Sunday, April 27, 2008

Transport Genocide and the Revenge Veto

I like competition but not when its at the expense of working people and pits cities in the United States against each other. This isn't a strategy, its a systematic genocide by the road warriors and privatization crowd at DOT. I know that we talk about the transit space race but its supposed to be a healthy competition rather than a death match. But it's what is happening around the country. The federal government, instead of figuring out how to build the transit projects that everyone wants, is pitting cities against each other for funding. Why doesn't this happen for roads? And why, if one entity with selfish interests in mind instead of the interests of the overall consensus in a region, is a project put in jeopardy?

But an official familiar with the federal transit funding process said, "This is a competitive process with projects around the country. The more everyone's singing off the same page, the more it moves it ahead of other projects"

The most recent example of this idiocy is the Central Corridor in the Twin Cities. Basically though, after the DFL party overrode a major transportation veto by Governor Pawlenty, he decided to veto the funding for the Central Corridor. No one has come out and said it, but its revenge. Nothing more and nothing less. He is certainly in the minority on this issue in the state and is being a good little Republican and hoping to get some street cred for opposing transit it seems like it could be in part for a chance at being John McCain's second hand man.

But this also opened up an opportunity for others to kill the project because they don't like the idea that it would slow auto oriented culture. Let's not put our heads in the sand, all of this is a fight against the status quo of all cars all the time. This line is going to give Washington Street incredible people capacity, but again its all about cars.
In 2001, the Board of Regents passed a resolution stating it wanted a tunnel under Washington Avenue. If not that, a route along the northern edge of campus, through Dinkytown. If not that, a ground-level route along Washington — but only if someone could figure out how to fix the resulting traffic nightmares and how to pay for those fixes.
Since the U didn't get its tunnel because of our favorite "Cost Effectiveness Measure" it started throwing a fit over the fact that the line was going to be on Washington Avenue. All along the way though, the University threw up road blocks:

The Met Council briefly looked at the Dinkytown route but discarded it out of concerns it would be too expensive. The tunnel was in. Then, the U decided to build a Gophers football stadium on the tunnel's route, forcing a rerouting of the already pricey tunnel and adding more than $100 million to its price tag. The tunnel was out; Washington Avenue at street level was in.


The full weight of the U's position wasn't widely understood April 7, when Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed $70 million in state funding for the Central Corridor, citing, among other things, concerns surrounding the route through the university.

Two days later, the U released preliminary findings of its consultant's report on the Dinkytown route. The findings suggested that route would be cheaper and faster than one along Washington Avenue. The preliminary findings do not yet project ridership levels or how that route would measure up to a complex federal funding formula.

The change will not kill ridership on the line, but will lower the cost effectiveness rating. Perhaps to the point where the line does not pass muster with the FTA. How many times does it have to be said that you can't go around a major center of activity. The measures for transit are bad, this all could have been avoided with the initial tunnel that the University wanted and everyone was willing to invest in. Instead, the line is in limbo all due to the fact that the process can't measure a line for its real benefits and the government does not see the importance of new rapid transit lines enough to fund more. Lets hope this changes soon.

1 comment:

fpteditors said...

Divide and conquer - older than the Roman empire.
We should not get locked into backing specific projects. Instead, we need a mass movement that exposes how the auto is subsidized. Taking the tariff off transit will balance the market more and change the numbers that are inputs to planning.