Friday, February 8, 2008

West Corridor Could Be in Trouble

I wrote a post previously about the takings issue in Denver. It looks like things are getting a bit heated and the line could be in trouble if it loses its ability to build parking garages. These folks think that parking garages aren't part of building the line, but the FTA thinks otherwise and without them, the ridership models drop and the Cost-Effectiveness measure kicks the Full Funding Grant Agreement out.

House Bill 1278 would allow RTD to acquire property by eminent domain only for "public transit purposes." Under the bill, RTD could not take land for park-n-Rides or retail or residential development near train stations. Rep. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, a House sponsor of the bill, said legislators introduced it because "of significant concerns about the misuse" of eminent domain by RTD.

An RTD plan to acquire properties at Wadsworth Boulevard and West 14th Avenue in Lakewood has galvanized landowner opposition to the agency's power of eminent domain. If RTD can't acquire land for parking, FasTracks cannot proceed, said RTD general manager Cal Marsella.

Hopefully this gets worked out, but the way things have been going recently I'm cautiously optimistic.

10 comments:

Eric said...

If you believe that transit and land use are distinct and unrelated concepts, then yes, I guess you could see this as an abuse of eminent domain.

M1EK said...

Well, come on. Is it an abuse of eminent domain to build a parking garage downtown which isn't connected to a rail line? How is this any different, just because a rail line is involved?

Eminent domain is way overused, and is not the white knight people think - you rarely get anything close to what an actual FAIR market value would be, because the upcoming eminent domain proceedings themselves depress the value of your property for years ahead of when it's actually 'valued'.

Use it for the rail line itself; sure. But for the garage? No way; it's no better than using it for a parking lot at the end of an HOV lane.

Eric said...

I know a person via an online forum who is an attorney and had several clients affected by the use of eminent domain in Denver in particular, and in his expert estimation they were all compensated very fairly. Of course, that isn't always the case.

I have not been following the Denver rail expansion as thoroughly as I probably ought to, but as I understand it, most of the outer ring stations are receiving parking, but not the downtown stations. I've never been to Denver, but one quick glance at Google satellite is all you need to determine the location mentioned in this post is definitely not downtown; it's extremely suburban. In any case, it's the transit villages I'm more interested in.

Anonymous said...

The light rail lines being built are supposed to bring in people from the suburbs. They need parking. People are being obtuse in their objections to an integrated solution involving transit *and* parking. Nimbies.

M1EK said...

I don't think anybody is saying that all such rail stations should be parking-free; but rather that it's not appropriate to use eminent domain for parking garages. The assumption that the only way to get said land is through eminent domain is going unchallenged here, and that's a problem for me - since many of the same people would scream bloody murder for eminent domain for a parking lot associated with a park-and-ride or even a downtown shopping center (as rightly they should).

If it's bad for them, it's bad for us. Buy the land on the open market, or have less parking; either way it's better than having the black eye of forcing out families for a parking garage.

M1EK said...

As for being compensated fairly; in Austin, many of the people who would be displaced by a thankfully shelved expansion of our freeway attempted by TXDOT wouldn't be able to buy ANYTHING in the same neighborhood for what they'd get. Is that fair? It's what they could sell the house for; but they'd have to move twenty miles out to be able to get another house.

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

I don't think these people would have taken a fair market deal outside of eminent domain. My question is how do you plan a transit line and get competitive funding from the federal government if you aren't sure whether you can provide the spaces you're inputting into the models? You won't know if you can get that property until later in the design phase, and that will also mean your cost estimates aren't going to be accurate. You don't know what the costs are going to be. Another issue is paying people the value you are creating for them by building the transit line. Is that fair to taxpayers? This isn't like a freeway where costs are depressed, they are increasing because of zoning changes made by the cities around the stations to support TOD development.

Anonymous said...

so what do you do when someone in a lot you need for your parking garage doesn't want to sell at any price? just give up and not build the garage? sometimes life sucks. take the money and run...

M1EK said...

You still run into the same exact problem: what you want to offer these people may not give them an opportunity to stay in the neighborhood.

I recognize the need for eminent domain, but "fair market value" makes it too easy for the government to do it on questionable grounds - just like the Convention Center parking garage here in Austin.

If I were czar, I'd say that forced evictions justify double the appraised value. If it's not worth that, figure out a way to buy on the open market or find another project. And, yes, some people would abuse that to get better deals - but I'd rather see ten homeowners get more than they deserve than see one get kicked out and not be able to buy anywhere near there ever again, which, again, is what usually happens.

mark said...

I supported the West corridor project and the legislation to make it happen. Now that costs are increasing, they want to trim the tracks from 2 parallel to 1. This reduction goes against what everyone voted for to make the project happen. Furthermore, the plans that require 3+ 90 degree turns plus track deviation from straight to "reach" the Federal Center in Lakewood is a waste or ride time and infrastructure. I support a new round of voting to address the funding cutbacks and abuse of eminent domain. You want the land, pay over fair market value AND the cost of relocating a business. That would reduce the abuse.