Instead of building the Silver Line, Metro should have fixed the system it had
Or perhaps it should have invested in cheaper, scalable bus transit, until the self drive car can revolutionize transit.
More after the break.
"The Silver Line was Washington’s most expensive transportation project ever. Fewer people than projected now pay to ride — even worse than we discovered last year. And its terminus is still miles from Dulles International Airport and it doesn’t stop in a transit-friendly walkable community — and, no, not Tysons Corner. But, hey, those big real estate developers have sure made bank."
This is the outcome of pretty much every rail transit project, smaller than claimed ridership, higher costs, huge taxpayers costs, low or no reduction in traffic congestion, and the real estate developers, politicians, and high level bureaucrats make bank!
" Average daily ridership had been projected at 25,000 a day, according to the final environmental impact statement. In reality, the line has so far peaked at 17,000 riders within a year after its opening, according to Metro.
More recent data are worse. Fairfax County Transportation Department director Tom Biesiadny, in a June 7 memo to the county Board of Supervisors that cites Metro data, said ridership fell to 12,128 entries in January, a 7 percent drop from the previous year."
Dismal, and if we were to go back further in time there is no doubt the ridership estimates would have been much higher. The game is to slowly lower the estimates as the construction approaches completion so as to make the last estimate close to actual ridership. That way they can claim they are meeting expectations.
"But despite the lower than projected ridership, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova says critics have it all wrong, especially the ones who say that Metro should have found a more favorable time to build the line.
“My question would be, ‘What would have been the time?'” Bulova said.
For starters, Metro and its regional partners did not just decide to build the Silver Line in the past decade or so, when Metro’s woes began to show. Planning began at least as far back as Dulles Airport’s opening in 1962, she said, and it would take years to identify funding, secure a right-of-way and conduct environmental impact studies. There was no way of knowing that when the moment arrived for expansion, Metro would have found itself in such disrepair elsewhere."
“If only you could anticipate what would happen 40 or 50 years from now,” Bulova said.'"
No, this is completely wrong. It is well known that rail has a lifespan of 30 years, and that nearly every transit rail operator will be unprepared for this end of life event, and instead will do exactly what WMATA did in attempting to ignore the problem, and once it is obvious ignoring it won't fix it, then applying costly "bandaid" fixes to the system in an attempt to cover up the systemic collapse. Bandaids are perfect for a small laceration, not for massive existential injuries. Even the bigger bandaid solutions planned by WMATA won't alter the problem, the system is in total failure, it is complete refurbishment and refit or nothing.
The right time would have been never. Bus is cheaper, and doesn't have a 30 years life stage that once ended, will require about the same amount of money to rebuild the system as it cost to initially build the system.
Essentially, the rule of thumb for rail must be, if the locality cannot afford to build the track, and must rely on federal funding, it will not be able to afford to rebuild the track in 30 years, and so the project should be abandoned for something less costly.
"Plus, the Silver Line has not been a drag on Metro’s resources, Bulova said. It has been funded by Congress, by Virginia, by Fairfax County and other regional partners, not to mention special tax districts in her county and federal loans that do not have to be paid back for at least 10 years, she said. And it has already sparked enormous redevelopment and commercial activity along its route."
Right! The thing is free! It costs us nothing, and the free redevelopment has been wonderful, just think of all the new tax money that will bring! This is one of the big problems in public funding of transit, the politicians have no idea about basic things like accounting, or costs, or, well, anything but graft, and corruption. The transit planners like it this way, it gives them more control. These two groups have a Unicorn world view.
Obsolete Rail Line Opens in Virginia | The Antiplanner
Bulova left many fact unsaid:
"Facts such as:
The transit agency that will operate it, WMATA, wanted an affordable bus-rapid transit line;
The cost doubled after the decision was made to build it;
Silver Line trains will displace Orange and Blue line trains that are now running full;
WMATA can’t afford to maintain the system it has, much less one that is even bigger;
Perhaps most disturbing, as transportation writer Jim Bacon notes, the Silver Line represents a “massive wealth-redistribution scheme” from users of the Dulles Toll Way (whose jacked up tolls are paying most of the cost) to Tysons property owners (who get to build higher density developments because of the new transportation). The only way to build rail transit is to leach off of other people, which is not a good way to run a society. (Before someone says it, a lot of roads have been built and maintained solely out of tolls.)"
This wasn't even about what the transit agency wanted, it was about what the politicians wanted, more time at the graft, and corruption tough.
The Antiplanner has this to say from a CATO report pending at the time he published his article:
"The report concludes that cities that don’t have rail should stick to buses. Cities with fewer than 40,000 downtown jobs (such as St. Petersburg, which has just 30,000) don’t even really need a rapid bus system. Cities that already have rail, except for New York and possibly Chicago, should plan to substitute rapid buses as the rail lines wear out.
This is what private operators did before the government took over transit–and in fact what most government agencies running transit did until Congress started handing out subsidies to new train construction. The arguments for rail today are just plain silly (“If you build rail you’ll get economic development–if you subsidize the economic development”) and are really aimed at making a few property owners and rail contractors rich at everyone else’s expense."
Preview of Cato Paper
The deal-making behind the Silver Line
The Art of the Deal | The Antiplanner
Outside of New York, rail is fail, outside of a few very big cities even BRT is fail. Stick with bus. Soon, the self drive share ride car will revolutionize transit. Then we can subsidize only the poor, giving taxpayers relief.