MetroLink Expansion a Bad Idea
Show-Me Institute research assistant John Payne recently had an op-ed published in the Riverfront Times about the proposed tax hike to fund a MetroLink expansion. Payne’s piece elegantly summarizes the following points about why Proposition A is a bad idea:
- Although the campaign message focuses on strengthening current lines that have had service cuts, the proposition would focus appropriated funds on expansion to less populated areas. MetroLink already has trouble paying for its current infrastructure; expansion would only create the need to use even more tax dollars in the future, or cut existing lines still further.
- MetroLink has a poor track record of correctly forecasting its costs. (Payne cites as an example the Cross-Country MetroLink Extension, which cost upwards of $676.8 million after an initial projection of $550 million.) If it had been constructed through a public-private partnership (like in Denver), the contractor would have been accountable to spend more responsibly, without repeatedly asking for tax increases. In contrast, MetroLink’s need for a tax increase is written into its 2009 fiscal budget.
- Expansion of bus routes is much more cost-effective than expanding light rail. From the op-ed:
We would obtain a much greater benefit at a significantly lower cost if we instead focused our public transportation dollars on new, higher-speed bus lines, which are cheaper and far more adaptable than light rail. Although the expansion of light rail into every reach of suburbia may promise an end to traffic congestion and the revitalization of the city, it will ultimately entail spending huge amounts of money in order to transport far fewer additional passengers than are served by the lines already in existence.
- Some, like the members of this Facebook group supporting the measure, argue that additional public transit services are necessary in order to help the city’s low-income residents. Many advocates of Proposition A don’t realize that the tax increase it would bring is regressive, because it offers no rebates or exemptions based on income level, so it would disproportionately hurt the poor. It would be used to expand services past the city and county, so the people paying the taxes won’t benefit directly from the expansion.