Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Oakland Airport BART Rail Extension--We're Doomed!

Headlines today (Oct 7, 2009):

Oakland Council Now Supports BART Extension Plan

Two quotes from the CBS 5 story will suffice for the moment:

"The 3.2-mile extension to the airport has been a point of contention for a while. The voter-approved project has grown from $130 million to over $522 million."

Got that? Fourfold increase. And it hasn't been started yet. Any bets on how soon it will pass one billion?


"Project opponents, who include many public transit advocates who favor bus service over rail service, claim BART could save hundreds of millions of dollars by using a rapid bus service instead. They estimated that such a service would only cost between $45 million and $60 million. "

And that? Given a choice between $500 million and growing, or $60 million (a tenth that amount) -- our solons leap for the big-bucks project! No hesitation! It's all about "keeping the Oakland Airport competitive" (Why?)

Two more justifications, equally idiotic: First, jobs will be generated - during construction and to run the thing. That's our new golden calf now -- if it generates jobs, even if they cost taxpayers millions per head, we have to do it. Second, the construction industry (source of electoral funding) and construction unions (source of electoral funding and endorsements) will be delighted.

Oh, and the money is already at hand -- part federal tax moneys (that the feds obviously can't afford, but no matter) and part a chunk from a bond measure the voters were dumb enough or deluded enough to approve a few years ago -- for "transportation projects." If it had been phrased, "So we can turn $60 million projects into $600 million boondoggles," who would have voted for it?

Judging from recent elections, maybe that's not such a good question.

But the real issue - not mentioned, of course, by our solons approving the project (of course) and also not mentioned by the reporters or editors (or apparently thought of, since it hasn't been mentioned in any of the recent coverage) -- What will it cost us to *run* this thing once it's built?

None of these rail projects pay for themselves. Even if $6-each-way tolls don't discourage traffic, chances are this project like all others will prove a permanent drain on the budget of whatever agency gets stuck with it -- BART, apparently, which is already deep in the hole despite tolls and a big chunk of everyone's real-estate taxes each year. Nobody thinks of this; nobody mentions getting stuck with the eternal tab; nobody mentions it, not even the press that's supposed to be paying attention; certainly not any of our political class.

So they've just voted for another appallingly expensive (and growing) rail project, for a trivial task that could have been taken care of less glamorous but much cheaper bus, and brushed aside all considerations of sticking future generations with the bill.

Your local politicians at work. Thanks, kids! (And the feds, too, who encourage such nonsense with their "mass-transit" funding out of their budgets we can't afford either.

We're doomed.

1 comment:

Christopher Roberts said...

Can't imagine you have a lot of fellow libertarians in the Bay Area, but I am with you 100%.

On an unrelated note, what is the best way to contact you directly. -Chris Roberts