Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The never mentioned costs start to add up

Honolulu HI - The proposed rapid transit line in Honolulu hasn't been approved for even a month and the costs start to rise as expenditures that were never presented to the public to consider begin to take hold. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin reports on the first of many hidden costs for Honolulu's yet to be built rail line.

The Mayor, Mufi Hannemann, has requested $4.1 million to create a Rapid Transit Office as part of the Federal requirements to obtain funding for the rail line. This $4.1 million is just for the first year and it is a department that will never go away (i.e. bigger government has just been created and you get to pay for it). This is just the start of the nickel and diming of the taxpayers for this particular project.

It is important to note that these various hidden costs happen in every city in the US that is building a government project. It is magnified in a transportation project simply because mass transit is expensive to build and operate.

From various proposals I have read over the years, there are hundreds of millions in various charges that are never presented in the proposals. This type of charge is one of them as it is not a direct cost associated with the project. The taxpayer ends up footing the bill of course and they have no choice in the matter at this point since the plan is approved and the project is under way.

The public needs to start asking the tough questions when expensive government projects come up. The public needs to automatically assume that the project will be at least 1/3 over the budget that the TA and government officials report and there will be at least a minimum of $100 million more that they will be responsible for paying through their taxes on top of that from related expenses not included in the proposal. Items such as offices, sweetheart development deals and even plain old graft and corruption.

The public needs to wake up to the fact that they are not getting a bargain but are getting their pockets picked by the pro-rail crowd and politicians looking for a legacy. They need to question if they really need such a project and do the research. Don't trust what the supporters tell you as they have an agenda to push the project. If the project is beneficial, go for it but in most cases you'll find that the rail line or other transit project has little to do with public transportation and more to do with politics, Utopian visions and political legacies.

I will be following this Honolulu rail project rather closely and when all is said and done, I predict my numbers listed above will be right on the mark.

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