Posts tagged ‘FY’

Update on The Phoenix Light Rail Fail: @valleymetro FY 2021 Report

The previous annual installment in this series was here.

Well, the Phoenix light rail system has hit new levels of fail that even I could not have projected.  Here are the annual numbers updated for the most recent report:

Yes, I know that supporters will argue that the agency should get a "pass" due to COVID.  I am willing to do so for the bus system, but not for light rail.  Let me explain.

I have always been, perhaps unlikely for a libertarian, comfortable with some base level of public transportation.  Lack of mobility can be a huge barrier to upward mobility and I can support public transit systems in major cities as a sensible anti-poverty program.

What I oppose is the replacement of relatively inexpensive and tremendously flexible bus transit systems with light rail.  Light rail requires orders of magnitude more capital and operating cost per passenger (except perhaps in the absolute largest and densest cities, which does not include Phoenix).  Light rail is limited by time and money and necessity to only a few routes.  In almost no city outside the centers of the few largest cities (think Manhattan) has it ever been possible to develop a complete enough web for citizens to entirely give up a car.  And light rail is absolutely inflexible -- once capacity is added on one route (for literally billions of dollars) it can't be moved where busses can be shifted easily from route to route.  For example, on a days' notice we had bus routes going to the major local vaccination centers -- no way to do that with rail.

It has always seemed to me that light rail is a middle class boondoggle.  White professionals kind of like the trains whereas they won't ride busses.  The few light rail routes tend to follow middle class / professional commuting routes.  Light rail gets professionals from home to office (after which they use their car for other sorts of trips) but does little to provide mobility for the poor to the doctor, to the store, to support services, etc.  Worse, because light rail costs 10x or more per passenger than busses, the advent of light rail generally starves a transit agency of funds and causes them to cut back on busses to save money (because once the rail is laid, you can't really cut back on it).  Look at the chart above, despite years of light rail extensions, total transit ridership in Phoenix stalled after growing for over a decade.  Wealthy university students at ASU got a nice train to the downtown clubs, but the poor who depend on busses for basic mobility lost a lot of service and routes.

I will confess that I didn't anticipate a pandemic in my prior opposition to light rail, but it has been more proof of the light rail fail.  Busses that are not needed are parked, sidelining a modest capital investment.  But light rail is $2+ billion in capital investment lying dormant.  With the middle class eschewing transit during COVID, transit is returned to its core function of providing essential mobility to the poor.  But it can't do this as well as it used to because of the multi-billion dollar light rail capital albatross.

The Left is Simply Unserious

This is the response from the Left to a proposed 1.6% cut in the Federal budget, that would reduce the annual deficit by a whopping 6%.  Greece here we come!

The Senate is expected to vote this week on alternative plans to approve spending for the rest of this year.  They will vote on whether to agree to the extreme cuts passed by the House (H.R. 1) - $65 billion less than last year's spending for domestic programs.  The House bill will deny vital services to millions of people, from young children to seniors. Please tell your Senators to VOTE NO on H.R. 1 and to vote FOR the Senate alternative. The proposed Senate bill cuts spending $6.5 billion below last year's levels, compared to more than $60 billion in cuts in H.R. 1.  Most of the extreme cuts in the House plan listed below are not made in the Senate bill.

Call NOW toll-free 888-245-0215 (the vote could be as early as Tuesday)
Please call both your Senators and tell them to VOTE NO on H.R. 1 and FOR the Senate full-year FY 2011 bill.  Tell them to vote NO on harsh and unprecedented cuts that will deny health care, education, food, housing, and jobs to millions of the poorest and most vulnerable Americans, while at the same time jeopardizing the economic recovery for all.

Straight From the Insatiable Statist Playbook

University of Arizona President Robert Shelton absolutely berates the state legislature as a bunch of Neanderthals for slashing his budget:

During this period, we have seen our state appropriation cut by nearly one-quarter, going from approximately $440 million to $340 million. The impact of these cuts has been amplified because they have come at a time when we have been asked to grow our enrollment substantially, and indeed we have done just that, setting records for enrollment in each of the past four years.

So the sound bite for this year is that we are being asked by the state to do much, much more, while being given much, much less....

The sad thing, though, with some of these legislators is that they have no idea how much they risk our state's future (and the quality of life for people who live here) when they try to lay waste to the single greatest engine of economic mobility that has ever been created. Because that's what public higher education in this country is.

Here he gets over the top -- look at the words he uses for the state legislature

When malevolent people talk about wanting to dismantle and destroy great universities, all they achieve is dire consequences for the human condition.

I am sure for the children shows up in there somewhere.  But is he right.  Well, technically, the legislature did cut his general fund appropriation.  But then they gave it back to him, and more, in different budget categories.  As it turns out, Shelton is being unbelievably disingenuous about this, and only the fact that most of his students went to public high schools and therefore can't do math lets him get away with such an address.  Greg Patterson tracks down the facts:

I contacted the Joint Legislative Budget Committee and asked for UA's total funding.Here's the response:

Mr. Patterson

UA's originally enacted FY 2008 General Fund appropriation was $362.4 million, and their current year (FY 2011) General Fund appropriation is $271.3 million, which is a decrease of $(91.1) million.

UA was appropriated $117.7 million in Other Appropriated Funds in FY 2008 and $219.3 million in the current year, which is an increase of $101.6 million.

UA's Non-Appropriated and Federal Funds budget was $786.7 million in FY 2008 and $911.3 million in FY 2011, which is an increase of $124.6 million.

In total, UA's FY 2008 budget was $1,266.8 million and their FY 2011 budget was $1,401.9 million, which is a total increase of $135.1 million.

So the University of Arizona's total budget has increased by $135.1 million--over 10%--during the period in which the "malevolent" state leaders have been "slashing" the funding.

Unbelievable.  I am so sick of statists crying budget cut when in fact their budgets are increasing.  Mr. Shelton goes on for thousands of words of drivel about the poor state of public discourse in Arizona while simultaneously dropping this turd in the punch bowl.  How is public discourse supposed to improve when the president of one of our two state universities is spewing out what he must know are outright fabrications and misrepresentations.  Pathetic.

Libertarian Oddity of the Day

I found this a bit odd.  In Arizona, you can actually make a voluntary contribution to certain causes or political parties via your tax return.  This is not a checkoff, but an amount that is added to the amount you owe in taxes and then passed on by the state to a short list of approved organizations.  As a libertarian, I find it unsettling that the state acts as a collection or sales agent for certain political causes.  In particular, how can the state make fair and reasonable choices as to who is on and not on the list of eligible recipients?

I found this data for 2009 FY giving:


What was odd for me is that of all the political giving, libertarians had the highest average donation.  I find it weird that libertarians would want to financially support the libertarian cause but they want to do it via the mechanism of the state income tax return.

The good news here is that the combined $28 thousand or so in political donations was dwarfed by every other cause.