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Stop That Train Part II: A Reply to RTD

IP-5-94 (March 1994)
Author: Stephen Mueller & Dennis Polhill

PDF of full Issue Paper
Scribd version of full Issue Paper

Executive Summary: In March 1993, the Independence Institute published an Issue Paper titled Stop that Train, which contended that the plans of the Regional Transportation District (RTD) to build a Light Rail Transit (LRT) system throughout the metro area were flawed. The Issue Paper suggested that expanded use of special traffic lanes for busses and carpools (HOV lanes) would be a more cost-effective method of improving mass transit.

RTD published a 28-point reply to the stop that Train paper, arguing that the issue paper made numerous factual errors. The RTD response is a commendable effort to engage in factual debate, and plays a constructive part in the process of public education on the light rail issue. But although RTD makes some constructive points, many of RTD’s defenses of metro-wide light rail are unpersuasive. This new Independence Paper, Stop that Train: part II, analyzes and responds to each of the 28 points made by RTD.

In Short:

  • Ignoring all facts to the contrary, RTD claims the cost per rider will be $2.50, lower that any LRT system built anywhere.
  • Though RTD publications and RTD board members stated that the MAC light rail line was to be used as a demonstration, RTD now claims that the notion of a demonstration line was not “official policy.”
  • RTD assumes that the federal government will provide 80% of the construction funding. However, Washington has provided only 44.5% of the cost for other similar programs around the nation; and the pressure to balance the federal budget suggests that federal transit subsidies will nor increase, and may decline.
  • When all that facts are analyzed, special lanes for busses and carpools are more cost effective that light rail. When Houston abandoned light rail for bus and  high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, Houston Mayor Bill Lanier explained, “HOV lanes cost us less per mile that rail by a good bit, and they move more people … not only transit passengers but also those people able to double up or triple up in cars to form car pools.”