“The push for rail is not about relieving congestion or getting people from point A to point B, but is rather about developing high-density communities that qualify for HUD affordable housing grants, EPA grants for supposedly improving air quality, Department of Transportation funds for mass transit, and Department of Energy grants for supposedly reducing dependence on oil”
Archive for rail
Did Mike Sasso (Tampa Tribune Jan. 23, 2012) ask San Diego Metropolitan Transit what it did to their budget when the Padres moved from the mixed-use QUALCOMM stadium they shared with the Chargers, to a new ballpark in downtown San Diego?
And…the Chargers are still talking about also moving out; leaving that stadium mostly unused, but with a terrific, light-rail station.
Maybe the seven West Central Florida counties that make up the focus of TBARTA’s Master Plan should get together with The Rays to determine the most economically advantageous location FOR EVERYONE for a new ballpark?
U.S. 41, 19 and 301 are looking pretty good, and there is lots of cheap land available. People commute on I-75, 275 and 589, but they don’t live, shop, work or go to school there.
Forget I-4, (not a true “interstate” anyway) which is only good for trips to visit The Mouse.
<IMHO> Fred Jacobsen
Before the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority gets too giddy and all self-congratulatory about spending $4 million of our tax dollars to “discover” the freight rail corridor that runs between downtown Clearwater and Tropicana Field; did anyone spend $1.98 to get CSX on the phone and ask if they would be interested in even talking about any light-rail use of their right-of-way?
The County might have better luck getting Fred Marquis to support putting tracks back on his Pinellas Trail.
<IMHO> Fred Jacobsen
Gow Fields says federal money for rail transit would be like federal money for an airport, with private enterprise operating the planes.
The big question is; if the feds pay for the tracks and stations, will private enterprise pick up all the costs of buying, operating and maintaining the trains?
Will they also pick up the costs of replacing those stations, trains and tracks when they wear out?
The average price of a plane ticket is about $300. How much were those tickets between Tampa and Orlando going to cost without taxpayer subsidies and how many riders would there be?
Since 1979, thirty-five airlines have filed for bankruptcy.
Not a favorable comparison Mr. Mayor.
<IMHO> Fred Jacobsen
- High-speed rail: Your questions answered – Orlando Sentinel (news.google.com)
A re-look into funding transit starts with what you all expect the goal of transit to be.
A goal to increase property values along a transportation route is quite different than wanting to help move people between home and jobs.
Do we “need” rail for ED/TOD if BRT better serves the riders at much less cost?
But you first have to ask yourselves, if transportation is so important, why has not a single bus been put on the road from the CIT money?
The Penny-Tax failed because there was a disproportionate cost/benefit ratio among the various taxpayers.
Someone living in rural Hillsborough County would not have received a proportional benefit as would the owner of a city block adjacent to a new rail station.
First determine who benefits, how much and why from any transit enhancements, and fund it accordingly.
If the City of Tampa has the most to gain, the city should pay more than the rest of the county.
Tampa business and property owners have the most to gain; unincorporated Hillsborough has the most to lose. If enhanced transportation makes ED or TOD more attractive in Tampa, it must come out of the loss in attractiveness elsewhere in the county.
If the riders of transit value the enhancements, they should pay for that value and it shouldn’t be “subsidized” by non-riders, especially for rail that is too distant for most taxpayers to use. Government subsidies are notoriously inefficient because few public employees who administer the public money have any real sense that this is THEIR money. Just like when we seem to think that Federal grants are “free” money, forgetting that we also pay Federal taxes. Ask the State of Florida if they have any spare change to help fund this.
Protest if you will the feelings in unincorporated Hillsborough that “rail” has been a foregone conclusion from the start; but you have to deal with it. It doesn’t play well to hear that Tampa citizens need a shiny new train because they will refuse to ride a stinky bus, and then go on to say that taxpayers in unincorporated Hillsborough will be “well served” by (stinky) buses. Remember, the BOCC is charged with administering the entire county of Hillsborough, and not favor the City of Tampa. That is why Tampa incorporated, to deal (mostly) independently with their own civic needs.
So then, next steps: work up some pie charts.
One, to determine what segments of the community would benefit from what transportation enhancements and to what degree.
Two, to determine what sources of revenue are appropriate to each of those segments.
If the proportionate benefits do not come close to equaling the proportionate costs for those segments, you will fail once again to get much widespread support.
Include in your calculations the TOTAL costs of transit: building, operating, maintenance AND replacement costs (everything wears out eventually).
You will be woofing up the wrong tree if you start to think that extending the CIT uniformly across the county will get any more support than the failed penny-tax.
What if Hillsborough County Board of Commissioners Chairman Higginbotham’s recent about-face support of light-rail for downtown Tampa has more to do with getting re-elected than about getting people from one place to another?
What if county “Economic Development”, “Transit Oriented Development”, “Rail Initiatives” , “Regional Transportation”, “New Business Development”, “Tampa Ballpark” and “Job Creation” were instead just about personal wealth opportunities for local landowners, developers, lawyers and investors?
What if this was all about taxpayers paying to tear down housing in low and moderate income neighborhoods so that developers can come in and build “affordable housing” with mortgages from banks and other lending institutions that are guaranteed by federal government-backed “Ginnie Mae” mortgage-backed securities, bought by County tax-exempt bond issues which are then bundled into publicly traded securities for the benefit of private investors?
What if no one but a few knowledgable insiders understand this?
<IMHO> Fred Jacobsen
- A Guide to Understanding Ginnie Mae Bonds (brighthub.com)
- Mortgage-backed securities are offering decent returns (usatoday.com)
We are all waiting for CSX to announce their new Regional Commuter Rail System. It is rumored that the freight-rail company has learned that there might be more profit in transporting people than goods.
The tagline is:
“Haulin’ ass, grass or gas –
nobody rides for free”
The CSX plan is to sell and/or lease their existing heavy-rail lines to communities throughout the eastern seaboard and pass them off as “commuter” lines. CSX is estimating that this will net them about a bazillion dollars AND it will allow CSX to continue to use these same rail lines for freight, at NO cost to them.
The first step in this new CSX Regional Commuter Rail System is to convince the various effected communities to accept the notion that existing CSX rail lines will best serve the riding public in each locale.
The second step is to get the communities to understand that this will be a great way for them tear down housing along “the other side of the tracks” and call it Transit Oriented Development (TOD). Hillsborough County Florida has been working on this but instead refers to it as TAMPA Oriented Development.
Lastly, the displaced low-income renters along the rail TOD will then be qualified for first-time, low-income home buyer mortgages. These mortgages get bundled into tax-exempt, mortgage-backed securities guaranteed by Federal taxpayers. Fortunes will be made by banks, developers, builders, brokers, attorneys, security sellers, title companies and investors.
Unfortunately for the county governments involved, these mortgage-backed securities will no longer generate transfer fees each time the properties are subsequently sold. Oh, and foreclosure irregularities will tie up courts for years.
Although the downsides of this investment scheme have cost counties billions of dollars, just think how profitable it will be for those people who already have too much money.
<IMHO> Fred Jacobsen