IP-1-2009 (January 2009)
Author: Randal O’Toole
Sixteen Deceptions about FasTracks
Deception 1: RTD has always built its light-rail lines on budget.
The Truth: The Southwest lightrail line cost 28 percent more, and the Southeast line cost 59 percent more, than initial estimates.
Deception 2: RTD can build FasTracks for $4.7 billion.
The Truth: RTD’s current estimate of $7.9 billion may still be understated.
Deception 3: Private railroads will fully cooperate with the FasTracks plan.
The Truth: RTD’s failure to obtain agreements from the railroads before the 2004 election has so far increased the cost of FasTracks by more than $300 million.
Deception 4: Sales tax revenues will grow at 6 percent per year forever.
The Truth: While longterm growth may average 6 percent, RTD’s failure to allow for the likelihood that growth in some years would fall well short of 6 percent has led to a $2.8 billion revenue shortfall.
Deception 5: Public-private partnerships will save 30 percent of the cost of building rail.
The Truth: Light-rail lines built with publicprivate partnerships went an average of 60 percent over budget.
Deception 6: RTD will reduce the sales tax to cover operational costs as soon as it is done paying the cost of building FasTracks.
The Truth: RTD will never reduce the tax because it will have to rebuild, replace, or rehabilitate rail lines about every 30 years.
Deception 7: Denver needs FasTracks to reduce congestion.
The Truth: Denver-area traffic grows by more every five months than all the cars FasTracks is expected to take off the road.
Deception 8: FasTracks is fast.
The Truth: Since light rail will average 24 miles per hour, and commuter trains 41 miles per hour, RTD’s plan should really be called “SlowTracks.”
Deception 9: Rail transit saves energy and reduces air pollution. Denver-area traffic grows by more every five months than all the cars FasTracks is expected to take off the road. Denver’s light rail uses more energy and generates more greenhouse gases per passenger mile than the average SUV. Sixteen Deceptions about FasTracks 16 Ways RTD Deceived Voters About FasTracks
The Truth: Denver’s light rail uses more energy and generates more greenhouse gases per passenger mile than the average SUV.
Deception 10: Rail transit is more cost effective than other alternatives.
The Truth: Every analysis RTD did of FasTracks corridors found that bus-rapid transit was far more cost effective than rail.
Deception 11: One rail line can carry as many people as four or more freeway lanes.
The Truth: Despite costing far more to build per mile than a freeway lane, Denver’s light-rail lines carry less than a quarter as many people as a typical Denver-area freeway lane.
Deception 12: FasTracks will do more to relieve congestion than new highways.
The Truth: Even if FasTracks is built, the state and region will need to spend billions on highways to accommodate traffic.
Deception 13: RTD will have plenty of money left over to improve bus service.
The Truth: After paying for FasTracks, RTD won’t have enough money to keep bus service at current levels, much less increase it.
Deception 14: FasTracks proponents can legitimately submit “no on FasTracks” statements to the county blue books.
The Truth: A Colorado judge said the FasTracks Yes! campaign was “morally reprehensible” for sabotaging the opposition statement in the voters’ guide.
Deception 15: Modern cities need light-rail transit.
The Truth: Twenty-first century cities deserve something better than late nineteenth-century technology.
Deception 16: RTD will use eminent domain only for “a primary transit purpose.”
The Truth: RTD is using and encouraging cities to use eminent domain to take land that it plans to sell or give to developers to build new housing and commercial developments near FasTracks stations.