The News & Observer pens an editorial today telling Triangle residents that now is the time for transit to get going and for all you folks out there in Wake, Durham and Orange counties to go out and vote yourself a tax increase.
The crux of the argument for the trains lies in this paragraph:
In the Triangle, the millions raised from such a tax, and from a possible minor property tax hike and a bump in car registration fees, could put 300 more buses on the road and invest in building tracks for electric-powered trains. The positive effects would be enormous. There would be less congestion on I-40, other major arteries and their feeder roads. Pollution would be reduced. Growth would be focused around transit stations, curbing the urban sprawl that has lengthened commutes and shortened tempers.
Ok, let’s dissect this bunch of baloney.
1. Apparently, $3+ billion in new taxes would be an “enormous positive effect”? Huh? Under which theory of economics does massive tax increases and a transfer of wealth from the poor to the wealthy equate to any sort of positive effect. If anything, the tax increases will result in an enormous negative effect harming economic growth. Why is it that NYC, Detroit and every other big city is struggling? Maybe the enormous tax burden those cities have?
2. It won’t reduce sprawl. If anything it will create more sprawl as residents flee high tax counties (Wake, Durham, Orange) to lower tax counties (Alamance, Lee, Granville, Johnston, Franklin) and be willing to put up with a longer drive to escape high taxes. Again, basic economics that seems to be lost on the editorial board.
3. It won’t reduce congestion. To quote Wake County Commissioner Tony Gurley: “”I don’t expect the transit plan to create a significant reduction in traffic on the roads.”
The most optimistic estimates by the Triangle Transit Authority (TTA) is for 25,000-30,000 riders per day (one way). At most, this will take 3 percent of the cars off the road. That reduction will be short lived as the growth rate of the Triangle will replace those cars taken off the roads after a year or two.
5. Transit is simply a subsidy for the rich. Why raise the most regressive taxes (sales, property) on all residents for a train that will benefit a very select few?
Now is absolutely not the time for transit, and I’m not convinced that it will be anywhere in the near future. It has nothing to do with the simplistic “love of cars” that the N&O tries to argue. It’s about economics. And transit just doesn’t make any economic sense.
For more on this see my piece: Higher Taxes, No Congestion Relief.
For alternatives to this train fascination, see our Transportation Blueprint for NC.