Devastating Post on Houston Light Rail

This post at Houston Clear Thinkers is just a devastating analysis of Houston light rail.  In it, we see the age-old story -- rail is enormously expensive, and starves the rest of the system for money, ultimately leading to fewer people riding at much higher costs.  He quotes from Bill King:

Decline in Ridership. Since 2004, Houston population has grown by over 10% from just over 2 million to 2.25 million. At the same time gas prices rose 47% from $1.81 per gallon to $2.67 per gallon. These two factors should have virtually guaranteed an increase in transit. However, exactly the opposite has occurred as bus boardings dropped almost 24% from 88 million in 2004 to 67 million in 2009. Instead of increasing bus service by 50% as it promised the voters in the 2003 referendum, Metro has slashed bus routes and increased fares by over 50%. Today Metro actually operates 225 fewer buses than it did in 2003. An outside performance audit in 2008 found that on-time performance fell by 29% from 2004 to 2008.

Financial Disaster. Since 2003, Metro's sales tax revenues have increased by 43%, rising from $357 million to $512 million. At the same time, its fare revenue increased by 41% from $42 million to $60 million by charging an ever dwindling ridership more. Yet, Metro is in the worst financial shape in recent history. At year end 2003 Metro's current assets exceeded its current liabilities by $125 million. The budget just adopted by the Metro board projects that it will have current accounts deficit of $165 million by the end of this fiscal year, a stunning loss of nearly $300 million in just five years. Over the same period, Metro's debt has swelled by nearly 50% from $546 million to $816 million. [.  .  .]

In the meantime, the cost of the [Metro's Light Rail Transit lines] has risen from the $1.2 billion originally estimated to something well in excess of $3 billion. Metro is seeking to borrow $2.6 billion to build the LRT, over four times what it promised the voters would be the limit in the 2003 referendum. Originally, Metro assured voters that it could build the LRT without tapping the mobility payments that are so critical to the Houston and the other member cities. Metro's projections now show that it can only afford the LRT if those payments are terminated in 2014. [.  .  .]

  • zero wolf

    this is the same kind of crap that went on with the 'projected cost estimates' for all the other big-ticket items the statists were drooling after, and pawned off on us po' taxpayers: social security. medicare/medicaid. the Big Dig. the F-35. the "jobs stimulus" (LOL). aaannnnd, of course, the rosy, best-of-all-possible cases numbers we're getting for the proposed healthcare "improvements".

    am pretty sure we've all figured out the con by now. pick some wildly low number out of the air; sell that to the suckers whose money you're going to use to buy votes for yourself; let the next generation of number-cruncher weenies get stuck having to admit the original numbers were off by an order of magnitude. wash, rinse, repeat.

    this is a fairly well-followed blog. since this is the USA, that means statistically speaking, every 3rd reader here is a lawyer, right? surely there's SOME lawyer-type out there willing to SUE SUE SUE the grifters who peddled wildly incorrect numbers to a gullible public. and i mean sue them PERSONALLY. take them for every cent they have. then go after their agencies for treble damages. then refer them to a DA for financial fraud.

    silence - and no lawsuits - implies consent.

  • BNO

    Plenty of blame to go around. The public is too gullible, but greater blame goes to those who lie. There is no honest advocacy in the press, who should be the whistle blowers who alert the public. If people are gullible, it is mostly because they are too busy living their lives to play detective. Therefore, you have to trust someone and people decide to trust the media. Unfortunately, the media, by and large, is not a credible source of information, in my opinion.

  • Dewayne

    I live in Houston. Light rail is a joke. Just the other day one of the trains collided with a METRO bus, sending 19 persons to the hospital. This is not the first time. The trains are always colliding with cars and buses.

  • Skip

    Y'all need to do your bus and light rail like Dallas. Big D does it right.