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Then, hopefully, something grand.

Stephens owns the lot behind the Capitol as well, making plenty of room for a parking deck to accomodate the Capitol and whatever he puts where the new surface lot is. That's too prime of a piece of land to use for parking and Stephens even said this. I think he really wanted to buy Block 2 and try to clean it up first but I guess that fell through.

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Hello, I am an outsider from Australia where we call street cars trams. Out of pure curiosity, if your city is building a completely new light rail system then what is the reason for choosing 1920s

I agree an expansion down Main would be good but so would extending the end to the track south to 9th then west to Main and north to 2nd. The area east of l-30 is prime for redevelopment. Lost Forty h

As big of an advocate of urban planning concepts and smart growth as I am, I just don't get the huge outcry against this...as if this is the first time any highway department has proposed increasing c

River Rail ridership for the period February 1, 2007 through June 30, 2007 was up by almost 15,000 over the same period last year.

Also, I was on the trolley yesterday and there was a man on it who said he rides it every day from NLR to work in the River Market. The driver also said that construction would begin next month for an extension to the airport. I don't know if there is any truth to this or not but I find it interesting that the driver would be talking about it.

This is truly great news, especially considering the pessimism I remember seeing a lot of in the last year (in the DemGaz I think) when the ridership went down. Since I got home this summer, I've been downtown a few times, and every time the trolley has seemed at least half-full, sometimes packed. I think the system is working great, certainly paying off for those businesses near the trolley, and hope some of the proposed extensions will come to fruition!

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This is truly great news, especially considering the pessimism I remember seeing a lot of in the last year (in the DemGaz I think) when the ridership went down. Since I got home this summer, I've been downtown a few times, and every time the trolley has seemed at least half-full, sometimes packed. I think the system is working great, certainly paying off for those businesses near the trolley, and hope some of the proposed extensions will come to fruition!

It is great news, but the "pessimism" or perhaps it's realism is simply that the lines have some progress yet to make before they are a net benefit to Little Rock as a whole. As several articles have noted recently in the Ark DemGaz and Arkansas Business, some construction was built on the premise that the rail would be there and others certainly considered it a positive reason for development...so that's a benefit beyond ridership. But, there's still a long way to go.

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It is great news, but the "pessimism" or perhaps it's realism is simply that the lines have some progress yet to make before they are a net benefit to Little Rock as a whole. As several articles have noted recently in the Ark DemGaz and Arkansas Business, some construction was built on the premise that the rail would be there and others certainly considered it a positive reason for development...so that's a benefit beyond ridership. But, there's still a long way to go.

I would say that anything that greatly benefits downtown Little Rock--as I feel RiverRail certainly has--beneifts the city and the region "as a whole," since DT LR is kind of a front door to the rest of CA. I think we can agree the general development of the River Market District over the last decade has benefited the city/ region as a whole, so I feel it follows that each individual accomplishment downtown is helping CA by extension.

I also sense that RiverRail in particular has been a boon to the image of LR, as it demonstrates some of the progressive bent of the city, and defies the sterotypes of Arkansas as being ignorant and backwards (even if the stuff in this week's Arkansas Times might not).

Once again, this is purely my opinion, but I feel that the attitude of libertarian economics (namely the Chicago School of Economics, with which I only most grudgingly am related and experienced, going to the U of C) is currently being demonstrated as an unhealthy and unreasonable way to run a country, state, or city; as such, I am inclined to like a system (RiverRail) which is built with benefit the people foremost in mind. Certainly money must be and is taken into account--they put the trolley where people would ride it, but it doesn't have to be immediately full of people, and there certainly doesn't have be a profit made, in order for there to be a "positive reason for development."

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I wasn't quite sure what you were talking about with the Arkansas Times, so here's a link for those interested.

Little Rock definitely is a little progressive oasis in the state. Driving through NYC and New Jersey, I remember craning my neck to keep tabs on all the potential progressive bumper stickers I would see, but I didn't see any. Driving through Little Rock, I see a few per day. I was fully expecting the "liberal" northeast to be clogged with progressive bumper stickers (it's my meter on measuring the politics of a region), but I really didn't see any, despite the tens of thousands of more cars stuffing the highways. Maybe that's a testament to the different cultures, more than anything.

It's interesting to wander through the history of this state and take note of the formative events of the state's current milieu. The Democratic Party's reign. The yellow dog democrats. Bumpers, Fulbright, Clinton, etc. The Arkansas Gazette. The Central High crisis. Republican Winthrop Rockefeller. Etc.

I agree with your (abdintp) sentiments, overall, on the River Rail. As I've said before, sometimes the public good is more pertinent to certain situations than profit.

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I would say that anything that greatly benefits downtown Little Rock--as I feel RiverRail certainly has--beneifts the city and the region "as a whole," since DT LR is kind of a front door to the rest of CA. I think we can agree the general development of the River Market District over the last decade has benefited the city/ region as a whole, so I feel it follows that each individual accomplishment downtown is helping CA by extension.

I also sense that RiverRail in particular has been a boon to the image of LR, as it demonstrates some of the progressive bent of the city, and defies the sterotypes of Arkansas as being ignorant and backwards (even if the stuff in this week's Arkansas Times might not).

Once again, this is purely my opinion, but I feel that the attitude of libertarian economics (namely the Chicago School of Economics, with which I only most grudgingly am related and experienced, going to the U of C) is currently being demonstrated as an unhealthy and unreasonable way to run a country, state, or city; as such, I am inclined to like a system (RiverRail) which is built with benefit the people foremost in mind. Certainly money must be and is taken into account--they put the trolley where people would ride it, but it doesn't have to be immediately full of people, and there certainly doesn't have be a profit made, in order for there to be a "positive reason for development."

Oh well, we disagree entirely on The Chicago School of Economics and especially as it relates to responsible public spending. But, it appears we all agree that, with the right benefits, public works and projects have their place.

As I have said before, I have ridden the trolly several times, and quite enjoy it. I am usually alone (or very nearly alone) in my enjoyment on this trolly, even during this period of heightened usage. In that we have invested million$ in thi$, my opinion is that we should expect tangible benefits. As I noted earlier, there have been some development movements that were spurred, in part, by the rail. This is, AS I NOTED, a net benefit. So, while we can agree on this and also that it doesn't have to "turn a profit" on it's own, other benefits should be achieved for this, or any public works to be deemed a success. And yes, ridership will have to be a measuring stick for it as well. I mean, if you're stating that this "is built with the benefit of people foremost in mind", wouldn't the ability to ride it be the primary benefit?

I'm hopeful that RR will eventually be the net benefit you envision, but it isn't there yet.

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I would say the River Rail does play more of a role than what some might think. People will argue that no ones uses it and so on. I've heard the same complaints on Fayetteville's Trail System. But what people don't realize is that it's amenities like this that also helps attract companies to move in. Sometimes it's those small things that help break a tie with other cities trying to attract some of these same businesses.

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I would say the River Rail does play more of a role than what some might think. People will argue that no ones uses it and so on. I've heard the same complaints on Fayetteville's Trail System. But what people don't realize is that it's amenities like this that also helps attract companies to move in. Sometimes it's those small things that help break a tie with other cities trying to attract some of these same businesses.

Nobody is missing that point. It's been documented where RR has had such impacts in the past week in both the DemGaz and Ark Bus Journal.... It's a stretch at this point to think that RR tipped the scale in our favor for our recent good news though.

In any event, it will be interesting to see if there is any legitimacy to the suggestion that more rail is on the way...in the direction of the airport.

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Nobody is missing that point. It's been documented where RR has had such impacts in the past week in both the DemGaz and Ark Bus Journal.... It's a stretch at this point to think that RR tipped the scale in our favor for our recent good news though.

In any event, it will be interesting to see if there is any legitimacy to the suggestion that more rail is on the way...in the direction of the airport.

I agree, EJC, that we've been there and done that on this topic.

If there is indeed light rail being planned to the airport, would it follow one of the railroad rights of way that is currently leading toward the airport? That seems logical, although I don't know how used those railroads are.

EJC, would you support light rail to the airport?

Also, sorry, f*** the Chicago School.

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I agree, EJC, that we've been there and done that on this topic.

If there is indeed light rail being planned to the airport, would it follow one of the railroad rights of way that is currently leading toward the airport? That seems logical, although I don't know how used those railroads are.

EJC, would you support light rail to the airport?

Also, sorry, f*** the Chicago School.

Milton Friedman was a brilliant man. Not without faults nor is any person or academic institution. The Chicago School has done more to advance free market, capitalist economics in the past 100 years than other institution. This country was founded upon those principals. If you, or anyone else does not agree with those principals, it's your choice (they also founded a country where people could think freely and differently :) I'll stick w/ Milton though. But enough on that.

Light rail to the airport? Like anyone, I'm open to the idea, but I'd want to see some data to suggest what kind of usage it would get. I'd want to see dialog about the other possible impacts (good and bad). I'd like to know the desired route and what hoops would have to be cleared to make it a reality. I'd like to evaluate what other plans the city has along the corridor and if there would be any benefit to other stops along they way. I'd like to know what impact (if any) it would have on traffic congestion. Then I'd like to see the cost.

Then wrap all that up into a cost/benefit analysis like every project has...

With something like this, the question would be, what are we really trying to accomplish with this?

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If you, or anyone else does not agree with those principals, it's your choice (they also founded a country where people could think freely and differently :)

Oh boy. I admit I don't know much about the Chicago School of Economics, but don't mix democracy up with free market capitalism. I've studied political theory and it's a huge stretch to say our founding fathers, in their various political essays in the founding of this country, thought anything of neoliberalism economics. Partly because such concepts had not even entered their gestation periods yet.

Also, I'm in business school, and we are taught that we do not have a pure free market society in management 100, our first class. Free market economics is an idealogy, and idealogies do not address the nuances of reality (e.g., there is no such thing as a perfectly competitive market, or there is not an endless supply of natural resources).

That said, I agree with you that money should not be needlessly wasted on public projects, and there should be some "meter" to measure their efficacies--I think everyone agrees with that.

Personally, after seeing light rail in St. Louis, I am skeptical that light rail would be a useful anywhere in Arkansas, unless some wealthy businessman wants to tote the bill. The STL metrolink goes to the airport, and it's usually around 30%-60% full when I use it. This despite the fact that STL-Lambert is a big, international airport, and the STL metro is around 2.8 million people. We in LR have a little, 12-gate national airport, 600k metro....

The second major problem is that light rail is much more expensive foot by foot than the River Rail trolley. When investing that much money, there has to be some sort of assurance that it will be well traveled.

I used to think light rail would work in Little Rock, but now after living in STL, I would prefer to drive my own car than ride the metro link. Cities in America were built for cars. It's inconvenient to have to walk a block or two (and I lived relatively close) to get to a rail system that only brings me in two directions: west or east. In a rural state like Arkansas, that independent-minded, American mentality is heightened.

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Oh boy. I admit I don't know much about the Chicago School of Economics, but don't mix democracy up with free market capitalism. I've studied political theory and it's a huge stretch to say our founding fathers, in their various political essays in the founding of this country, thought anything of neoliberalism economics. Partly because such concepts had not even entered their gestation periods yet.

Also, I'm in business school, and we are taught that we do not have a pure free market society in management 100, our first class. Free market economics is an idealogy, and idealogies do not address the nuances of reality (e.g., there is no such thing as a perfectly competitive market, or there is not an endless supply of natural resources).

That said, I agree with you that money should not be needlessly wasted on public projects, and there should be some "meter" to measure their efficacies--I think everyone agrees with that.

Personally, after seeing light rail in St. Louis, I am skeptical that light rail would be a useful anywhere in Arkansas, unless some wealthy businessman wants to tote the bill. The STL metrolink goes to the airport, and it's usually around 30%-60% full when I use it. This despite the fact that STL-Lambert is a big, international airport, and the STL metro is around 2.8 million people. We in LR have a little, 12-gate national airport, 600k metro....

The second major problem is that light rail is much more expensive foot by foot than the River Rail trolley. When investing that much money, there has to be some sort of assurance that it will be well traveled.

I used to think light rail would work in Little Rock, but now after living in STL, I would prefer to drive my own car than ride the metro link. Cities in America were built for cars. It's inconvenient to have to walk a block or two (and I lived relatively close) to get to a rail system that only brings me in two directions: west or east. In a rural state like Arkansas, that independent-minded, American mentality is heightened.

Yes, free markets is an ideology, but it is the framework upon which much is built. No one claims any perfection in any of it. But that's to digress.

It seems that a great many people who want rail are basing this on the premise that it's the right thing to do... i.e. it's "green". There is intellectual sentiment that it's forward thinking. The problem is, you've hit the nail on the head in terms of mentality. And I'm not sure there's anything "green" about constructing an unused network of anything. It's certainly not forward thinking. You could acquire electric trolleys running on roads if you don't like the combusion engine approach. Frankly a shuttle trolley would seemingly make more sense if you want the trolley look and feel. And those come in electric varieties...

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Personally, I think building light rail without addressing the issue of land use first is doomed to fail. We're going to have to change the way we develop in Little Rock. If people can't walk from their house to use it, they won't use it. There is too great a stigma attached to using the bus here, and if someone has to hop in the car they might as well keep driving past that commuter lot at the train stop.

Simply looking at this as a transportation project and not from a holistic stance will not work.

There is also a part of me that thinks we should just let people in West Little Rock deal with the problems they've been a part of creating.

BTW the I just read back and realized y'all were talking about light rail to the airport. I think that is more of an auxiallry unit to an existing rail system. I think it would be a very bad investment as a stand-alone.

Edited by hogwash
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I admit I like the idea of having some light rail in Arkansas. But I also admit I really don't know if it would work anywhere. I don't know of any place in Arkansas that has been very successful getting people out of their vehicles. Sorry to get things a bit off topic here, but I think one of the problems with Americans is that we don't walk anywhere anymore. Europeans on average walk a lot more than Americans and they also tend to be healthier as well. So for me it boils down to this. Do we try to keep encouraging other alternatives and try to get people out of their vehicles which may not work, or do we just give up and keep throwing out more asphalt for more roads?

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Personally, I think building light rail without addressing the issue of land use first is doomed to fail. We're going to have to change the way we develop in Little Rock. If people can't walk from their house to use it, they won't use it. There is too great a stigma attached to using the bus here, and if someone has to hop in the car they might as well keep driving past that commuter lot at the train stop.

Simply looking at this as a transportation project and not from a holistic stance will not work.

There is also a part of me that thinks we should just let people in West Little Rock deal with the problems they've been a part of creating.

BTW the I just read back and realized y'all were talking about light rail to the airport. I think that is more of an auxiallry unit to an existing rail system. I think it would be a very bad investment as a stand-alone.

I agree about the stigma about using the bus. Ordinary people are afraid to use it. I'm not sure I know a friend or family member of mine that has ever used the bus in LR.

The people in west LR are paying a lot of property taxes and sales taxes, more than the average person in the city as a whole. They've been ignored when it comes to parks as well as fire coverage. I'm all for spending money on downtown but it also needs to be spent where the city's growing.

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I agree about the stigma about using the bus. Ordinary people are afraid to use it. I'm not sure I know a friend or family member of mine that has ever used the bus in LR.

The people in west LR are paying a lot of property taxes and sales taxes, more than the average person in the city as a whole. They've been ignored when it comes to parks as well as fire coverage. I'm all for spending money on downtown but it also needs to be spent where the city's growing.

I would have to disagree with your view about people using the bus. What about the 2,200,000 + riders CAT had for the bus last year? They will use it when it is convenient and fits their needs. A good example of this is the Riverfest Shuttle from War Memorial Stadium and North Little Rock High School West Campus. Also, bus ridership has gone up this year over last. As far as tax money for west LR it is spent there. The further west the city goes the more it cost the city keep up with fire, police and public works to keep up with the expansion. As for property tax most of this goes to the schools either LR or Pulaski County. Last week I read in the Arkansas D-G that the cost to the city of LR for the River Rail construction was $1.5 million. I don't see this as a waste of money considering some of the houses in the city cost more than this.

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I would have to disagree with your view about people using the bus. What about the 2,200,000 + riders CAT had for the bus last year? They will use it when it is convenient and fits their needs. A good example of this is the Riverfest Shuttle from War Memorial Stadium and North Little Rock High School West Campus. Also, bus ridership has gone up this year over last. As far as tax money for west LR it is spent there. The further west the city goes the more it cost the city keep up with fire, police and public works to keep up with the expansion. As for property tax most of this goes to the schools either LR or Pulaski County. Last week I read in the Arkansas D-G that the cost to the city of LR for the River Rail construction was $1.5 million. I don't see this as a waste of money considering some of the houses in the city cost more than this.

You are right about many people using a shuttle for things like Riverfest, etc. I park in LR and ride across for games at Alltel. Still, those are "shuttles", not regular service.

CAT ridership is not impressive for a county of 400,000. Those numbers you gave mean that the average person uses it 5 times a year, or 2.5 times round trip.

Part of the problem is a lack of access, fewer routes and stops than needed and some limitations on hours for night shift workers.

Still, I just don't know a lot of people that own cars that occasionally ride the bus. Virtually everyone I know that uses CAT is below the poverty line and can't afford any type of car.

I don't consider River Rail a waste of money, I think it helps provide a tight community downtown and appeals to companies and conventions considering the city. I also think its ridership probably is at a higher percentage of capacity than most of CAT's bus routes.

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I would have to disagree with your view about people using the bus. What about the 2,200,000 + riders CAT had for the bus last year? They will use it when it is convenient and fits their needs. A good example of this is the Riverfest Shuttle from War Memorial Stadium and North Little Rock High School West Campus. Also, bus ridership has gone up this year over last. As far as tax money for west LR it is spent there. The further west the city goes the more it cost the city keep up with fire, police and public works to keep up with the expansion. As for property tax most of this goes to the schools either LR or Pulaski County. Last week I read in the Arkansas D-G that the cost to the city of LR for the River Rail construction was $1.5 million. I don't see this as a waste of money considering some of the houses in the city cost more than this.

RR was projected to cost $19.5 million according to this: http://www.arkansasbusiness.com/article.aspx?aID=36749

$3 million of which was to come from the FTA. I don't know who footed the rest of the bill, but the cost of this was significant...to someone...someone's taxes paid this bill. The addition of the route to the library was estimated at another $7 million.

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RR was projected to cost $19.5 million according to this: http://www.arkansasbusiness.com/article.aspx?aID=36749

$3 million of which was to come from the FTA. I don't know who footed the rest of the bill, but the cost of this was significant...to someone...someone's taxes paid this bill. The addition of the route to the library was estimated at another $7 million.

The federal government paid close to 80% of the total. The reason I see this as such a good deal for LR, as well as NLR, was the small amount they paid. Of course federal money comes from the taxpayer but if LR/NLR did not use it some other city would.

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The federal government paid close to 80% of the total. The reason I see this as such a good deal for LR, as well as NLR, was the small amount they paid. Of course federal money comes from the taxpayer but if LR/NLR did not use it some other city would.

True, but that is in up-front costs. Recurring annual costs eat up a nice slice of county budget. This is a big argument against light rail - even with up-front funding maintaining it and paying losses would end up eating up a lot of tax money.

That said, I think River Rail is worth it.

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True, but that is in up-front costs. Recurring annual costs eat up a nice slice of county budget. This is a big argument against light rail - even with up-front funding maintaining it and paying losses would end up eating up a lot of tax money.

That said, I think River Rail is worth it.

The amount spent this year for the operations of the River Rail will be around $775k. The operations of CAT comes out of the general revenues

of the general budgets of Pulaski County and 5 local governments with Little Rock providing the most. I do not know if the budget for the River Rail is divided between only LR, NLR and Pulaski County the way it is done with its construction projects. I think the best way to fund the River Rail would be to use a part of the hamburger tax that LR and NLR collects. This year LR will collect over $10 million on its tax. If they did this and set aside 10% for River Rail operations they could use the revenue from fares to build shelters or advertise the system.

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The amount spent this year for the operations of the River Rail will be around $775k. The operations of CAT comes out of the general revenues

of the general budgets of Pulaski County and 5 local governments with Little Rock providing the most. I do not know if the budget for the River Rail is divided between only LR, NLR and Pulaski County the way it is done with its construction projects. I think the best way to fund the River Rail would be to use a part of the hamburger tax that LR and NLR collects. This year LR will collect over $10 million on its tax. If they did this and set aside 10% for River Rail operations they could use the revenue from fares to build shelters or advertise the system.

I agree, I never thought of it but that would be a good use for the hamburger tax. It really is a tourist/convention-oriented transportation modality far more than an "everyday" way to commute. I wouldn't mind renovation and expansion of Riverfront Ampitheatre (along with selling naming rights) from the C&VB tax as well. Those are at least concrete uses of the money were waste could be monitored.

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Skirby excellent idea!

It is always striking that non-road transportation projects draw so much scrutiny when we spend money hand over fist on the local, state, and national level on roads.

We USE roads. At every possible chance. So yeah, it makes sense to spend on them.

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I didn't say we didn't use roads.

It is just interesting that we pick at a project like the river rail, when road projects that unecessarily increase mobility into rural areas and ultimately exacerbate the problem of sprawl draw little or no scutiny.

Edited by hogwash
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