We Can Only Afford This With Other People's Money

It turns out, the first $100 million a mile extension of Phoenix light rail is having to be postponed.  The reason?  Its just too much money for the local pols.  So why is this one piece being postponed when any number of other extensions, such as the $230 million a mile airport extension, still going forward?  Well, it turns out that all those other lines (as well as the original) use large dollops of federal money, while the delayed extension was planned to use only local money.

It turns out that we are not willing to pay the full freight of building light rail for ourselves, and only want to do it if we are able to grab at least half the cost from people outside of Arizona.  AZ Republic story


  1. JimS:

    That pretty much describes anything built here in Alaska.

  2. K:

    It also describes pretty much anything done in passenger rail anywhere. And in city light-rail or alternatives in nearly every significant US city.

    The cities with the best transportation built years ago before everyone got so much help: NYC, Chicago, San Francisco. Inner city transportation can work if the city builds it and pays for it.

    My experience is rather old now. As am I. But I remember conventions where hundreds, perhaps thousands, of managers and staff from federal, state, county, and city yakked for days and achieved nothing. Learned insights by brilliant people were presented and the attendees nodded and agreed that the next stop was Utopia.

    I also remember the lobster dinners were great and the hotels first rate.

    Looking back, I feel confident in saying that many of those people had a successful public service career consisting of planning, allocating, meeting, reviewing, and coordinating without ever once seeing any transportation scheme they were involved with built or operated.

    But it is not all the fault of government. Public construction has been a huge source of graft, corruption, and waste since before the Romans. The reason is simple - most construction is unique, costs cannot be exactly known, and problems cannot all be foreseen. All of those permit money to be siphoned away.

    Every political unit and elected official wants to be involved in a light-rail system. And everyone in Congress tries to get earmarks for it, or tries to attach nice social schemes to the authorizations, or just tries to pump money into his/her state.

    Divided authority, incomprehensible complexity, multiple funding sources, and delay, delay, delay only make things better for public employees and elected officials.

  3. Bearster:

    I can't afford it, and you can't afford it, and he can't afford it, and she can't afford it, but together we all can afford it. This describes roads, schools, and everything else paid for by tax dollars.

  4. Allen:

    My two-bits ---> If they're not willing to apply for federal funds, the line is far short of meeting the ridership criteria required to get them. And considering those standards are far short of the sort of number of trips (aka ridership) needed for the line to pay for itself, it's a good thing they're not pushing along with the line.

    "This is a result of the economic times, but people are still going to get what they voted for." --Foose

    That's on par with claiming the titanic is unsinkable...... while the thing is sinking.

  5. tomw:

    See: Boston, Big Dig.

    If the Feds are footing the bill, nothing short of the best is adequate no matter what the cost.