Monday, November 12, 2007

Double Speak Means 'I Don't Like Transit'

The newly elected council of Huntersville North of Charlotte wants to toss a stick in the spokes of the North Corridor commuter rail. They're worried about the financing of the project which will come from a number of different sources. From the Charlotte Observer:

The current financing plan for the commuter line calls for CATS to pay for 34 percent of the construction cost with the state paying for 25 percent. Just under 10 percent is already allocated for the Gateway Station project, which would be the line's signature station uptown and will be the city's Amtrak station.

The balance -- $70 million -- would come from the municipalities.

CATS wants to build the line now so it can help shape development along the train stations. It wants to create high-density housing, along with retail, near the stops. It then wants to use a portion of the property taxes generated from the high-density development to help pay for construction, called tax-increment financing.

What is interesting about this is that the anti-transit(ATs) are always asking transit to pay for itself. So when officials get innovative in their financing plan to actually have transit pay for at least a part of itself, the ATs see a threat. They don't want the train at all. The argument, 'transit should pay for itself' is actually code for 'I don't like transit'.

Given that the city's part of the funding will come from new development like it did when streetcar lines were building Boston and other cities many years ago, its a surprise to me that this set of folks, who love free markets, would be against it. So the balance of $70 million would be funded through new dense development which will drive ridership AND pay some of the construction cost. Less cars on the road at rush hour and the ability to put the density away from existing neighborhoods? Sign an AT up for opposition!

I understand the worries about the market at the moment, but these things go in cycles and certain markets take off when others tank. Mixed use doesn't need to be vertical and most of the development will need to happen in phases. But they'll never get the densities around transit if they don't build the line. Meaning more people on the road and more junk multi-family apartment complexes in random places. But ATs like that kinda stuff. It's the American Dream, right?

1 comment:

Eric said...

Not only that, but there are some things which are vehemently un-American. Walking, riding a bus, and riding a train all happen to be on that list. :)