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Don’t put another train on the kids’ credit card

Courtesy of Metro Transit

We’ve heard the Metropolitan Council say for years that the federal government was on board to underwrite the expansion of the metro’s light rail system. It was always inevitable; the funding train had left the station.

Kim Crockett
Kim Crockett

The controversial $1.9 billion Southwest Light Rail Transit (SWLRT) was supposed to get $929 million in federal funds, followed by the $753 million for the $1.5 billion Bottineau line. Instead, both appeared on list of transit projects that the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has declined to select for full funding. “Future investments in new transit projects would be funded by the localities that use and benefit from these localized projects,” according to an April 7, 2017, letter sent to Speaker Kurt Daudt and the Trump administration’s budget blueprint.

This announcement is, among others things, a long overdue acknowledgment that the federal government is broke, and that revenues for transportation are dwindling. That means We the People are broke. We cannot afford to keep building expensive transit projects that do not deliver congestion relief.

Borrowing heavily from the future

Although it has dropped from the headlines, our country has been borrowing heavily from the future. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the federal debt hit the debt ceiling of $19.9 trillion, up about $10 trillion since 2008. Yet even with all that borrowing, the feds are still running big annual deficits ($559 billion this year).

Borrowing from the future means that government is spending future tax revenues — and people’s paychecks — to pay for today’s, and even yesterday’s, costs.

We are not just taking out loans for ourselves; we are taking out loans on behalf of our kids and grandkids. How are future generations supposed to pay for government if we have already spent their earnings and tax dollars, and left them with our debts?

The DOT’s recommendation that we look to local funding has forced a tough conversation here at home. Are these good projects? And even if they are, can we afford them?

The answer from most state and local officials has been a resounding “No.”

Light rail expansion has failed to get approvals and funding from the Legislature; that issue blew up the transportation bill last session, leaving the state without funds for road repairs and expansion. Suburban counties have rejected the plan, too. In fact, when presented with funding transit that serves a “city-centric” model favoring downtown Minneapolis at the expense of suburbs, Anoka and Dakota county decided to dissolve the Counties Transit Improvement Board (or CTIB). Exit negotiations are under way.

Burden on Hennepin County

If light rail expansion somehow moves ahead without state dollars, and suburban counties withdraw, light rail would come at a very steep cost to Hennepin County taxpayers. Even though it promised the Legislature in writing not to do it, the Met Council is planning to use an obscure borrowing scheme (Certificates of Participation) that would divert current tax revenues to pay down capital costs, while Hennepin County would raise taxes by $125 million a year to fund operational costs of transit, including light rail.

So what was once a regional project that assumed state and federal backing is quickly becoming a Hennepin County project. 

Why have so many elected officials rejected these projects?

“Light rail is an obsolete form of transportation that will be made even more obsolete in a few years by self-driving cars,” said Randal O’Toole, a CATO Institute senior fellow and public transit expert. “Congress should stop funding light rail, including the Southwest line, as well as other obsolete transit programs, such as an extension of the Northstar to St. Cloud.”

Supporters say the projects are too far down the track to stop now. The Met Council, for example, has already spent at least $159 million on planning SWLRT, and besides, developers have bought land and planned apartment buildings and other development along the line.

Costs will only rise with time

First, the sunk costs of the project, while high, are nothing compared to what will be spent to build ($2 billion), operate ($20-30 million a year) and then replace SWLRT in 25 years. None of these projected costs include taxpayer subsidies planned for “affordable” housing and other subsidized development that planners say are needed to drive ridership. Next comes Bottineau and other transit lines.

Second, when developers speculate, they do so at their own risk. Yes, government should be an honest and reliable partner, but the Met Council’s long-term transit and housing plan has been met with fierce and growing opposition, so there was always a risk of cancellation.

What about losing “free” federal dollars? We absolutely need to get tax dollars back to Minnesota, but let’s spend the money on projects that relieve congestion where development has already happened, rather than borrowing more money for a speculative “build it and they will come” real estate development scheme.

DOT decides which project to fund

Congress allocates a lump sum of money to the DOT for transit, but DOT decides which projects will get funding. Not even the friendlier Obama administration advanced SWLRT or Bottineau beyond the engineering phase. So unless the DOT does an about-face, neither of these projects will get federal funding.

That does not mean supporters have given up: State legislators, our congressional delegation and bureaucrats at the DOT are being lobbied hard by Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin, Met Council Chair Adam Duininck, and developers and construction companies.

Who is lobbying the Legislature and Congress on behalf of future generations who will be stuck with traffic jams, aging and obsolete transit and the debts of their parents? Let’s hope that our Legislature, congressional delegation and the DOT will resolve to stop that funding train.

Kim Crockett is vice president, senior policy fellow and general counsel of Center of the American Experiment.

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Comments (35)

  1. Submitted by Brian Stricherz on 04/24/2017 - 02:58 pm.

    “Who is lobbying the Legislature and Congress on behalf of future generations who will be stuck with traffic jams, aging and obsolete transit and the debts of their parents?”

    Since when have conservatives lobbied on behalf of future generations? The biggest debt we are offloading on future generations is our pollution and waste. A couple of billion for light rail will hardly rate.

    • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 04/24/2017 - 06:01 pm.

      The costs you’ve identified don’t figure in Ms. Crockett’s

      …accounting methods. They can be paid for by future generations !!

    • Submitted by Patrick Tice on 04/26/2017 - 03:42 pm.

      Don’t forget

      The trillions of debt we will incur from military adventures around the world. The GOP is fine with that.

  2. Submitted by Andrew Jansen on 04/24/2017 - 03:23 pm.

    Then Give Us Truly Forward Thinking Alternatives

    I have yet to see the anti-rail crew come up with a better alternative to funding rail. If self-driving cars really are a big deal and will transform the road why don’t lobbyist like you put your money where you’re mouth and let’s see a plan that gives those projects money. If I recall that type of research is in Silicon Valley and not here. But it could be. I do think self-driving cars are an important part of the future but let’s be the first in the wave, not the last (like we are now with rail.)
    However; funding the mundane, highway projects that give every city in America traffic problems isn’t the answer. The past and the present is all the proof you need.

    • Submitted by Steve Rose on 04/25/2017 - 08:13 am.

      Leading the Technology Wave

      “19 companies racing to put self-driving cars on the road by 2021”

      http://www.businessinsider.com/companies-making-driverless-cars-by-2020-2016-10/#tesla-is-aiming-to-have-its-driverless-technology-ready-by-2018-1

      These companies are not limited to Silicon Valley, and they are not limited by nor waiting for government funding. The notion that the government will be leading this technology wave is mistaken. The only time that the government has lead a technology wave has been when military technology has been commercialized, like night vision, like GPS.

      • Submitted by Dan Landherr on 04/25/2017 - 09:36 am.

        The roads will need upgrades

        There are obvious changes to signage and other road infrastructure that make self-driving cars safer and more effective. Are we willing to pay for those road upgrades?

        • Submitted by Steve Rose on 04/25/2017 - 11:04 am.

          Yes

          The current budget is over $2 Billion

          “FY 2018-19 HUTD revenues are up $72 million (1.6 percent) from November 2016 Forecast Gas taxes are up $30 million (1.7 percent), registration taxes are up $33 million (2.1 percent) and motor vehicle sales taxes are up $8 million (0.8 percent) in the FY 2018-19 biennium compared to the November 2016
          forecast.”

          http://www.dot.state.mn.us/funding/documents/Transportation%20Forecast%20Feb%202017.pdf

          There is a lot of money, and over time priorities and technologies will change. The largest revenue source in the budget is the gas tax – $899 Million per biennium. The state will need to come up with a way to tax electric cars and plug-in hybrids to replace losses in that revenue stream.

  3. Submitted by Benjamin Riggs on 04/24/2017 - 03:48 pm.

    Enough with the “think of the children” BS.

    If conservatives were truly concerned about the financial solvency of the government, they wouldn’t constantly lobby for huge tax cuts for the wealthiest. If conservatives were truly concerned about transportation costs, they wouldn’t constantly oppose an increase in gas taxes (et al) to offset the enormous subsidy the State provides for personal automotive transportation. If conservatives were truly concerned with burdening future generations with debt, they wouldn’t be cavalierly starting wars, denying the cause of climate change, and rolling back consumer protections.

    Conservatives aren’t interested in a healthy, just society; they’re interested in consolidating their power and wealth.

    PS. If you honestly think building more roads will lead to a reduction of traffic instead of just more single-occupant cars wasting resources with their overcrowding, you’re unfit to offer transportation policy advice.

    • Submitted by Chuck Hoover on 04/24/2017 - 06:09 pm.

      A prescription for Light Rail Fever

      I don’t know many conservatives opposed to transit … but I do know several with sharpened pencils that oppose light rail, like me.

      Here are some of our stats: Met Council now sheepishly admits the SWLRT – when fully deployed – will only take 6,500 cars per day off the roads, mainly because they are grabbing riders currently taking the #12 and 17 buses. By comparison, the key highway bottlenecks along the SWLRT right of way see the following average daily traffic counts per MnDOT: Hwy 5 Eden Prairie (95,000 vehicles), US169 Hopkins (89,000), Hwy 100 St Louis Park (113,000). So this route basically does nothing to relieve congestion from the southwest.

      Here’s another set of stats. The upfront capital cost paid by Minnesota for the SWLRT build is $928 mil. The weighted average life of LRT capital is about 18 years, so lets round up to 20. Amortize that wearout over 20 years and that’s $46.4 mil. per year For $46.4 mil per year, I can lease, staff and operate (fuel+service contract) 125 extended transit buses continuously for 18 hours a day. And I get brand spanking new ones after 10 years. The transit options that 125 extended buses opens up for the western suburbs dwarfs what a fixed corridor system like LRT can deliver.

      So if you want an honest debate on the inefficiency of light rail, you’ve come to the right place.

      • Submitted by Sean Olsen on 04/25/2017 - 01:36 pm.

        So, then…

        … why are the conservatives in the state legislature also whacking buses in their current budget?

      • Submitted by Mary Gustafson on 04/27/2017 - 11:51 am.

        Weighted Average Life?

        What does”the weighted average life of LRT Capital” mean? I would like to know your calculations. An LRV’s useful life is way more than 20 years with a good overhaul program. In addition, much rehab and renovation can be done to track and track systems without replacing everything. Finally, 80% of the cost of capital upkeep and even preventive maintenance is paid for with federal funds that Minnesota has already contributed to (formula funds based on revenue miles, population, ridership, etc.) and which are not discretionary funds. Neither Trump nor Chao have called for cutting the highway trust fund which funds capital improvements to road, bridges and transit.

        I can also say with certainty that there is no way that $46.4MM per year is spent on capital maintenance or improvement even with the Blue Line and that has been operating since 2004.

    • Submitted by Dan Landherr on 04/25/2017 - 09:39 am.

      This is the richest country in the history of the world

      If the United States government is broke it is only because it chooses to be broke. The wealth of this country exceeds the government debt by a factor of 5 or more.

  4. Submitted by Gene Nelson on 04/24/2017 - 04:42 pm.

    Repubs will mortgage our future with military and tax cuts

    The cost to build a new highway compared to a new light rail is about the same…BUT…if rail gets congested, all you need add is more cars or another train. With a highway, you need the more expensive option of again, building the new lanes…whereas with light rail, even the maintenance costs are far less than highways.
    If you check out any city with viable light rail…they’re used…and why not…sure a lot better than crawling in the polluting traffic jams.

  5. Submitted by Kurt Olson on 04/24/2017 - 05:31 pm.

    There may be valid arguments against light rail…

    “If the Trump administration doesn’t like transit, then transit must not be worthwhile.”
    “Unless I can benefit directly, no tax dollars.”
    “Let’s not plan for future growth with a more efficient system.”
    “I can convince you of my right-wing think-tank thoughts as long as I quote other right-wing think-tanks.”
    “Predominantly rural legislators opposing urban transportation
    “Let’s ignore the business community who is strongly pushing for SWLRT.”

  6. Submitted by Tom Trisko on 04/24/2017 - 05:53 pm.

    Light Rail, Self Driving Cars ask “Who is my neighbor?”

    Self driving cars will hugely cut back on the need for garages, parking lots and ramps if they are operated by companies like Uber and Lyft so they would keep moving all day and not sit idle most of the time. Such cars could also save households billions of dollars by ending the need for more than one car per household ownership expenses for garages, parking, repairs, taxes, gas, loan interest, purchase price, leases, depreciation, etc. Light Rail Trains and Buses can provide this saving also, plus reducing congestion for those still driving. Self driving cars will NOT help with rush hour congestion unless we were to stagger work hours. They will also not reduce wear and tear on roads. The beauty of light rail transit and inter-city and inter-state trains is that they provide an entirely new right of way that can move many times more people per dollar, per carbon atom, and per lane mile than highways ever can, even with self driving cars. Other cities have proven that building more freeway lanes does not decrease congestion for long and costs much more than light rail or buses. (See Atlanta or Los Angeles.) Plus, Millennials don’t want to live miles form their jobs or downtown attractions and spend hours in their cars. (See the boom in apartments and condos downtown vs. the un-built platted subdivisions in Ramsey and other exurbs.)

    The underlying argument here is the age old one of Republicans wanting low taxes and private goods and services vs. Democrats wanting high quality public infrastructure and services that everyone can use. (Exception: My graduate school research on small city government showed that Republicans tend to like quality local public infrastructure if they live in small homogeneous communities.) As the Bible puts it, “Who is my neighbor?” Is it me, my immediate family, my relatives, my friends, my neighborhood, my city, my state, my country, or the world? Do I want to meet and know my neighbors in well designed public places or do I want to lock everyone else out of my private gated estate or community? Minnesotans in the 1970s tended to answer the “Who is my neighbor?” question at the state level. We draw the line more closely to ourselves now. We risk our quality of life by doing so.

  7. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 04/24/2017 - 08:27 pm.

    I’m not sure

    …I can put it any better than Benjamin Riggs. Ms. Crockett represents an ideology, and from what I’ve seen of its work since moving here in ’09, an institution, that is fiscally and ethically bankrupt. If we follow the advice of Ms. Crockett and her sycophants, the REAL “American Experiment,” about which Ms. Crockett purports to be so concerned will suffer a catastrophic failure. The “answers” Ms. Crockett cites are responses to the rhetorical questions that Ms. Crockett raises, and are coming almost exclusively from Republicans who qualify as “moderate” only in the neofascist atmosphere of the past decade or so.

    If Ms. Crockett and the Center were genuinely concerned about the national debt, they’d be lobbying with every bit of influence they have for HIGHER taxes, to accompany the massive social service spending cuts being advocated. If debt was such an issue, the Center would be lobbying for nationalized health care, run by the Social Security Administration (which has the lowest administrative costs of any health care-providing entity), since health care now consumes nearly 1/5 of our GDP. She and the Center would insist on a dramatic cutback in military spending, with those dollars used for the kinds of infrastructure projects that we have difficulty funding now because so much of the federal government’s “discretionary” spending goes to military hardware, software, and personnel.

    And on and on and on. Benjamin Riggs is right on the mark.

    • Submitted by Bob Petersen on 04/25/2017 - 11:10 am.

      Higher taxes does not equal more revenue

      It has been shown time and again that simply having higher tax rates equate to less actual tax revenue. The concept that liberals like to think that higher tax rates will help balance the budget. That’s absolute nonsense because you get to a point where there is no more money to collect. If government spending was kept to inflation the last 8 years, the Feds would have a surplus. Our state was cajoled by our Guv for $2 billion per year more in taxes and we now have a surplus that he does not want to give back, but keep up the permanent spending.
      The subject is that, in order to get our fiscal house in order, we have to stop spending money on everything. Light Rail would be kind of cool to have. Only it becomes more of a permanent cost. Look at the ridership we have on the existing lines. Current light rail ridership has never reached what it said it should have and Northstar is a joke.
      Imagine all that money the Fed has to pay on interest. That could pay for a lot of things as well as keeping money in our pockets. But that is not happening anytime soon because we are all too greedy in thinking the government can pay for everything we like.

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 04/25/2017 - 11:45 am.

        “It has been shown time and again . . .”

        When?

        Please don’t tell me you still believe in supply-side economics.

      • Submitted by Derek Thompson on 04/25/2017 - 02:59 pm.

        Higher taxes does not equal more revenue

        “Look at the ridership we have on the existing lines. Current light rail ridership has never reached what it said it should have and Northstar is a joke.”

        Bob, I am sorry but you have no idea what you are talking about. The Green Line is blowing past its projections and the blue line is doing very well. Northstar may not being doing great but it also wasn’t completed as planned because Republicans want to sabotage any transit.

  8. Submitted by Matt Haas on 04/24/2017 - 08:37 pm.

    Hmm

    And if our “children” would prefer functioning transit to an increase in wealthy conservatives in the suburbs? Do I get to propose forced repatriation of all conservatives to say, Alabama? I mean I know MY kids approve.

  9. Submitted by John DeWitt on 04/24/2017 - 09:23 pm.

    Talk about heads in the sand. It’s hard to find a single region we’d consider a peer that isn’t building out its light rail system. Last November, voters in Seattle approved Sound Transit 3, a $54 billion plan that will include 62 miles of new light rail lines. And voters in Los Angeles approved Measure M, a $121 billion transportation package of which 37% will fund transit capital projects including new light rail lines and extensions of existing lines. In the conservative states of Utah, Arizona, and Texas, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Dallas, and Houston are all building out their light rail systems. In February, the Houston-Galveston Area Council’s Transportation Policy Council reported that increased roadway capacity alone could not meet the region’s future mobility needs and emphasized the importance of building out a high capacity transit system.

    If we’re to settle for business as usual in the Twin Cities, we need to understand that the current “add a lane here and there” practice won’t cut it. Simulations run at the U in 2002 suggest that if we want a system that works reasonably well by 2020 (Level of Service “C”) we’d need a 14-lane Lowry tunnel. Let’s start by discussing the funding and disruption of that project. And that’s just the start.

    • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 04/25/2017 - 12:10 pm.

      I left Portland in 2003 for family reasons

      and at the time they had three light rail lines and one streetcar line.

      Now they have five light rail lines and three streetcar lines.

      One reason Portland can move ahead and Minneapolis can’t is that its Metro Council is elected locally rather than appointed by the governor, so rural legislators can’t influence it.

      This doesn’t stop local conservatives from hating it, though. They keep running anti-transit candidates for Met Council and keep losing 2 to 1. Thanks goodness.

      Yes, I’d love to move back there, but the city’s popularity has made housing prices shoot up even faster than those in Minneapolis. By all accounts the traffic is worse, but people who aren’t complete car potatoes soon figure out that it makes more sense to take the bus or light rail to many destinations.

  10. Submitted by Jim Greg on 04/25/2017 - 06:12 am.

    No credit cards, also no kids

    Yes! Instead make sure all the kids move to Denver or Portland or Seattle or Salt Lake City where they don’t need the burden of a car. And the ones that are stuck in this car clogged dying state? They won’t even have the economic wherewithal to need a credit card. Another problem solved by the braintrust that brought you Michelle Bachman.

    • Submitted by Chuck Hoover on 04/25/2017 - 10:08 am.

      The Peer Cities Problem

      The peer cities you cite – Salt Lake, Portland, Denver – have singular downtown employment centers. The challenge for the Twin Cities is that we have three employment centers – Mpls, Bloomington/494, St Paul. We also have suburbs in four directions where those other cities have just two or three (due to mtns, ocean). As a result, the Twin Cities would need about 33 corridors of light rail to achieve achieve what those others are doing with 5 or 6. Net, net, the Met Council is about to spend $2 bil on a transit line that only serves 5% of metro area commuters. Foolishness.

      A bus system is much better suited to solve Twin Cities transit challenge. Its too bad that the Met Council is infatuated with the most expensive and least efficient option: light rail transit.

      • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 04/25/2017 - 12:04 pm.

        You say 33 corridors of light rail

        as if it’s a bad thing.

        Seriously, though, if we ran tracks for either heavy or light rail from St. Cloud to Northfield via Lakeville and from Mound to Stillwater and then connected all the lines with two loop lines, one that hit the business centers of older suburbs like White Bear Lake, Robbinsdale, and Hopkins, and one that hit the business centers of places like Stillwater and Wayzata,

        Such a project would allow most households to get by with one car or no car, if that’s what they chose.

        The shills for the auto industry and oil companies love to claim that “liberals want to force Americans out of their cars.”

        This is as silly as claiming that Asian restaurants are a conspiracy to force Americans to give up meat and potatoes. Thanks to Asian restaurants, we have more CHOICE that previous generations did not have.

        What right-wingers want is like forcing everyone to eat meat and potatoes, only in this case, they want everyone to go everywhere in gasoline-powered vehicles with rubber tires, no matter how unaffordable or inconvenient or bad for the environment such a system is.

        Population growth means that heavy traffic is inevitable, but a well-built system of light rail, bike paths, and pedestrian connections gives people the CHOICE not to drive and make life more convenient for those who CANNOT drive: people with disabilities, children, the frail elderly, those who cannot afford a car. Experiences in other countries show that there is no way to reduce traffic other than banning cars outright, so it makes me crazy when transit advocates claim that transit takes cars off the road. It does temporarily, but population growth makes up for it.

        However, when I lived in Portland and took light rail to my doctor’s appointments, part of the line ran parallel to I-84. The train would be humming along at 30mph, not fast, for sure, but a lot faster than the cars that were creeping forward at about 10 mph. I was happy to have the choice.

        I wish everyone in America could have that choice.

  11. Submitted by Jim Boulay on 04/25/2017 - 07:48 am.

    35W collapsed into the Mississippi

    Just remember, these are the “leaders” who built a new highway that wasn’t needed out into the farm fields that Carol Molnau owned, who was Lt Gov under Pawlenty, and personally benefitted financially from the project (we’ll save money by having her lead the DOT!) while at the same time ignoring the urban core and letting the 35W bridge collapse into the Mississippi River! 13 died! Never forget!

  12. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 04/25/2017 - 09:47 am.

    The lead in explained:

    “Let’s spend money on projects that relieve congestion where development has already happened, rather than borrowing for a speculative “build it and they will come” scheme.”

    Last time I looked St Louis Park, Hopkins, Minnetonka and Eden Prairie, all touched by SWLRT, have little in common with an isolated baseball field in a corn patch in Iowa. This is where we have decades of development, on going congestion issues and a better LRT application than either the Green or Blue lines that are doing fine.

    When Ms. Crockett cites legislative resistance towards LRT, let’s not pretend this is based on thoughtful knowledge of the projects at hand: it is simply out state, anti metro, isolationists who will never favor any investment in the metro area while at the same time cheerfully accept disproportionate state resources for their pet projects in low population areas.

  13. Submitted by Matt Haas on 04/25/2017 - 09:48 am.

    Its quite hilarious

    The same conservatives who like to claim we MUST continue to rely on fossil fuels for energy (and that things like EV’s are nothing more than unworkable fads for “tree huggers”) due to the technological complexity of alternatives, would like us to believe we must defund transit because the far more complex technologies required for a self-driving society are gonna be feasible within months?years? Just the latest shiny object to distract from their never ending mission to punish the poor for having the temerity to exist.

  14. Submitted by Derek Thompson on 04/25/2017 - 09:56 am.

    “Conservatives” and Public Transit

    I will never understand how “fiscal conservatives” will lose their minds over public transit over the supposed high cost and at the same time be ok with the unsustainable urban sprawl. If you don’t understand how expensive urban sprawl is please check out the blog, http://www.strongtowns.org. It’s a non-profit based out of Minnesota that talks about how our built form is bankrupting us. This sounds right up “Conservatives” alley(the guy who started it is a conservative), but instead they shut down public transportation at every opportunity. The only alternative to public transit is sprawl which is an unproductive money pit. Again they prove they aren’t really “Fiscal Conservatives”, but anti-government. These moves will hurt the Twin Cities in the long run as on peer cities leave us behind and the rest of the state will end up being hurt even worse when the economic engine of the state starts losing out to our coastal peers. When we are forced to build better transit 20 years from now we will wish we did it earlier when it was orders of magnitude cheaper.

    A good public transit system is vital to any city. I ask you to imagine Manhattan without the subways. I hope “Conservatives” can put ideology aside to help the entire state, but I won’t be holding my breath.

    “What about losing “free” federal dollars? We absolutely need to get tax dollars back to Minnesota, but let’s spend the money on projects that relieve congestion where development has already happened, rather than borrowing more money for a speculative “build it and they will come” real estate development scheme”

    Are you kidding me? The existing portion of the green line goes through some of the most densely populated areas in the Twin Cities, and when the SWLRT project is done it will hit 4 massive job centers(Downtown St Paul, U of M, Downtown Minneapolis, Golden Triangle Eden Prairie. This line is already incredibly dense and if you ever left your suburb and rode the existing line you would see all the additional development that is already coming up. This quoted section is just pure propaganda.

    • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 04/25/2017 - 10:36 am.

      You’re too kind

      Ms. Crockett and her fellows aren’t anti-government. They’re anti-people-who-aren’t-them. It’s a point of view that pretends that we are not all connected.And, while it pretends to be future-thinking, it’s short sighted.

      Yes, self-driving cars exist and will become increasingly common. But, as pointed out above, unless our economy fundamentally changes, it certainly won’t be a fix for what light rail and other mass transit can do. If nothing else, think of all the drivers who will now need to find jobs that don’t include driving. Truck drivers, bus drivers, uber drivers, taxi drivers, couriers, etc. Instead of being the ones getting things and people from place to place, they will need to be getting from place to place, increasing the demand for transit.

      And, unless we move our business day to a 24 hour schedule (I can’t see any white collar professions doing that any time soon), we will still have the godawful congestion we’re seeing and worse because physics!

      Honestly, the most fiscally responsible answer is to push telecommuting onto every job that doesn’t need a physical presence and get rid of most of the roads, period. Fund high speed wired and wireless connections instead of roads. Reduce the cost of communicating instead of increasing the costs of commuting. If we are to plan for the future in a fiscally responsible way, Ms. Crockett has stopped WAY too short. The future isn’t self-driving cars, it’s mass transit and virtual presence. Heck, at some point in the future, even her words of wisdom will be tapped out by a computer. Of course, the computer would probably be more logical and compassionate.

  15. Submitted by Wanda Jacobsen on 04/25/2017 - 10:21 am.

    Self-driving Cars are the answer???

    I fail to see how self-driving cars will relieve congestion. The Interstates will continue to be parking lots for self-driving cars that few can afford, mixed in with “regular” cars that are getting ridiculously expensive, right??? I live in St. Cloud and would take the North Star train often if its schedule was more suitable for people other than commuters. It takes FOREVER to get to Mpls. I heard one of our GOP “leaders” talking on WCCO about seeing the cable car tracks being torn up to construct the rail line into St. Paul. He said that light-rail was obsolete. What???? He absolutely failed to mention what is more modern than light rail and I sure would like to know what he was thinking would replace LR. Sure cannot understand why the GOP never seems to think beyond today. They must think science will come up with something great. Oh, I forgot, they don’t seem to support science either.

  16. Submitted by George Carlson on 04/25/2017 - 11:55 am.

    A LRT system is a capital asset

    The author reveals the falsity of her position with her headline – “Don’t put another train on the kids’ credit card.” When we build any new infrastructure, be it roads, public buildings, or light rail, it is financed by state bonding or in our federal government, by an increase in the federal debt. If a private company builds its capital assets it spreads the cost of such assets over the life of the assets by accrual accounting. In both the governmental and the private case, the cost accrues over the years of use by either paying off bonds or debt or through depreciation expense.

    LRT is not on the “kids credit card.” It is infrastructure paid off through its useful life by the public which uses it.

  17. Submitted by Mary Gustafson on 04/25/2017 - 01:20 pm.

    There are so many inaccuracies in the basic premise here

    I don’t even know how to classify the following from the article:

    “Instead, both appeared on list of transit projects that the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has declined to select for full funding. “Future investments in new transit projects would be funded by the localities that use and benefit from these localized projects,” according to an April 7, 2017, letter sent to Speaker Kurt Daudt and the Trump administration’s budget blueprint.”

    Is it fake news? Uninformed news? Blindness?

    1) The “declined to select for full funding” is not true. Neither DOT nor FTA have ever made a statement that the full funding has been declined nor that the project is not federal funding worthy.

    2) The link in that false statement is from a Washington Post story about the end of the sentence above – that Trump (not the Congress, not DOT, not FTA) has proposed (not ratified, not signed) a budget with no funding for projects without full-funding grant agreements already in place. This is all of the projects in all of the states – not just SWLRT.

    3) The letter sent to Speaker Daudt was in response to the Minnesota republican and out-state representative letter proposing that the federal government NOT fund SWLRT. If anyone were to take that information to heart – even though it refers to a budget proposal and not reality – then the State would stop making issues for people in the “localities that use and benefit from these localized projects” to raise the funding necessary for doing this.

    I’m so tired of people I didn’t elect speaking and acting for me and backing it up with worthless information.

  18. Submitted by Adam Miller on 04/25/2017 - 01:00 pm.

    Why does MinnPost publish this stuff?

    Ms. Crockett and the CAE have nothing to add they haven’t said before. It’s still wrong.

  19. Submitted by Richard Adair on 04/26/2017 - 08:06 am.

    Center for the American Experiment

    Ms. Crockett’s missive, like others emanating from this lobbying group, manipulates facts to support her viewpoint.

    1. She implies SWLRT and Bottineau were actively removed from a list of approved rail projects, when in fact President Trump’s budget cancels funding for all local rail transit projects after this fiscal year (an opening gambit typical of his negotiating style). SWLRT in fact has received a very high ranking in cost efficiency when compared with its peers.

    2. Rail transit is “downtown-centric” because a vibrant commercial center produces jobs, and unclogged freeways allow goods and people to move about and the economy to thrive. This explains why SWLRT is supported by the Twin Cities Greater Chamber of Commerce and by CEOs of our major corporations, and why other cities our size are investing in rail transit.

    3. Her vision of driverless cars ferrying people who can afford them to different suburban locations betrays a rather extreme attitude of privilege. A major role of transit is to help people without cars get to work, so they can demonstrate the “personal responsibility” conservatives are so fond of.

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