Comment 101024

By StephenBarath (registered) | Posted May 06, 2014 at 11:15:22

I’m not going to suggest I think that economic development is not within the purview of a municipal government. A vibrant and prosperous core benefits city residents, even those who never visit it. It is in a lot of cases worth public investment to achieve and maintain that.

That having been said…are we talking about transit, or economic development? I guess it’s both. You can have excellent transit using buses. A lot of places achieve this. Gill says that you can provide comparable service with BRT as LRT, and he’s right: it can provide frequent service between civilized stations where boarding is quick because platforms are raised and fares have been collected at station entrances rather than the door to the vehicle. It can still be flexible in ways in which rail cannot: if a bus breaks down in the bus right-of-way, other buses can temporarily bypass it in mixed traffic; if called for, vehicles can proceed past the line’s terminus to serve local routes. I don’t think he’s wrong about those things, and I don’t think they are contradictory as claimed.

The issue has been studied, and LRT was the choice. It was not the choice exclusively because it serves riders better, however: it was also the choice because it is believed that it will spur economic development. It seems like there is plenty of evidence to support that. I would suggest, however, that much of the positive impact of the benefit of that would accrue to property owners along the line.

I would also suggest that those are the people who should pay for LRT, or more specifically the difference in cost between BRT and LRT. I say this as someone who lives along the line: the most appropriate way to fund LRT would be an aggressive capture tax on the unearned value increase on properties near the LRT, or some kind of special assessment. This is assuming that BRT can provide excellent transit service (I don’t really think anyone believes it can’t), and that the incremental investment in LRT is for sound reasons of economic development, as seems to be the case.

“The people now lining up to push BRT over LRT, including mayoral contender Brad Clark, don't actually promise they would support the $300 million or so it would take to build it…” You are dead right here, and this is the real problem. There seem to be no real transit advocates around here, whose goals are strictly to provide better service. A lot of these BRT “proponents” right now are those who want no rapid transit at all, as you say.

I find this to be an unfortunate situation: if we want better transit, evidently we have to disingenuously claim that buses are just plain no good. Meanwhile, all of the city’s transit users ride buses and most will continue to do so once LRT is built on the B Line. There are a lot of parts of the city where BRT would be an appropriate choice, and should be funded now, and it may be very hard to make that argument after spending years being negative about BRT.

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