Conservatives and mass transit: is it time for a new look?

Railway tracks. (NOTE: Uploader says, in uploa...

Empty tracks. Empty promises.

The pro-rail Moving Hillsborough Forward crowd like to point to articles by Weyrich, Lind and the Free Congress Research and Education Foundation to support a proposed Hillsborough County sales tax increase. Here are some other articles and quotes from these sources that might give you a different perspective: 

Conservatives and mass transit: is it time for a new look?
By Paul M Weyrich and William S. Lind

Government subsidy has resulted in inefficiencies in transit operations, and conservative ideas such as regulatory reform and public-private partnerships have the potential to provide better transit at less cost to the taxpayer. 

Publicly run transit monopolies are inefficient and rarely responsive to demand. As a result, they serve ever smaller markets at ever higher costs. Their subsidization has, therefore, increased considerably. 

Currently, no major transit system in the U.S. makes a profit or covers all expenses from the farebox. However, some do come close. METRA’s line on the Burlington Northern covers 87.8% of its expenses from fares; privately-operated bus service in Las Vegas covers 62.7%. In contrast, some systems cover barely 10-20% of their costs from fares – and this includes some modern light rail systems. 

Support those transit agencies which make the widest use of public/private partnerships. Because quality transit stimulates economic development in the areas it serves, it is reasonable to expect those who will benefit to help fund the transit system. 

The free market is quite capable of providing adequate transit technology, as it has for more than a century. 

Favor those transit systems which propose, not a government-owned and operated project, but a line or even a whole system that would be privately owned and would receive a government subsidy set at a not-to-exceed level 

Does Transit Work? A Conservative Reappraisal
A Study Prepared by the Free Congress Research and Education Foundation 

For transit to count as “available,” it should be something people can walk to. If they have to take a low-quality transit system to get to the high-quality rail transit, many potential riders get filtered out. 24 More will drive to a train station or metro stop, assuming adequate parking is available. But for transit really to work, you have to be able to get to it on foot. 

When people travel, they want predictability, security and sameness. Put bluntly, they want to be sure that they won’t have to sit near someone who stinks, dresses or behaves bizarrely, or projects an air of menace. The private automobile assures them of that. Unless public transit can do the same, they will drive.

Let the voters decide.

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