Light Rail Chugs Ahead Despite Problems

Posted on January 25, 2005
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The federal government has formally committed to provide $587 million for an initial 20-mile light rail line between Phoenix and Mesa, the Arizona Republic reports. Valley Metro Rail chief executive Rick Simonetta said of the Federal Transit Administration's contribution to the estimated $1.3 billion project, "this is the ultimate expression of confidence from the FTA."

The government's light rail project is chugging ahead despite problems plaguing light rail systems across the country. In the Goldwater Institute report, Buses, Trains, and Automobiles: Finding the Right Transportation Mix for the Phoenix Metro Region, transportation expert John Semmens points out how poorly every other light rail system in the country has served commuters. Despite a steady increase in federal aid, transit system deficits have consistently increased over the last several decades. Moreover, in 2000, only one light rail system, Portland's, carried more than one percent of travel in its region. However, even the Portland system has now slipped below one percent. 

Using government sources and reports, Semmens shows how light rail will actually increase traffic congestion, and at best, offer a negligible decrease in pollution, even assuming unrealisticly high ridership. Indeed, as he concludes, a light rail system will do nothing to improve traffic in the Phoenix area, and will likely make things worse.

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