Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Rail to Loudoun-Just build that big shiny choo choo train!

"Just build that big shiny choo choo train and then find out what's in it for you"

In the time I spend studying Rail to Dulles and Beyond, I am amazed at how weak the answers are to the why, when, how, and how much questions. In fact, the whole pro-rail push offers very little real information, say in the form of a feasibility study or ridership study. The MWAA team must have learned a while back when they commissioned an Environmental Impact Study in 2004 that showed how utterly worthless rail would be as a remedy for traffic congestion, that facts were better kept behind closed doors. This whole situation reminds me of the Nancy Pelosi advice on Obamacare; just pass it and then find out what's in there... you know, like a grab bag gift.

Believe it or not, our leaders are being lobbied with talk that sounds a bit like extortion or at least distortion to me. They ask, "Why not bring Loudoun into the Rail scheme, because if Loudoun opts out, DTR tolls will be even higher?" A fitting answer might be something like, "Because even if opting out meant a dollar or two more in tolls, staying in would not be worth a lifetime of financial bondage to Metro, feeding the money black hole named WMATA (Metro)." In fact the question is built on the premise that there is not a good choice open to Loudoun. There is! Opt out of Phase II, let them bring the rail to the airport, and pay $0...net savings, billions, tolls would not be affected.

Just lately, as I seemed to be getting a grasp of how outrageous this rail construction thing is, along comes the realization that the rail issue is not just about construction of rail, it also includes long term money commitments to WMATA (Metro's overseers).

"How do people get themselves into these messes?" Whether it is MWAA controlling the Toll Road or WMATA tapping into Loudoun for a lifetime subsidy fix,it all starts when somebody messes up big time and signs off on these wretched deals.

The kicker is that good guys like Delegate Joe May smelled the rat ahead of time with the Dulles Toll Road. He knew that in principle, something was wrong.

In 2005, Joe May certainly grasped the inequity of tolls being an implicit tax and spoke out against it...until he decided to go along with it. In 2005, one year before he supported the transfer to MWAA, he opposed tolls, calling them an implicit tax. Why then did he change his song and start favoring the idea of turning over the DTR to MWAA to use those tolls or taxes, to finance rail?

from connection news 2005:

 Del. Joe T. May  voiced his dissent in a letter to Whittington Clement, Commonwealth  Transportation Secretary and chairman of the Commonwealth Transportation  Board.
"What VDOT and the Commonwealth Transportation Board are proposing for  commuters on the Dulles Toll Road is, in reality, not a fee increase but an  implicit tax increase," May wrote. "They are attempting to impose this tax while  avoiding substantive public debate and preventing elected officials from going  on the record."

Tim Kaine could have made the DTR a free road as promised, he instead, turned the DTR over to MWAA to redistribute the tolls from Va commuters to build a train they (the commuters) would,in all likelihood,never use. Tim's shortsighted decision led to what we have now, the threat of a $30 round trip Leesburg to DC.

The point is this; another wrong turn will not make it right. If we (Loudoun) buy into rail to save a few bucks on tolls, we are  forever 'in' as shareholders in a broke, rundown, underfunded, union run, and underused transit mode. Why? Just to have an excuse to give away some density and stimulate development that would happen with or without rail, if at all (this is another popular false justification).

Joe May probably had a slick lobbyist explain to him why he should just go along with it, even though Joe knew deep down it was bad for his constituents. Joe did it anyway and he can never change that. Unfortunately, we will pay for it until we have a strong enough governor to undo it. If Joe had stood on principle with those opposing the transfer, others would have joined him, and just maybe we would not be where we are.

At least the price of building rail is a finite amount that in 30 years would be paid off, but buy-in to WMATA, that is a different scale of mistake,its forever.

David LaRock
Hamilton, Virginia

No comments:

Post a Comment