Monday, September 15, 2014

The true cost of Austin rail emerges


"Dishonest scales are an abomination to the Lord,
But a just weight is His delight."
Proverbs 11:1

Wow:
Read much closer, however, and it becomes clear that the $1 billion will pay for only one small piece of that rail web — the part shown in lighter green, for $600 million of borrowed money — and those seven yellow circles for the other $400 million. And building the rail part will require at least another $600 million from the federal government.

All of this is no accident, of course. Getting to that map on that mailer — also posted on the advocacy’s group’s website at www.letsgoaustin.org — has been a three-year process.

The city of Austin and its junior partner Capital Metro had foundered trying to build popular support for a Central Austin light rail system when, in 2011, they called in experts from other cities with light rail on the ground. What Austin needed, they said, was a long-term transit vision. Get that done properly, they said, and maybe you can sell the initial piece of rail.

....

Turns out that transit vision has been refocused a couple of times, adding those extensions and altering an earlier Mueller extension to end it at that neighborhood rather than continuing north to U.S. 290. The latest version, largely reflected in the flier map, was approved by the Austin City Council and the Capital Metro board this summer, officials tell me.

Well, OK. So, that’s the current vision version, which has the distinct political advantage of showing rail going out in every direction, eventually.

But if Proposition 1 supporters are going to argue — as they increasingly are — that the 9.5 miles of light rail and its 18,000 rides a day in 2030 are just the beginning and that you have to start somewhere, then it is equally valid to note that the overall system will be costly. How costly? And who will pay?

....

We might eventually get another 100 miles or more of rail in greater Austin, as that map shows. And it could cost well above $6 billion to get it, though the feds surely will chip in some of that. That doesn’t include finding the money going forward to pay annually for train engineers, mechanics, managers, fuel, electricity, track and signal repairs, and, in time, replacement train cars.

So, yes, Proposition 1’s 9.5 miles of rail is only a start. So is the $600 million Austin taxpayers are being asked to pay.
Read the whole thing here.

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