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What I Would Have Said

on the Jeff Ward show yesterday had I not had to bail out while on hold. Short form because I'm writing this as I'm complaining about a bogus EZPass charge from last November that the lovely folks in New Jersey are just now trying to stick me with.

Dear Carole, a few points:

  1. Yes, the commuter rail line sucks. Where have you been?. Yes, they're projecting just 1000 riders per day.
  2. No, Rapid Bus isn't going to get 10,000 riders. They're going to get probably 90% of the current ridership of the #101, and perhaps 50% of the current ridership of the #1, with a few people from other buses in the same corridor. The number of people likely to ride Rapid Bus who aren't currently riding other buses in this corridor could be counted on the fingers of one hand. Why is Rapid Bus such a loser? Read the blog. Service that doesn't offer any real reliability or speed improvements over the existing #101 is logically not going to attract very many new riders.
  3. No, I don't believe you when you say you only care about the poor bus riders and then immediately switch gears and argue for cutting Capital Metro's tax rate. The way to help the transit dependent around here is to make sure middle-class people have some investment in the transit system - by building services that choice commuters will use. Otherwise, voters are prone to actually cut the tax support for the system - which in the long-run inevitably hurts those transit-dependent riders.
  4. Yes, Austin is plenty dense enough for rail. Austin has three very dense employment centers within close proximity of each other which could have been directly served by rail in the 2000 plan, on a line that travelled through dense residential areas and then out to suburban park-and-rides - a formula which has worked like magic everywhere it's been tried. The Feds, who tend to underestimate ridership, estimated we'd have between 37,000 and 46,000 riders on that line.Yes, this is worth it; most of these tens of thousands of riders are people who weren't previously riding the bus - and you could not have added freeway capacity for that many people for less money. To say nothing of the arterial roadways leading into downtown or the UT area, all of which are over capacity as well.

Dear Jeff, an additional two points:

  1. The Houston light rail line did, indeed, have quite a few accidents - right after it opened, several years ago. Since then, it's grown to be the second most heavily ridden light rail line in the country in proportion to miles covered (around 40,000 per day) - providing the momentum for a massive expansion of the system all over town, approved overwhelmingly by voters. It, in fact, likely returns a higher percentage of its tax dollar investment than do highway projects in that area (one of which was recently studied and found to return 16 cents in gas taxes for every dollar spent on that road).
  2. I'm not that hard to find. Seriously. Aren't you tired of hearing the same anti-tax anti-transit crap? How about talking to a guy who's strongly in favor of transit but still hates this commuter rail line? Wouldn't that be a neat change?

Dear Jeff's callers, an additional point:

  • The hoary old argument about buying each passenger a car (or in one case, running limos for them) ignores several realities: the roads are full; and the people who would be willing to take a train to save time aren't as willing to take a limo (or a bus) that's stuck in the same traffic their car would have been, See, it's a trade-off; you can get people to trade the convenience of having their own car for the day if you give them a faster and/or more reliable trip, but if you just give them the same trip, except even less reliable, they're not going to take it.

Dear people who supported the Red Line who fell for the "foot in the door" bullshit:

DO YOU SEE WHAT YOU DID? It's getting trivially easy for people to lump all rail projects, including the far more worthy CAMPO TWG plan, in with this 1,000 rider debacle - just as somebody predicted it would. People in Austin are getting the message "rail doesn't work" instead of the message "we need more and better rail". Too bad you didn't listen back in 2004.

OK THANKS BYE.

This entry was posted in the following categories: Austin , Don't Hurt Us Mr. Krusee, We'll Do Whatever You Want , I Told You So , PS: I am not a crackpot

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Comments

At this point there can be little doubt: Even before opening, before the inevitable stories on the minuscule ridership, the Red Line has been a scorched-earth PR disaster that makes the average citizen about as likely to support an expansion or new rail line as they would be to support a Bin Laden statue on auditorium shores.

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