Rail Transit

Report: 98 Percent of U.S. Commuters Favor Public Transportation for Others.
(Title of article in the Onion)

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It has been more than four years since Cat Callen (former Pflugerville Mayor, 2004-2007) has written articles for the Commentary and Opinion section of The Pflugerville Pflag about the possibility that Capital Metro might build a rail line through Pflugerville following the Missouri-Kansas railroad right of way. The November 18, 2004, article was entitled "How Mass Transit Can Help Downtown Pflugerville." The December 9, 2004, article was entitled "How to Make Mass Transit Pflugerville Pfriendly."

Critics of passenger rail transit argue that it is very expensive to set up and maintain and that a very low percentage of commuters actually use it with the exception of those in some of the older larger cities.

The building of transit-oriented developments around stations has been claimed to have a limited effect upon rail transit use. See, for example, "Near the Rails but Still on the Road" by Sharon Bernstein and Francisco Vara-Orta.

Randal O'Toole is one of the most prominent critics of rail transit. He was interviewed by Scott Simon on National Public Radio on January 28, 2006, in connection with the O'Toole article entitled "A Desire Named Streetcar: How Federal Subsidies Encourage Wasteful Local Transit Systems." This interesting interview can be heard now at this NPR site.

In an opinion article in the August 16, 2006, issue of the Hill Country News, Gerald Daugherty, Former Precinct 3 Travis County Commissioner, set forth the reasons for his opposition to the expansion of passenger rail service in the local area at that time. He indicated that he favored not having another rail referendum until the Austin-Leander route had been in service for at least two years to allow sufficient time for its operation to be evaluated, particularly with respect to its cost effectiveness in meeting transportation needs.

In a November 2007 editorial page article entitled "Spend Money where It Counts" by Jim Skaggs that appeared in the Austin American-Statesman, recent proposals to build more rail transit routes were criticized as being a poor use of tax money because of the high projected cost and the low projected ridership together with other considerations such as increases in congestion. This article can still be found here on a Coalition on Sustainable Transportation web page. Also see "Central Florida Toll Roads Are a Win-Win" by Jim Skaggs, Austin American-Statesman, January 16, 2009.

Jim Skaggs is a member of the executive committee of the Coalition on Sustainable Transportation.

Favorable Opinions

In an article written for the Commentary page of the October 24, 2006, issue of the Austin American-Statesman, John Rosato, a principal with Southwest Strategies Group and Chairman of the Downtown Austin Alliance, described a three-day visit he made to Portland as one of a group of 17. The gist of the article is that they came away with a very favorable impression of the Portland rail-transit system.

According to an earlier (August 15, 2006) story from BBC News, by Sayeeda Warsi, Vice Chair, Conservative Party (of Great Britain), another very favorable impression of Portland's rail-transit system was gained through a visit. Randal O'Toole has criticized much of what Warsi wrote in his Vanishing Automobile Update #64 aptly titled "Judging Portland Planners by Their Intentions, Not Results."

Photograph: Taken in December 2007 of one of the commuter rail cars to be used in the Austin-Leander route beginning sometime in 2008.

Additional Readings
"The Truth about Transit Oriented Development" by Kathleen Calongue

"An Odyssey in the Land of Tod" by Cliff Slater
With reference to footnote 7 in the preceding article by Cliff Slater, note that generous long-term property tax exemptions have apparently been needed to bring about much of the development along rail transit lines in Portland.

"The Pleasantville Solution" by Virginia Postrel

"Deciphering Rail Transit Options for Austin" by Jacci Howard Bear

"Commuter Rail Considerations" by Jim Skaggs

"Planning: A Plague of Planners" by Randal O'Toole

PfCONA Meeting, August 9, 2004

"Take the A-Train" by Mike Clark-Madison.

"The Public Transport Myth" by Alan Moran

"Once I took the railroad... Why nobody, but nobody will ever take mass transit as long as they have a choice" by Matt Welch, October 3, 2007

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