Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Local Control and Negotiation Politics

In 2000 a man many people called the Hammer decided that Houston Metro wasn't going to get any funding for a light rail project that scored very high on the FTA's cost effectiveness index because he didn't like it.  Tom Delay kept Metro from getting money that would have saved Houston local funds.  The city decided the line was worth it and built it anyway.  The line now has the highest ridership per mile of any new light rail line in the country.  Later on Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison got Houston some money for credit, but the precedent had been set.  Conservative House members were now going to insert language in appropriations bills against individual transit projects they didn't like.  This was the precursor to last weeks THUD appropriations bill which featured not one, but three transit projects which had individual language against them. 

This morning I got an email this morning from a friend pushing back against Cincinnati area Representative Steve Chabot who had put language in the T-HUD appropriations bill that forbids the Cincinnati Streetcar from receiving federal funding.  While I understand the rabid Tea Party sentiment that wants to kill transit projects, I don't quite understand the need for suburban representatives to write riders in bills that would keep locally popular projects from moving forward.  I guess it means they can say they tried to kill the project, but that Senate was just too much for them.  If you live in Ohio, contact Senator Brown to say this isn't cool. 

But Cincinnati is not the only place this is happening.  San Francisco's Central Subway, which isn't anyone's favorite project yet still zombies forward with the support of Chinatown merchants and big time DC politicos, is also under attack from Rep McClintock.  While I'm no fan of the project, I'm also not a fan of wasting more money on the project by delaying it even further, especially since we know it will get built. It's also annoying to have someone representing Tahoe to the Oregon border getting involved in San Francisco transit issues.  I don't think Rep. Nancy Pelosi would ever step in because some road project in Truckee wasn't to her liking.  But if these guys really cared about keeping costs down, they would do more to stop building worthless freeways and subsidizing endless sprawl.

But this THUD bill individual project hate doesn't even stop at Cincinnati and San Francisco!  No our old nemesis Representative John Culberson is at it again and put language in the bill that would deny funding to the University Light Rail Line in Houston.  Where did he learn how to do such things?  Why Tom Delay's great example of course.  Now Culberson's district is on the edge of this line, but he and the neighbors can't stand the fact that it would go through a major employment center.  This has been going on with him for at least 6 years and he can't let it go.  In fact, the first post on this blog was about Culberson being a jerk.

Some things never change, and lots of transit opponents apparently don't want cities making their own decisions about transit projects.  Even though many of those projects go through stricter approvals in the New Starts process than any freeway ever built.  But get ready to see more and more of these riders with a Tea Party slanted house.  Like with the transportation bill, they are just going to throw more stuff at the wall to see if it sticks.  And we end up happy that they didn't cut transit, when all the crazy stuff they tried to pull was just a way to rig the negotiating table.  The more times an individual project can get stuffed into a bill, the easier it is for them to use it as leverage against things that transit backers want.  Perhaps we should start throwing stuff against the wall as a counter bargain.  Where is my Geary Subway?


Anonymous said...

This is what happens when one major political party is interested in sabotage rather than in governance.

Only remedy is to destroy said political party entirely, rendering it not electable.

Doris Jenkins, Matlack Leasing said...

Transit projects are usually proposed to help the community as a whole. I agree that if it's going to be done there's no point in delaying its construction if it's going to cost them more money. Transportation has become such an important part of society that these decisions shouldn't be left to select people alone, but should be decided for the betterment of the community.