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The Transportation and Mass Transit Megathread


TopTenn

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That's a good article, and it also outlines the fact that federal funding for domestic programs is drying up as Iraq eats into our domestic budgeting. Its sad to hear the transportation initiatives are getting less than 50% federal funding these days.

Infrastructure is one of the most important roles of government, and without necessary funding its hard to imagine the future we're going to work ourselves into.

Also interesting is the note that 30% of the RTA system is expected to turn a profit, while it only has to be subsidized by taxes for 70% of operational costs. Roadways are 100% subsidized by the gas tax and general fund taxes unless a toll is involved. Yet all the anti-rail crowds are saying a little $40 million line is a boondoggle? :rofl::rofl::rofl::rofl:

Edited by heckles
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Bush is providing just $1.5B for all passenger rail projects in the United States in his 2007 budget. (non-Amtrak) This includes payments for prior commitments for existing systems. This represents about 6.25 days spending in Iraq. There are currently about $45B in requests for funding so getting a new rail system started that needs significant federal funding is very very difficult these days.

Nashville got $6M of this money for the Music City Star.

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Bush is providing just $1.5B for all passenger rail projects in the United States in his 2007 budget. (non-Amtrak) This includes payments for prior commitments for existing systems. This represents about 6.25 days spending in Iraq. There are currently about $45B in requests for funding so getting a new rail system started that needs significant federal funding is very very difficult these days.

Nashville got $6M of this money for the Music City Star.

I don't understand, the article said that the Star was 80% federal government and 6 out of 40 million doesn't equal 80%. So which one is right?

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I don't understand, the article said that the Star was 80% federal government and 6 out of 40 million doesn't equal 80%. So which one is right?
The amount I listed is the amount of money that will come out of the 2007 Bush Budget. I believe they have already gotten some money towards this project in 2006.
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I don't understand, the article said that the Star was 80% federal government and 6 out of 40 million doesn't equal 80%. So which one is right?

I'm not sure which numbers to compare, its kind of complex, but keep in mind that operating & maintenance costs are different from initial investment or construction costs.

Here is a quote from the article I want to focus on though in support of rail:

RTA anticipates operating revenues approaching $1.3 million during 2007. Costs are expected to run nearly $3.3 million, meaning an annual subsidy of around $2 million will be required from local, state and federal governments.

If you use these calculations, $1.3 million divided by $3.3 million = .39 or in other words revenue from fares will pay for 39% of operating costs of this train service. This requires a year-over-year subsidy of $2 million, or roughly 71% of the cost of operating this service.

That is a great deal considering that Tennessee does not have toll roads yet, where roads have all of their maintenance and upkeep subsidized by gas taxes and general funds taxes for reconstruction and maintenance.

I get frustrated with the fiscal conservative hawks and anti-rail lobby firms (many times funded by highway construction conglomerates who want more funds directed at them), because roadways are thought of as a utility that isn't expected to "turn a profit" but rail is consistently shot down as a boondoggle.

Some of the most frustrating and annoying people in the Nashville market is the editorials and "articles" written by Bill Hobbs, Phil Valentine, and etc. who have complained about the commuter rail as massive government waste.

If anything, this commuter rail line is an efficient investment that - of all things - has 30% return on operational costs due to the fare.

This commuter line will be a great thing for the future of development as station development in real estate projects will be substantial in the long term, and as growth patterns occur you'll see more riders over the course of 5, 10, and 15+ years.

$40 million is a drop in the bucket for a 33 mile rail system vs. spending for a new roadway or just expanding existing roadways.

That's why I'm so pro-rail. Even if this was a $600 billion inner city LRT or beginner heavy rail system (undoubtedly would serve many thousands of people a day instead of a few hundred) I would support it as not being a boondoggle, because we're still willing to spend billions on road development with zero return.

Infrastructure is infrastructure.

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I am pro-rail too, but your comments are off base.

First off, you say roads don't turn a profit, and we spend billions with $0 return? I can tell you this: I pay a gas tax everytime I put gas in my tank. If that tax doesn't cover the cost of roads, then the govenor needs to present that to us as a reason to increase the gas tax (of course, I would counter that we have HUGE surpluses across the board, so if he raises gas tax he needs to lower the sales tax). As far as the return on investment, what would our economy look like if we didn't have quality roads (see economy of Mississippi, or even places in Eurpoe that rely heavily on Mass transit and have unemployment rates of about 15% compared to our 4%).

People like Bill Hobbs and Phil Valentine aren't complaining about the concept of commuter rail, they are complaining about the way this particular line was initiated. Most of the people on this board agree with that too.

Is there anyone on here who lives in Wilson County? Has anyone seen a measurable improvement in their commute time? If we agree that there is no real improvement in commute time, then we are saying that we as taxpayers are subsidizing relaxation time for about 300 people. They get to relax in the AM instead of fighting traffic with the rest of us. How is that fair?? Why do we have to pay for this for them, and we don't get the benefits? We should make the rich people in Williamson county subsidize my relaxation time, right???

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A gas tax is a tax, not a user fee. So yes roads have $0 return for the actual road, the return comes through the development and economic activity that comes thereafter in terms of development. *News alert* rail is no different. It takes years for development and transit patterns to grow around a rail system.

I support spending for both rail and roadways for infrastructure through tax revenue. Much of the roadway system is not just built with gas taxes, its also built with general funds. Especially federal funding where a lot more mixed funding comes in.

No, my comments aren't off base. People like Bill Hobbs and Phil Valentine have a few nuts loose in the brain.

Edited by heckles
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I am pro-rail too, but your comments are off base.

.......

Is there anyone on here who lives in Wilson County? Has anyone seen a measurable improvement in their commute time? If we agree that there is no real improvement in commute time, then we are saying that we as taxpayers are subsidizing relaxation time for about 300 people. They get to relax in the AM instead of fighting traffic with the rest of us. How is that fair?? Why do we have to pay for this for them, and we don't get the benefits? We should make the rich people in Williamson county subsidize my relaxation time, right???

Actually your comments are some of the most off base that I have seen posted in this thread and consistant with some of the arguments that I have seen routinely posted by anti-transit critics. You argue that it is not fair for you to pay taxes because it makes someone elses ride to work easier. If they had not built this line, how much would it save you personally in taxes? Yes off base for sure. At least you agree that riding the rails is preferable to driving.

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You argue that it is not fair for you to pay taxes because it makes someone elses ride to work easier. If they had not built this line, how much would it save you personally in taxes? Yes off base for sure. At least you agree that riding the rails is preferable to driving.

It's not a matter of whether it would save me $1 in taxes or $10,000 in taxes because it's my money. What matters to me is that I paid for something I can't use. I pay for roads (gas tax) and can use them. If I don't drive, I don't have to pay for the roads. It's like the 'bridge to nowhere' in Alaska. Are you supportive of that waste? After all, it's your tax dollars at work.

Again,yes, I would prefer to have a train to work every day. I hate that this country dismantled our entire commuter rail system in favor of interstates. But when you look at when rail roads were originally developed, they weren't paid for by the government; they were owned by private companies who had to make a profit. Why can't the same hold true today?

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It's not a matter of whether it would save me $1 in taxes or $10,000 in taxes because it's my money. What matters to me is that I paid for something I can't use. I pay for roads (gas tax) and can use them. If I don't drive, I don't have to pay for the roads. It's like the 'bridge to nowhere' in Alaska. Are you supportive of that waste? After all, it's your tax dollars at work.

Nobody is stopping you from using the commuter rail what we are really talking about is that it is not convenient for you to do so. Just like it isn't convenient for you to pay gas taxes to build roads in the far reaches of this state. It's a pointless argument.

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I agree that this argument is going in circles, so this will be my last comment on this particular point:

I pay taxes at the pumps, and I have roads to use. I don't know how much of that tax $$$ is sent to less populated parts of the state, but that's fine with me because I may take a trip out in the middle of nowhere Tennessee and drive on their roads. Fact is, I pay taxes for roads and have roads to drive on.

I pay taxes for a commuter rail line, but it would add about an hour to my commute to use that rail line. It does me no good. And if we can get one in my part of town, I wouldn't expect people in Jackson Tennessee to pay for it.

This is all at the heart of a greater argument on taxation, and as long as success is taxed (income tax), people like me will complain.

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No one knows except RTA, and they'll release the information as soon as it becomes available. Its generally thought the next line will either be to Hendersonville-Gallatin or Smyrna-Murfreesboro.

If 640 riders a day are riding the Lebanon line, I'd expect it to be larger for these other routes. Lebanon is a small town of barely 15,000 residents, Mt Juliet has maybe 25,000 these days.

Murfreesboro alone has approx. 80,000 residents and Hendersonville is approx. 50,000 according to the latest estimates. Add on the other bedroom communities like Gallatin, Madison, LaVergne, Smyrna, Antioch and these other communities have such a higher population that its kind of funny they didn't persue the larger areas first.

Hendersonville even has a plan to build a little downtown shopping area if I'm not mistaking around their commuter rail stop, should it happen.

Providence is being built in Mt. Juliet, but even that community is a few blocks south of the actual stop on the rail line.

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^ Whatever form of mass transit connects to Murfreesboro will be a huge success. Hopefully it will happen soon. If existing CSX tracks or routes are used, that would potentially place a station very near Murfreesboro's new Gateway development and/or downtown. The current little station is in a great location, on West Main just a few blocks from the square.

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The next commuter rail line priority seems to be the South East (Murfreesboro) corridor. The Nashville-Murfreesboro MPO site gives some information on the ongoing planning for the project and it appears they are close to selecting an alternative.

map_rail01.gif

The corridor includes:

SECorridor.jpg

The current alternatives include:

A - BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) utilizing HOV lanes along I-24. It would be a 48 minute trip that stops at 14 stations. It would cost $220 million with $1.6 in operating expenses

B - Commuter rail on new tracks along an existing CSX corridor taking 60 minutes and stopping at 9 stations. It would cost $230 million to $330 million with $3.0 million in operating expenses.

C

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