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monsoon

CATS 2030 Transit Plan is Dead

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Has anyone noticed that CATS no longer mentions the 1/2 cent transit tax? Could it be because the arguments they gave in concert with the city leaders and the banks and which were endorsed without question by the Observer, simply are not going to happen? That promise was that if the residents voted for the tax, then CATS would build trains. I realize that some here will deny that, but that was what was said and implied in the effort to defeat the transit tax repeal. The financial plan on how this would work were laid out in the 2030 plan and cited by Tober many times that the assumptions made had been vetted by the best financial people in Charlotte. In other words, trust us.

Now we are being told by CATS they can no longer build ANY of the remaining lines, without substantial NEW sources of tax money being funneled to the organization. They began this right off by informing the towns in the North they required them to come up with a $100M in additional taxes to be paid by the property owners there in order to run a train into their towns. Thankfully those towns sent them packing as the TIF scheme would have been a disaster in these days of falling house values and the collapse of the new home market. They are trying to railroad in the Center City Streetcar without demonstrating any kind of need but are suggesting that a special tax zone be created to support it. Finally and amazingly this week, one of the airheads on the city council talked about the federal stimulus (bailout in CATS case) is required for CATS to keep building trains. Instead of addressing where the transit tax is going, instead we are told "oh, this will create jobs for Charlotte".

So CATS is left with requiring a handout from the Feds or the trains won't be built. It's a classic bait and switch. "oh it's not their fault that Obama will not had them a couple of billion dollars" . This is exactly why I advocated here 2 years ago against voting for the transit tax. I said then, this tax should not be supported, not because I am anti-transit, but because CATS is not held accountable to results from being given this tax. So instead of train building, CATS has allowed its expenses to grow to the point that it takes all of the transit tax plus another $35M-$40M just to keep the lights on. As I predicted then, we would not get any firm dates without this accountability for new train lines. It has been 5 years now since CATS submitted the official application for the South LRT. Yet, we still have no dates on record for similar applications for the North Line, the NE LRT, or anything else. The reason for it, IMO, is that CATS knows the Feds will turn down these applicatoins because these lines are not cost justified and more to the point, there is no money to cover the local costs.

The people should be outraged at this failure.

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I have seen the 1/2 cent tax frequently mentioned, usually in the context of "because of the downturn, revenue from the tax is falling short." All transit agencies are dealing with this, and CATS's service cuts are far lighter than many, as reported by the NYT.

I guess I still don't, after all this time, understand why you take such issue with CATS over other government agencies. Schools, prisons and roads stop being built when tax times are tough - big surprise, so do rail projects. And yes, cost estimates go up. That's inflation. That's rise in material goods. That's rise in labor prices. That's not just "idiots at CATS," that's the construction industry in both the private and public sector.

I also debate your definition of "need." No one "needs" a streetcar, a train, or interstates or airports. Its about quality of life. Ultimately, the economics might not work out for some of these routes (fancy way of saying "too damned expensive"), but they are shown to be routes with a strong ridership already in place, signaling the opportunity for a permanent and more expansive infrastructure.

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This seems as good of a thread as any to make a mini-rant about the sales tax projections.

Yes, they are falling because of the economy, but isn't it logical to conclude they will once again increase as we exit the recession. I keep hearing that projections have to be revised based on the lower revenue. I wish a more detailed explanation of what is being considered a long-term average increase in revenue is. Were initial projections based on 2 years ago when we were at a peak, or at a long term (10-year) moving average. I just hate to think the bean counters live in such an air-tight glass box that they re-project long-term revenues at every point during an economic cycle.

On a similar note, there has been occasionaly political whispers of increasing the 1/2 cent sales tax to either 3/4 or 1 cent. It would be nice to see this move forward, though I suppose its more politically risky now than say, a year ago. I assume, CATS is going to see how much it can milk from the feds before it puts on its thinking cap.

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On a similar note, there has been occasionaly political whispers of increasing the 1/2 cent sales tax to either 3/4 or 1 cent. It would be nice to see this move forward, though I suppose its more politically risky now than say, a year ago.

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Part of the probably too, I believe, is the politics involved. CATS simply has too many irons in the fire by trying to plan and construct 3 transit lines at the same time. The streetcar was really pushed to get the minority vote for the transit tax and now as a result it has been moved up prominently. Unfortunately, it isn't a pure play as a transit line, its more of an upgrade. The southeast or northeast corridors would both offer more new riders rather than just a different vehicle that still waits in traffic.

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I will state that Dan Murray who was just elected to the County Commissioners at large openly supports increasing the transit tax. I believe an at large city council member does as well, maybe Foxx?

I'm really disappointed that more stimulus money isn't directly targeted at transit. I would be willing to bet that transit construction has one of the highest jobs/$ creation rates of any program.

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CAT now wants money from the economic stimulus plan for their light rail line. :scared: $335 million for a North Corridor Rail Line to the Lake Norman area. I thought that transit tax was supposed to pay for this new line not a government handout. :mellow: I know revenue is down, but they're still getting money last time I checked. Where is that going? To pay for CEO bonuses? :rolleyes: Is there any proof that the rich people in Lake Norman will even use this LRT line if it gets built? I know the way rich people get. They think they're too good to ride transit especially in this part of the country. Regarding the $1 billion funding request by Charlotte, looks like they also want their share of pork. Cities are lining up for this money like pigs would at a trough.

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CAT now wants money from the economic stimulus plan for their light rail line. :scared: $335 million for a North Corridor Rail Line to the Lake Norman area. I thought that transit tax was supposed to pay for this new line not a government handout. :mellow: I know revenue is down, but they're still getting money last time I checked. Where is that going? To pay for CEO bonuses? :rolleyes: Is there any proof that the rich people in Lake Norman will even use this LRT line if it gets built? I know the way rich people get. They think they're too good to ride transit especially in this part of the country. Regarding the $1 billion funding request by Charlotte, looks like they also want their share of pork. Cities are lining up for this money like pigs would at a trough.

CATS has an operating budget that it needs to financially back, so that's where the sales tax is going, not into bonuses. The north line is also not LRT, it is commuter rail which is completely different. I'm also assuming that you've never ridden mass transit in other cities as there are a quite a few 'rich' people that ride buses and trains.

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Is there any proof that the rich people in Lake Norman will even use this LRT line if it gets built? I know the way rich people get. They think they're too good to ride transit especially in this part of the country.

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Yes, they are falling because of the economy, but isn't it logical to conclude they will once again increase as we exit the recession. I keep hearing that projections have to be revised based on the lower revenue. I wish a more detailed explanation of what is being considered a long-term average increase in revenue is. Were initial projections based on 2 years ago when we were at a peak, or at a long term (10-year) moving average. I just hate to think the bean counters live in such an air-tight glass box that they re-project long-term revenues at every point during an economic cycle.

On a similar note, there has been occasionaly political whispers of increasing the 1/2 cent sales tax to either 3/4 or 1 cent. It would be nice to see this move forward, though I suppose its more politically risky now than say, a year ago. I assume, CATS is going to see how much it can milk from the feds before it puts on its thinking cap.

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At first, I wasn't even going to respond to such an ignorant comment, however it really has me kind of steaming at the moment. Can you name one study that shows that 'rich people' (which itself is a rather vague and presumptuous term) refuse to ride mass transit because 'they' think that 'they' are above it? And what do you mean by this part of the country? Part of sticking your nose in the air at mass transit would imply that said mass transit is readily available to this demographic and they refuse to use it. Which, to the contrary, I know many many wealthy business men and women who live in the Pineville/Ballentyne area and ride the light rail into SouthEnd and Uptown for business and pleasure. I also can cite numerous business workers who have and still do ride the bus system to Uptown.

I realize you are trying to make a point, but this type of generalization is not warranted or needed, I would hope others on this board will not tolerate it either. Would you come on here and say, "Why bother spending money on East side schools, all the students are just going to drop out and be drug dealers."

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^ Thanks for the context. Given that explanation, it makes me more irritated that we are now reconsidering future collections. If they are based on a 20 year average, why should we be so presumptuous to assume that several down years (now) won't be compensated by higher than average growth years in the future. In other words, you the point of a long-term average growth is that is captures economic cycles.

If they are simply trying to re-establish what a suitable base year is, then fine, but I don't like the idea of tweaking growth rates based on singular annual observations.

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CATS has an operating budget that it needs to financially back, so that's where the sales tax is going, not into bonuses. The north line is also not LRT, it is commuter rail which is completely different. I'm also assuming that you've never ridden mass transit in other cities as there are a quite a few 'rich' people that ride buses and trains.

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I am a huge fan of mass transit, but I hate the way CATS is 'selling' mass transit to the public. To me, it seems much simpler to just state the obvious costs and benefits of transit rather than this pathetic 'we are running short on income' drama. Please!!!

Last year, CATS said they needed to raise fares due to the rising cost of diesel (nearly $4.50 a gallon at the time). Now that the fares have increased, diesel is half the price. I am 100% sure the fares won't go back down now that diesel is cheaper (fares will probably go up again in two years). I would love to know how many more dollars a day CATS is making on the 20 cent rate hike. I would also love to know how much money on diesel CATS is saving now. If you add these two unknown numbers together, I bet you would get a number greater than our temporary shortfall with the transit tax. It is little things like this that makes CATS' officials appear to be untruthful. I had such high hopes for Mr. Parker, but I am affraid he is no better than Mr. Tober.

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It might be commuter rail but there is still no hard evidence that it will be profitable once it gets built. Actually, i've ridden the subway system in Atlanta and the light rail in Charlotte numerous times. I've also ridden mass transit in San Francisco. Huge difference in the diversity/demographics riding mass transit in San Francisco than in Atlanta. If it works in Charlotte like it has in San Francisco than great, but if it doesn't like in Atlanta than it will be labeled as a waste of money. Yes, i'm skeptical of the plan but I should be with how much money is about to be spent on building and operating this transit line.

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In Atlanta, the MARTA subway system wasn't expanded because rich people in the suburbs didn't want it and were afraid of poor people making their way into those areas. When I say this part of the country, i'm talking about the south. In the northeast, you have all demographics ride mass transit. In the south, you have mostly poor people riding mass transit. Take a ride on MARTA in Atlanta sometime if you don't believe me. I know none of us like to admit it, but we all know it's true that rich people in the south that live in the suburbs would rather drive a SUV than ride mass transit. That's one of the reasons they live in the suburbs. If they did want to ride mass transit, they would live in the inner city. Sorry if my point came across as rude. That wasn't my intention.

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Last year, CATS said they needed to raise fares due to the rising cost of diesel (nearly $4.50 a gallon at the time). Now that the fares have increased, diesel is half the price. I am 100% sure the fares won't go back down now that diesel is cheaper (fares will probably go up again in two years). I would love to know how many more dollars a day CATS is making on the 20 cent rate hike. I would also love to know how much money on diesel CATS is saving now. If you add these two unknown numbers together, I bet you would get a number greater than our temporary shortfall with the transit tax. It is little things like this that makes CATS' officials appear to be untruthful. I had such high hopes for Mr. Parker, but I am affraid he is no better than Mr. Tober.

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On the subject, I think there are two different issues being issued. Monsoon has problems with the mismanagement of CATs, not so much the system or the overall plans. The other part is the stuff that can't be controlled. Much of the funding, especially with the half cent increase, is based off of economic conditions. Obviously we have hit recession over the last year, and that is the main contribution to the negative trend. This will directly correlate to the amount of money that can be invested into the 2030 plan. Would any expect any other trend? It's hard to think of anything that is properous in todays time, aside from Cambell's Soup and "Breastraunts" as I believe the Observer dubbed it last week. Atlvr brings up the best point though, this is a current trent, and the market will rebound and eventually things will be prospourous. With that, CATs will have more funding. However, as many companies are right now, you have to adapt to the time and CATs management has to treat the situations of today and execute the proportions to their investments and reprioritize. With that said, I'm not totally disagreeing with the way that CATs is managed.

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Let's be clear about this. CATS is spending $100M+ year on operations. The transit tax was only projected to bring in $75M-$80M/year at best for the next 10 years. It really doesn't take advanced mathematics to see there is no money, not because of the economic decline, but because they already spent all of it, and a lot more. They have failed at producing a realistic transit plan and instead continue to feed us the excuse of the day while at the same time presenting endless pretty presentations on what it is supposed to look like without ever giving us dates for when it will be built.

I am not sure what I am missing there, but a plan that can't be funded i.e the 2030 Plan, using the assumptions given for it, is a dead plan. Someone tell me what I am missing.

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For 2008 CATS lists its Operating Income Sources as:

  • Transit Tax - $71.1M

  • Maintenance of Effort - 18.6M

  • Revenue (fares) - $18.3M

  • Interest - $5.1M

  • Assistance?? - $13.5M

  • Misc Income - $0.9M

  • Total Income- $127.4M

    • Delivery - $97.2M

    • Management - $6M

    • Total Operating Cost - $103.1M

    So at the end of the year they have $24.2M left from this bucket to spend on other expenses including capital projects. This has to cover buses, trains, shelters, anything that would be considered a capital expense. It also includes servicing debt they have run up. It should be noted they consider the transit tax to be a part of operating income and not capital income which they track separately. CATS gets other grants from time to time from the Federal and State goverments to cover some of the non-operating expenses.

    However the point being made here is that between the Street Car, NE LRT and North Commuter Rail project we are talking about a current projected cost of $1800M or $1.8B dollars. I would guess this number will easily go over $2 billion. So with the operating expenses and income shown above, it becomes clear that CATS is going to have to find significant sources of income over what they said it would take if the transit tax was approved.

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It's true that they have an operating budget but don't they already get money from the federal government with a local match to support those operations?

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Interesting that CATS is funding the 2030 Plan 100% for FY2009...but people on here are saying the plan is "dead".

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So at the end of the year they have $24.2M left from this bucket to spend on other expenses including capital projects. This has to cover buses, trains, shelters, anything that would be considered a capital expense. It also includes servicing debt they have run up. It should be noted they consider the transit tax to be a part of operating income and not capital income which they track separately. CATS gets other grants from time to time from the Federal and State goverments to cover some of the non-operating expenses.

However the point being made here is that between the Street Car, NE LRT and North Commuter Rail project we are talking about a current projected cost of $1800M or $1.8B dollars. I would guess this number will easily go over $2 billion. So with the operating expenses and income shown above, it becomes clear that CATS is going to have to find significant sources of income over what they said it would take if the transit tax was approved.

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Well first of all it is safe to say that Mecklenburg county will grow by at least 300,000 (or even 500,000) people by 2030. ]

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