Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Pro-rail crowd has a new tactic

Myrtle Beach SC - One of the many places you wouldn't expect to find a streetcar is in Myrtle Beach but pro-rail backers are hoping to change that.

The Sun News reports on plans that were presented to the city recently to showcase a $6.6 to $10.4 million dollar "test line" that is approximately a quarter of a mile long. The test line proposal wouldn't do much of anything except sit in the open and wouldn't connect any two things together.

This news report brings up an important new tactic in the pro-rail movement. A test line is the newest method in the pro-rail playbook for getting rail into a city that can't justify having rail. They convince a city to build a small test line at the local taxpayers expense that really doesn't connect anything. Once built, the city is forced to try to extend it so their investment isn't just pure waste. Now that they have something built, they can more easily justify to the Federal and State government the need to get funding to extend it so it will be useful.

In the past, the method was to get a city to build a "starter" line that actually was somewhat useful but the desperation within the pro-rail movement is sinking in now because funding is getting harder to get. This has resulted in the new push for rinky-dink test lines just to get a rail toe-hold in place so it will be easier to get the Feds to cough up taxpayer's money to extend the line.

The news report is filled with the typical code words of the pro-rail crowd such as "the vision" and the "cool factor" as well as "development and rising property values". Of course, the Holy See of the streetcar movement, Portland Oregon, just had to be mentioned also as the streetcar success story. Myrtle Beach is hardly Portland Oregon, no matter how far you try to stretch the comparison.

There is no word as of yet if the struggling local bus system will be stuck running the line if it is built. Most likely it would be as that would be the only way the city could get the Federal money to extend the test line to the point it could actually be useful.

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