Consider President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget which includes the construction or completion of 25 rail, bus rapid transit, and streetcar projects in 13 states. These projects are allegedly going to create thousands of construction and operations-related jobs. Not only that, they will also help communities expand transportation choices that will offer new ladders of opportunity for residents. All for only $3.2B! What a deal!
Yesiree, that's surely going to "transform the way we build, manage, and maintaini our nation's transit systems."
Take the case of the 2-decades-old New Starts capital grants program--signed into law by President Clinton in 1994--which was supposed to encourage cities and transit agencies to spend funds efficiently to build or rehab mass transportation systems. According to research conducted by Randal O'Toole and Michelangelo Landgrave, New Starts encourages cities and transit agencies to build more expensive projects. To wit:
- Salt Lake City has collected $2.17 in federal funds/transit rider for 22 years for a rail system.
- Milwaukee has collected 26 cents/transit rider. Why the difference? Milwaukee focused on busses.
Then, these two projects are on the books:
- In Denver, a 2.3-mile extension of an existing line is expected to cost nearly $100M.
- In Seattle, a 3.3-mile route is expected to cost $628M.
And that's only the "expected" cost. Wait until it comes time for those bills to be paid. There'll be cost overruns to be sure. After all, who cares? It's federal $$$s that are being doled out. Unionized labor has government-subsidized jobs. The bosses are collecting their dues. And, the politicians are being handsomely rewards with campaign contributions care of the union bosses.
Now consider these facts:
- In the 1980's, heavy-rail lines were constructed in Atlanta, Baltimore, Miami and Washington at an average of $140M/mile (~$265M in today's $$$s.). In those days, those costs were way too high.
- In 2016, the expected cost for heavy rail lines is $340M/mile (or 28.3% more per mile).
Isn't it wonderful the federal government is so generous in doling out to cities and municipalities what its officials--like Presidents Clinton, GWBush, and Obama--believe is money that belongs to the federal government?
That attitude is bad enough. After all, it's the taxpayers' money.
Far worse, however, is how those local political leaders then award contracts to their favorite union cronies, as required by federal law.
Ever wonder why a supposedly "conservative" Congress--led by a supposedly "conservative" Senate Majority Leader and Speaker of the House--doesn't address this waste of taxpayer $$$s?
"Crony socialism" it's called when it's praticed by liberals and "crony capitalism" its called when it's practiced by conservatives.
Sadly, one's no better than the other.
Let the discussion begin...
To read the O'Toole and Landgrave study, click on the following link:
"Rails and Reauthorization: The Inequity of Federal Transit Funding."