moving forward with those plans."

However, there remain daunting financial obstacles to any such expansion of the system, says the Sun, pointing out that the LVMC hasn't even paid off its original investment loans. Citing an LVMC board member, the paper notes that "The company hasn't raised enough money from fares to pay off the $650 million in construction and startup loans floated to build and start operating the expanded system...."

In an brief analysis of the latest monorail developments, LRN Project senior technical consultant Edson L. Tennyson concludes that

Since roads are free, there is no way the monorail company could fulfill its promise to pay for everything out of the farebox. It was a dishonest scam promotion that deserved to fail.

However, this does not prove monorail is not sound, as no light rail or commuter rail system could do without subsidy, either.

We need to look at that $25 million annual fare revenue from 6 million annual passengers and about 18 million annual passenger-miles. That is $1.39 revenue per passenger-mile, enough to make a profit on MetroBus in Washington; but MetroBus charges "only" 33 cents fare per passenger-mile, well above average. San Diego Trolley would almost break even on MetroBus fare per mile.

Clearly, monorail has no economic justification, not because it went bankrupt, but because its operational costs are so high and passenger attraction so low.

The Las Vegas Monorail, like several other recent monorail proposals and projects, was portrayed as a much more feasible and desirable alternative to light rail transit (LRT) by a segment of that loose grouping of rail transit opponents sometimes wryly characterized (by LRT supporters) as the "Anything But Light Rail (ABLR)" amalgam. Among that sub-group, the Las Vegas Monorail was expected to become a model of the supremacy of monorail technology, both technologically and financially.

However, the monorail's major technical problems quickly dispelled the notion of technological superiority. And, over the past several years, the monorail's purported financial performance advantages have been steadily discredited by its deteriorating financial condition.

Now the monorail's bankruptcy tends to corroborate assessments of monorail feasibility expressed in previous LRN reports.

For example, discussing a spate of problems with the Seattle monorail projects (which led to its eventual demise), our article Seattle: Monorail project's financial uncertainty sets off alarms cautioned that

...these recent developments tend to provide additional evidence that monorails are not the "miracle transit" solution their promoters would have the public believe – and in fact are as vulnerable to common problems as any other major transit project.

And, in a 2005 article on earlier financial problems, Las Vegas Monorail extension plans in doubt after FTA nixes funding, LRN warned:

The latest travails of the Las Vegas Monorail seem to represent an object lesson in the need for realistic expectations in public transport projects. While the monorail's current average ridership of 37,500 per day would be considered excellent for almost any new North American rail or guideway transit service, the problem in the Las Vegas monorail case seems to be unrealistically high expectations – the Las Vegas monorail has consistently been portrayed as something of a "miracle", supposedly poised to break the "norm" of subsidized transit operations by attracting so many riders (with automated operation at an unusually high fare level) that it would make a "profit" and pay for its ongoing operational costs, plus paying back its private investors. ...

In their crusade to disparage light rail and other forms of standard-rail public transit – especially modes operating on the surface – monorail enthusiasts have repeatedly brandished the Las Vegas monorail as an example of a technology with some kind of miraculous capability. Meanwhile, many experienced transportation professionals have consistently voiced skepticism. Now, it appears, what would otherwise be regarded as, indeed, a phenomenal success in terms of ridership and high revenue, is being branded a failure. This is unfortunate, but it seems to represent an example of what happens when enthusiasm eclipses reality.

Despite bankruptcy and its other troubles, it's conceivable that the Las Vegas Monorail will be able to remain in operation, and perhaps even eventually claw its way back to some degree of financial stability. But there is nothing in its experience to suggest it's a worthy model for other American cities, and, in our view, certainly not a superior alternative to surface light rail transit and regional passenger rail systems.

On the contrary, the Las Vegas experience strongly corroborates our consistent contention that monorail technology is an expensive, technologically inferior, and far less flexible "fixed-guideway" transit mode compared with standard rail systems – especially surface LRT – and that urban transit planners would be well cautioned to scrutinize any proposed monorail alternative on the basis of real-world experience (e.g., operating monorails in Las Vegas and Jacksonville, and Seattle's Monorail Project devacle), rather than the fantasies and promises of monorail promoters.

Light Rail Now! NewsLog
Updated 2010/06/01

More on Las Vegas Public Transport

More on Monorail issues

19 May 2010

Facing budget crunches, transit agencies wrestle with service cuts, fare hikes

As St. Louis County voters prepared go to the polls in April to decide whether to approve a sales tax increase to fund the region's Metro light rail transit and bus system, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch focused on the issue of the nationwide budgetary crises engulfing virtually all of America's major public transit systems.

On April 4th, the paper provided a rundown of several other major US transit agencies facing financial difficulties, and how they're coping, in an article titled "Budget crunches: Making ends meet", which noted that "Transit agencies across the country have taken steps to shore up their operating budgets."

Examples included:

• Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority — "Considering a 30 percent cut to bus and train service to overcome a $120 million budget gap."

• Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority — "Cutting its operations by 12 percent [recently] in order to finish the year with a balanced budget and put it on a sustainable path in the future."

• Chicago Transit Authority — "In February, CTA reduced bus service by 18 percent and train service by 9 percent to shore up a $300 million funding shortfall this year. The agency also laid off 1,057 employees."

• New Jersey Transit — "Planning to raise fares by 25 percent to help stem a projected $300 million budget deficit in the upcoming fiscal year."

• TriMet (Portland, Oregon)— "Proposing reductions to its bus and MAX light-rail service, a salary and hiring freeze, and a five-cent fare increase to address a $27 million budget shortfall. During the last 1˝ years, TriMet has reduced its staffing by more than 120 employees."

In this regard, it's worthwhile to reiterate what we said in an earlier article on the budgetary crises engulfing the US urban transit industry, America's economic slump drags down public transit ridership:

Public transportation critics ... are seizing the moment to attack public transit and rail transit investment by portraying each agency's budgetary crisis as somehow the result of incompetent public-sector bureaucracy and what they contend to be the supposedly inherent financial infeasibility of public transport altogether. Typically, this is accompanied by recommendations to divert public transport subsidies into further roadbuilding subsidization.

However, there's abundant evidence underscoring the fact that virtually all public-sector agencies and services have been seriously damaged by the national (and worldwide) economic slump. Indeed, according to several reliable reports, a new tidal wave of financial crisis among state and local public agencies is about to hit - and these agencies­ include state governments, city and county governments, school districts ... as well as public transit authorities.

It's well to keep this perspective in mind as one evaluates the individual cases cited by the Post-Dispatch, that seem to corroborate it.

Light Rail Now! NewsLog
Updated 2010/05/19

More on Cost, Budget, & Financial Issues ...

More on Policy & Political Issues ...

Toward a "New Deal" for Public Transport ...

2 May 2010

Light rail streetcar project advances with jolts of state, local funding

Cincinnati, Ohio — The city's streetcar plan was given an implicit green light by voters just this past November (2009). (See Cincinnati: Streetcar plan, and future of all rail, to be decided in November 3rd vote and Cincinnati: Rail Transit Wins at Last!) But, as we routinely caution public transport advocates, any big transit dream remains in the "soap bubble" stage unless and until it receives an infusion of that essential stuff called money to make it actually happen.

Well, within the past couple of months, Cincinnati's streetcar project has received two good jolts of exactly that critical resource, in the form of initial funding commitments from both the State of Ohio and the Cincinnati City Council.

On March 19th, Cincinnati's streetcar project "was selected by the State of Ohio's Transportation Review Advisory Council (TRAC) to receive $15 million in funding to advance the project", according to a report by CincyStreetcar Blog (19 March 2010).

TRAC was created as a way to objectively evaluate projects across all modes of transportation. Each project, whether it is road, transit, aviation or freight, is scored using criteria that can be applied equally across all modes of transportation.

Out of a possible 100 points, the Cincinnati Streetcar scored an 84 – the single highest scoring project in the State of Ohio.
[Emphasis added]

simulation Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory indicated the state funds would improve the project's prospects: "We are confident that having the State as a partner in the project will be helpful in obtaining federal funding in the upcoming months. We should all thank Governor Strickland for becoming a partner on this project. He clearly understands the transformational effect that the streetcar will have on Cincinnati."
[Simulation of streetcar running south on Walnut: Cincy Streetcar]

A month later, on April 19th, the Cincinnati City Council voted to allocate $2.58 million to the proposed streetcar project – "the largest city contribution to the effort so far" according to a story in the Cincinnati Enquirer (19 April 2010), which explained that these funds would be allocated to "planning, design and other expenses."

Councilmembers were sharply split along a political divide over the rail transit issue, with Chris Monzel and Leslie Ghiz, "the two Republicans who are also running for Hamilton County Commission", voting against the allocation. However, their fellow Republican Charlie Winburn abstained, explaining he was on a "listening tour" to learn more about public attitudes on the streetcar, as the Enquirer related his position.

"Right now it's time to put up or shut up" declared Laure Quinlivan, one of the council's six streetcar supporters.

The Enquirer's report further illuminates the gaping political chasm between liberal and moderate supporters and far-right opponents of the rail project:

Groups including CincyPAC, the young professionals political group, and Cincinnatians for Progress urged people to show up in support of streetcars. About 70 people were in City Hall chambers for the meeting.

Council members by a vote of 6-2 killed a proposal by Chris Monzel to kill future streetcar funding for what he dubbed the "trolley folley [sic]." Only fellow Republican Leslie Ghiz supported his motion.

Roxanne Qualls called the motion "ill-advised and ill-timed" and said the city's streetcar investment would be paid back 14 to 1.

With planning and design funded, the City is moving to finance the heavier investment costs of the streetcar project. As the Enquirer explained,

Officials hope committing money would show those who control federal transportation grants that Cincinnati is serious about building the project. One of the reasons federal officials said the city didn't get federal money in February was that Cincinnati lacked a detailed financial plan that included local dollars.

In a major step toward such funding, City Manager Milton Dohoney introduced three ordinances that would authorize a total of $64 million in bonds – "roughly half the $128 million needed for the first phase, from downtown to Uptown", according to the newspaper account.

Light Rail Now! NewsLog
Updated 2010/05/02

More on Cincinnati Public Transport Developments

More on Rail Transit Development...

More on Streetcars...

25 April 2010

Oklahoma City:
Light rail streetcar plan takes shape, with opening scheduled for 2020

Oklahoma City — Details on the plans emerging for a modern light rail transit (LRT) streetcar starter line for this city's downtown were reported in an article in The Oklahoman on 8 December 2009.

The streetcar system, plus a public transit "hub" (intermodal interchange center) constitute a "mass transit initiatives" package totaling $130 million out of the $777 million approved for the city's MAPS 3 urban improvement package. (See Oklahoma City: Streetcar plan gains support and Oklahoma City voters approve funding for light rail streetcar.)

As The Oklahoman reported,

A modern streetcar is the key piece of MAPS 3's transit component. The city plans to build five to six miles of track for the streetcar, which would be quieter, more comfortable and more efficient than traditional streetcar systems. The project also would include a large public transit hub, which would connect the streetcar with the city's bus system and current and future rail lines. The transit hub would open the door for the city's efforts to get federal funding for regional commuter rail and possibly high speed rail linking the city with Dallas, Tulsa and other major cities.

In the meantime, controversy has arisen over the timing of downtown street projects (in what is known as Project 180) and the installation of the streetcar starter line (a component of the MAPS 3 package of projects), as reported in a 9 Feb. 2010 article in The Oklahoman.

As the paper explains,

Oklahoma City officials have spent the past few months trying to prepare downtown workers for what is expected to be the worst traffic nightmare in decades with most streets to be torn up and rebuilt over the next four years.

Streets and sidewalks throughout downtown will be torn up over the next four years as the city begins Project 180. Some of the same streets will be ripped up again to make way for a future streetcar system. ...

But some also worry about whether more headaches will follow with the same streets to be torn up all over for the installation of a streetcar system.

The article quoted perfectly rational comments from downtown architect Anthony McDermid, "who brought up the issue at a recent strategic planning session with merchants, planners and property owners."

"In a perfect world you want to integrate the streetscapes with the streetcars" McDermid observed. "It seems that would at least be the preferred sequence."

"In a perfect world you want to integrate the streetscapes with the streetcars" McDermid observed. "It seems that would at least be the preferred sequence."

In a rational world, perhaps – but apparently not in a modern urban environment with conflicting political agendas and bureaucratically determined timetables anchored in concrete.

Assistant City Manager Cathy O'Connor and Assistant Public Works Director Laura Story seemed to acknowledge McDermid's point, but insisted the two separate projects are independent of each other and "will remain on two very different timetables", according to the article.

Assistant City Manager Cathy O'Connor and Assistant Public Works Director Laura Story seemed to acknowledge McDermid's point, but insisted the two separate projects are independent of each other and "will remain on two very different timetables", according to the article.

It seems that Project 180 (the one that will overhaul downtown streets well before the streetcar project) involves a commitment to Devon Energy, including the creation of a new tax increment finance district "funded by future property taxes from the company's new tower."

"We do have this agreement to do streets around Devon's development by the time their building is done – and those could not have waited" O'Connor told the newspaper.

"Pending city council approval and timely utility relocation, Story expects the first wave of Project 180 construction to start in May with crews tearing up Robinson, Park, Walker and Reno Avenues" related the article.

In contrast, the streetcar project, despite enthusiastic voter endorsement, is proceeding on a much slower track. For example, noted The Oklahoman, "no schedule is set for MAPS 3 and won't be until a citizens oversight board is created by the mayor that can investigate the timing of the project."

Also, the streetcar isn't the first MAPS 3 project in line – it's further down the queue, and besides, it depends on the location of other pieces, such as a new convention center.

And with such tasks still ahead, O'Connor and Story say they don't expect streetcar construction to begin until 2020 - six years after work is to be completed on Project 180.

Using a stretch of Sheridan Avenue between Robinson and Hudson as an example of expected scheduling, Story said the street likely will be torn up for up to 18 months for Project 180 with traffic in the area being constricted to just one lane.

Story expects the streetcar work on that same block, if chosen for the route, to take only three months with less than one lane being closed for the job.

Fortunately, there appears to be a morsel of rationality at the planning level: "Story said city engineers are doing all they can to design the Project 180 improvements in such a way that there will be minimal disruption for the streetcar work."

Nevertheless, these lofty and arcane bureaucratic intracies are unfortunately well beyond the grasp of most of us common folk, who still question why the same streets must be ripped up twice for major projects within a few years of each other. As the paper recounts, "With all this in play, some downtown workers like courier Travis Smith still wonder why Project 180 can't be delayed until work starts on the streetcar system."

Light Rail Now! NewsLog
Updated 2010/04/25

More on Public Transport in Oklahoma City

More on Streetcars...

More on Rail Transit Development...

12 April 2010

St. Louis:
At last, voters approve major funding for public transit

St. Louis, Missouri — It's been an arduous struggle, lasting well over a decade, but at long, long last, public transport advocates have won a huge victory to secure stable, viable funding for Metro, the region's primary public transportation agency.

On 6 April 2010, voters in St. Louis County approved Proposition A ("Prop A"), authorizing a half-cent increase in a sales tax that supports Metro's regional transit system. The measure was approved by well over 60% of votes cast.

Metro representatives had indicated that the half-cent sales tax would bring in approximately $75 million to $80 million from the county. In addition, voter approval also triggers a provision in a measure previously passed in 1997 authorizing a similar tax in the city of St. Louis, generating an additional $8 million. [West End Word, 31 March 2010]

Particularly amazing is the fact that voters approved this regional tax increase for public transit in the midst of the painful economic hardship of the most severe economic crash since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

As a March 19th article in the suburban Webster-Kirkwood Times recounted,

This year's vote has taken place under the cloud of the severe setback of a previous voter rejection of funding in 2008 that has decimated the region's transit service. As a March 19th article in the suburban Webster-Kirkwood Times recounted, Voters narrowly defeated a similar half-cent measure in November 2008. Failure of Proposition M resulted in layoffs, a fare increase and public service transit was cut by a third. The Missouri legislature approved a one-year appropriation of $12 million to reinstate some of those cuts, but that appropriation expires in May.

The recent voter approval gives a green light to the region's 30-year mobility plan, called "Moving Transit Forward" – described in a Feb. 24th article by the St. Louis Globe-Democrat as "a cooperative effort between East-West Gateway, the region's planning agency, and Metro, the region's major public transportation provider" which "sets out priorities for Metro in managing the region's transportation system."

A key priority is restoring light rail, bus and other services that have been cut in recent years due to budget constraints. The plan also sets out goals for expanding bus and light rail, adding new transportation options, adding amenities and new technologies to attract customers.

During the campaign, as a March 31st article in the West End Word reported, that Prop A had

...racked up an impressive list of more than 200 endorsements, including several local universities, preservation groups, tourist attractions and many mayors and cities within the county. Its supporters, including Advance St. Louis and the Greater St. Louis Transit Alliance, have launched a high-profile campaign, with regular TV commercials touting the economic benefits of mass transit.

According to the Webster-Kirkwood Times article, Citizens For Modern Transit, a nonprofit group that promotes rail transit, raised $400,000 to fund TV commercials and other advertising, with a simple slogan: "Transit: Some of us use it. All of us need it."

Light Rail Now! NewsLog
Updated 2010/04/12

More on Public Transport in St. Louis...

More on Transit Initiative Campaigns...

More on Rail Transit Development...

8 April 2010

DOT OKs "livability" factors for assessing major transit investments

Over at least the past three decades, the Texas Association for Public Transportation (sponsor of the Light Rail Now Project) has been a leading critic of the fallacies and other weaknesses inherent in the federal "cost-effectiveness index" and associated methodology for evaluating whether local rail transit projects qualify for federal funding.

As we noted in our article USA: Fix FTA's New Starts program, transit industry pros tell Senate

For years, the Light Rail Now Project and a handful of other transit-advocacy forces have been voices in the wilderness, decrying the absurd procedures and regulations of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) that have turned the agency's New Starts rail transit development program into more of a bottleneck than an efficient facilitator of rail transit startup funding. Now, the complaints and calls for change seem to be growing from a whisper to a clamor, with top industry figures speaking out on the issue.

Some of those bottlenecks and other weaknesses may be diminished in new policy initiatives undertaken by the US Department of Transportation's Federal Transit Administration (FTA).

In what a January 13th FTA media release called "a dramatic change from existing policy", US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood proposed "that new funding guidelines for major transit projects be based on livability issues such as economic development opportunities and environmental benefits, in addition to cost and time saved, which are currently the primary criteria."

In its report on the policy change, the New York Times (Jan. 14th) noted that "Transit advocates have long complained that such cost-effectiveness tests have kept many projects from being built – especially light-rail projects...." In addition, those stripped-sown criteria in turn "...made it much harder for transit projects to win federal financing than highway projects."

The problem with the Bush-era policy, claimed the reporter, was that "streetcars are not fast", and thus couldn't meet the new benchmarks which emphasized time savings.

But that explanation, unfortunately, garbled and misrepresented several distinct issues.

For one thing, streetcars are just one of the forms of light rail transit (LRT); the more prevalent form is what might be called "rapid light rail" – interurban or semi-metro-types of LRT that typically operate in exclusive alignments at top speeds up to 55-65 mph (about 90-105 km/hr). The problems has been that these types of LRT projects have been disadvantaged mainly because of the FTA's quirky investment cost evaluation rules – not because of travel speed or "commute-time" issues.

And, as a public transport mode, streetcars are not inherently that slow. The issue here is that, so far, they've been deployed primarily in circulator functions in densely occupied, high-traffic urban core areas where speeds are indeed comparatively slow. However, streetcars typically have potential top speed capabilities of as much as 40-45 mph (about 65-70 km/hr), and some applications currently in planning or design may take advantage of this potentially higher running speed. (See Streetcar Systems & Rapid Streetcar: Concept, Systems, and Development.)

In any case, according to the Times,

The Obama administration will make it easier for cities and states to spend federal money on public transit projects, and particularly on the light-rail systems that have become popular in recent years, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Wednesday.

Administration officials said they were reversing guidelines put in place by the Bush administration that called for evaluating new transit projects largely by how much they cost and how much travel time they would save.

As the Times further notes,

Proponents of streetcars credit them with reviving cities as new housing, stores and businesses are built near the lines. They see streetcars as a step toward reversing suburban sprawl and reducing dependence on foreign oil.

In a January 13th summary in Streetsblog, Elana Schor explained that the policy change

...will rescind a 2005 rule that elevated "cost-effectiveness" above all other criteria used to determine whether a local transit project can receive federal funds. Cost remains a factor in the "New Starts" process, but is no longer given more weight than factors such as congestion relief.

Schor's article quotes the assessments of several influential US political leaders involved in transportation policy matters.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (an Oregon Democrat) – a strong rail and public transport advocate and the key force behind the original Small Starts program – warmly applauded the policy move, declaring:

Rescinding this Bush administration restriction will unleash funding for important transportation projects across the nation, jumpstarting local economies and creating good jobs. This means quicker and better funding for streetcars, light rail, and bus projects that improve transportation, revive local economies, and reduce global warming pollution. After much hard work with the administration and my Congressional colleagues, this is an exciting outcome that will create better and more transportation opportunities.

Schor noted that House Transportation Committee chairman Jim Oberstar (Minnesota Democrat) and his "top lieutenant", Rep. Pete DeFazio (also an Oregon Democrat), "quickly issued a statement hailing the reversal of the Bush-era mandate, which is blamed for slowing down transit expansions in several major cities."

While applauding DOT's policy move, Oberstar emphasized that more work lay ahead, declaring, "Now we need increased investment dollars to follow this reform, so that we can move forward with transit projects that relieve congestion, reduce emissions, increase our energy independence, and promote more livable communities across the country."

"We must all continue to work together toward a long-term authorization bill that makes transit options available to more people" Oberstar added.

However, any "long-term authorization bill" to expand public transit and provide "increased investment dollars" to follow through on DOT's implicit encouragement of rail projects would certainly require Senate cooperation; and, in the emerging "government spending is evil" mentality overtaking Washington, any such cooperation for public transit investment seems an increasingly difficult proposition.

Light Rail Now! NewsLog
Updated 2010/04/08

More on Policy & Political Issues ...

More on Rail Transit Development...

NewsLog for 2010: Jan.-Mar.

NewsLog for 2009: Oct.-Dec.

NewsLog for 2009: Jul.-Sep.

NewsLog for 2009: Apr.-Jun.

NewsLog for 2009: Jan.-Mar.

NewsLog for 2008: Oct.-Dec.

NewsLog for 2008: Jul.-Sep.

NewsLog for 2008: Apr.-Jun.

NewsLog for 2008: Jan.-Mar.

NewsLog for 2007: Oct.-Dec.

NewsLog for 2007: Jul.-Sep.

NewsLog for 2007: Apr.-Jun.

NewsLog for 2007: Jan.-Mar.

NewsLog for 2006: Oct.-Dec.

NewsLog for 2006: Jul.-Sep.

NewsLog for 2006: Apr.-Jun.

NewsLog for 2006: Jan.-Mar.

NewsLog for 2005: Oct.-Dec.

NewsLog for 2005: Jul.-Sep.

NewsLog for 2005: Apr.-Jun.

NewsLog for 2005: Jan.-Mar.

NewsLog Archives

Light Rail Now! website


All website material © 2000-2010 Light Rail Now Project (unless otherwise indicated)