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(Back to Light Rail page)
Here's another letter to the 'Statesman' (below) attacking Capital Metro and light rail. A rebutal follows.
 

Light Rail Costs
Letter appearing in the Austin American-Statesman, June 18, 2000
 
 
The Los Angeles subway worked out to $31,250 per rider. I can't wait until Austin can join other world class "mass transit" cities.
 
In November, we have the chance to vote on light rail in Austin. The first leg is projected to cost a mere $44,324,000 per mile. Who knows how much per rider? Los Angeles was off in its ridership estimate by more than 100 percent. Before we build light rail in Austin, we need to know if it would be cheaper to simply issue BMWs to interested riders.
 
STEVEN HASKETT, Austin
 

A reader's rebuttal to the Statesman letter
Haskett is totally wrong. Los Angeles subway is a SUBWAY, not light rail.
 
The cost of $44,000 per rider is no more than the cost of an automobile plus the road under it and parking for it. HOWEVER, the light rail moves people at less cost per passenger-mile, with less pollution and much less reinvestment as the auto wears out every ten years.
 
The investment per rider is a perjorative term meant to deceive unless it is figured over the life of the project, in which case it is much less than auto cost if done right.
 

Rebuttal by Light Rail Progress to the Statesman letter
 
"The Los Angeles subway worked out to $31,250 per rider. I can't wait until Austin can join other world class "mass transit" cities."
 
Charlatanism. A subway is not being proposed for Austin.
 
Nevertheless, for large cities like LA, even subways compare favorably in cost to what would be needed to provide roadway capacity, street capacity, and parking facilities for the automobiles diverted to transit.
 
In November, we have the chance to vote on light rail in Austin. The first leg is projected to cost a mere $44,324,000 per mile. Who knows how much per rider?
 
The writer is citing extremely rough and preliminary estimates done to enable CapMetro's board to decide whether more detailed study (the current EIS/Preliminary Engineering study) was warranted.
 
Furthermore, that $44 million/mile includes not only route construction, but right-of-way acquisition, vehicles, and maintenance facilities for those railcars. Now compare comparable arterial and freeway construction. Central-city freeway construction in cities of Austin's size - including right-of-way acquisiton - typically runs $20 million per lane-mile. The initial light rail starter line will provide capacity equal to at least 2, and more likely 4 freeway lanes. Then add in the cost of extra feeder street and arterial expansion, parking facilities, and other costs that would be needed th\o handle those automobiles. Then add in the cost of the equivalent number of automobiles and the maintenace facilities for those cars.
 
Light rail may sound expensive, but it saves money.
 
Los Angeles was off in its ridership estimate by more than 100 percent.
 
More "numbers voodoo". What line in LA? Red Line subway" Blue Line light rail? Or what?
 
What "estimate" is being cited? The ridership forecast for the Blue Line, for the service and system configuration finally built, was LOWER than the ridership that has resulted. LA's Blue Line light rail system has EXCEEDED the original ridership forecasts.
 
Before we build light rail in Austin, we need to know if it would be cheaper to simply issue BMWs to interested riders.
 
A very familiar canard. This is pure chicanery, and decives readers with the presumption that all the cost of a car is in the purchase of the vehicle -- ignoring operations, maintenance, road construction, road maintenance, road traffic operation, parking construction, parking maintenance ... and on and on. (See our deconstruction of this "buy everyone a car" argument.)
 
What about traffic accidents (which kill as many American EACH YEAR as died in the entire Vietnam war)? What about reducing ozone and other forms of air pollution?
 
And just where does this writer think all those extra BMWs will be put? Who's going to provide the roadway and parking space? What neighborhoods, parks, business real estate, or other valuable land is going to be used for thse facilities?
 
Certainly roads are and will be needed. But doesn't common sense dictate that better alternatives, such as light rail, should be applied where they can work? Don't Austinites deserve a choice?
Back to Light Rail page





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