Plans for light-rail and commuter rail keep chugging along in the Triangle — even as other cities keep running into problems with their mass transit.
Will North Carolina heed these warnings before spending billions on transit white elephants?
Let’s look at recent news reports about transit headaches at three other major cities.
In New York City, railroad track repairs will mostly shut the Penn Station rail hub for a number of weeks, and a “summer of agony” looms for hundreds of thousands who depend on those commuter lines.
Actually, I lived in NYC for a couple of years, and I think the problem will afflict the whole city, not just rail commuters. If the commuter rail lines are disrupted, even more people will try to cram into the city’s jammed and creaky subway trains and buses, or will drive into the city.
I’d say it’s a nightmare, but nightmares end when you wake up. Every morning and evening this summer will be ordeals for people who have to travel to or through the Big Apple — or just live there.
Meanwhile, Washington D.C.’s Metro system has been plagued by so many delays and problems that one website began a “Metro Daily Fail” feature on which harried travelers could share images of garbage piled at the tracks, interminable delays, train trips that could have been completed faster on foot, and more.
The Washington Post even published an ominously headlined story: “When will things stop catching fire on the Metro?” The answer, even worse, was: not soon.
On the West Coast, the Bay Area’s BART system has faced problems such as:
- At least two failures of its emergency lighting system. How would you like to be stuck in a train station at night with hundreds of other people if the lights went out?
- An incident in which dozens of rampaging teens took over a BART train and robbed riders, which was not that big an anomaly: Crime in the system rose 22 percent compared to the previous year.
- The malfunction of a test-train meant to preview improvements, raising doubts about how successful those measures will be.
- A lawsuit contending that BART and a software developer secretly and illegally collected personal information from thousands of passengers anonymously reporting crimes using the agency’s own mobile app.
Proponents of mass transit like to display shiny paintings of what glitzy new transit lines are supposed to look like. But those transit advocates never show riders crammed into stalled rail cars, terrified of an accident, or fearing muggers.
The inescapable problem with mass transit is that it is for the masses. A whole region becomes dependent on one system, and when it has problems, a whole region suffers. The Penn Station problem will like the cars of 600,000 people breaking down for several weeks.
If your car breaks down, you can fix it, and thousands of other people won’t be inconvenienced.
If a mass transit system breaks down, there may be little or nothing you can do about it.
And it’s a system dreamed up by politicians and their cronies, built by the lowest bidders, run by bureaucrats, and maintained by union workers who don’t fear being fired if they do bad work.
Mass transit projects in the Triangle raise the specter of the whole area being paralyzed by a transit strike or malfunction, and vulnerable to a host of problems, including slow, crowded and uncomfortable commutes.
Keep that picture in mind when you next see propaganda for mass transit in North Carolina.