Public, Private Partnership for Transit?

HNTB is a highly paid transit consultant for Hillsborough County. In their Spring 2010 InTransit newsletter there was an article about  Public, Private Partnerships (P3).

The article points to what Denver is doing with P3 transportation to partner with a private company or consortium to Design-Build-Operate-Maintain-Finance the East Corridor, Gold Line and commuter rail maintenance facility projects under a single contract.  RTD will retain all assets while shifting much of the risk of providing the projects to the private partner or consortium.  In return, RTD would make lease payments to the private partner, allowing the agency to spread out large upfront costs over a longer period of time, much like a 30-year mortgage versus a 15-year mortgage.

Why isn’t HNTB suggesting this for funding the Hillsborough County 2035 Long Range Transportation Plan? A quote from that newsletter might help explain why:

“The potential partnership must offer the probability of good return on investment for all parties concerned, including the private sector. It is, after all, a business transaction.”

From everything I have read, not only would our county transit program not make a profit for a private investor, the system would in fact require a taxpayer subsidy of from 66% to 91%. In the real world this translates to a VERY LARGE loss each year.

 If it is prudent for private investors to stay away from investing in the Tampa Choo-Choo, why is it not also prudent for taxpayers to stay away from “investing” in it through a $200 million/year sales tax increase?

If so-called light rail will bring benefits to certain segments of Hillsborough County, perhaps those who benefit the most should pay the most.

  •  We are told that property values will go up along the rail lines and stations. Let those property owners “invest” in rail.
  •  We are told that the public will want to ride rail  rather than less expensive bus transit. Let the riders pay for what it costs them to ride the alternative they choose.

The public is tired of Big Government and Big Tax Increases.
Over 12% of Hillsborough residents need jobs now, not new taxes
.

<IMHO> Fred Jacobsen

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