Sunday, October 19, 2008

Queen Sized Microcosm

Charlotte leaders asked the federal government to pay for their new light rail line, platform extensions and new vehicles for the existing line, and a north commuter line. Given funding constraints at the federal level you can probably guess what happened. The FTA said they didn't have enough money. As discussed previously, there is a 77 year demand for transit expansion in this country and this just proves that there is either going to need to be a serious infusion of funding for transit on the federal level or cities are going to have to come up with the money themselves. Keith Parker at CATS has made these types of comments as well saying:
...Parker said he'll likely brainstorm other ways to raise money so rail lines can be built sooner.
...
With the cost of raw materials rising, Parker believes it's important to build Charlotte's rapid transit in the next decade, rather than by 2035, the finish line in the current plan. If the federal government isn't willing to send more money to CATS, Parker said he may bring the Metropolitan Transit Commission and the Charlotte City Council options.
After years of spending on things other than transit, the Mr. Parker has the right idea about trying to catch up, which would make it cheaper in the long run. Their 10 year wait for the first line did nothing but cause project inflation and almost lost them thier funding source all together with the referendum last year. Yet Pat McCrory, the Mayor, Gubernatorial candidate, and staunch transit supporter, is against the idea of using any funding outside of the current half cent funding stream.

McCrory said this week he doesn't want to consider a new tax or bond to build the transit system sooner. CATS already wants to use some property taxes to build the commuter rail line, and the city of Charlotte is considering the same for the streetcar.

“We'll have to live within the confines of the half-cent sales tax,” McCrory said. “During these economic times we'll have to be both economically and politically pragmatic. And at times, patient.”

In transit funding, patience costs money, and there are other ways to pay for transit projects. Because transit creates value that often isn't credited to it, there needs to be more attention paid to the value is created and capturing it to pay for the project. Putting a cage on it isn't the answer.

7 comments:

Jon said...

urban renewal funding and tax increment financing has done a lot to fund rail transit in Portland. you have the people who benefit from the service and the increased property values chip in. but yeah there should be a lot more federal funding. i've found that most cities that have a well planned and organized rail proposal with full support from all parties will get federal money.

Anonymous said...

According to the article CATS director Parker expects the FTA to finance 80% of the project. Isn't FTA new starts now limited to 60% maximum funding?

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

Yes they are. But deals have been made a la Salt Lake City. The basic deal there was we will build 5 lines if you pay 80% of the first two. It ends up over all projects being 20%. In Charlotte, they are asking for 80% of the northeast corridor and would use the savings to build the north corridor commuter rail and expand the south corridor platforms and buy more railcars.

Anonymous said...

First post, and love the blog!

I live in NC, and am familiar with the Charlotte situation. McCrory is a Republican running for Governor in a conservative state, so it's not that surprising that he's arguing against increasing taxes just prior to an election in an historic recession. They would need legislative approval to increase the sales tax FYI.

ChiefJoJo said...

^ Forgot to sign in. The above was my comment. BTW, in the Triangle, they are talking about building a regional light rail system (instead of part DMU, part LRT) winding across the region up to 60 miles in length from end to end. Has anyone heard of a light rail line that long before?

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

That's interesting. I'm kind of annoyed at the low tax no tax crowd. That seems to be their answer to everything instead of figuring out how to actually pay for things. I haven't heard of such a long light rail line in this day and age but we did have interurbans back in the day that would cover that kind of ground.

ChiefJoJo said...

Yeah, I know what you mean about anti-tax sentiment, and it is still somewhat strong in NC. I think McCrory is just in campaign mode, and would have to be open to some additional funding for the system (if the people want it built faster & I think they do). The 1/2-cent tax isn't going to cut it, it seems.