Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Politicians & Transit - Do Not Mix Together

Albuquerque NM - The Editorial in the Albuquerque Tribune on December 5, 2006 is a very good overview of why politicians need to be taken out of public transit decisions.

A big push for an electric streetcar line in Albuquerque by Mayor Martin Chavez and a majority of the City Council was met with less than enthusiasm by the residents of the city. Questions were asked by the public and the politicians scattered like cockroaches in the kitchen when a light is turned on.

The most telling point in this whole editorial was the mention of the "quickie study" that was commissioned by the pro-streetcar Mayor. This type of quickly done study is typical of cities pushing for expensive capital projects for things like light rail and trolley service.

All too often the preliminary studies commissioned will paint a picture of economic boom times that will occur if the project is built. This is sold to the people as a plan with no drawbacks. After millions are spent on further required studies, planning and other prep work needed before the funding application can be submitted, people begin to wake up that they were snookered into accepting a plan that will do little beside cost them money. By then, it's too late to turn back.

The residents of Albuquerque were right to ask the hard questions considering that ultimately, they would be paying a big part of the cost through higher taxes. It's too bad that residents of other cities just follow the bumbling politicians like a herd of sheep when it comes to projects designed more for a politician's personal legacy than for serving the public or improving the economy of the area (hint - if you want to improve the economy of the region, try lowering taxes and making a business friendly environment).

What happened in Albuquerque is a classic example of why politics and public transit don't mix. Politicians today want to use public transit as a development/economic tool rather than what it is supposed to be for, moving people.

A Laurel goes out to the residents of Albuquerque for questioning the plan right out of the box and not letting the Mayor and City Council baffle them with answers that danced around the questions. By making the politicians squirm, they defeated a boondoggle that would have cost them millions in taxes if the politicians had their way.

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