Light Rail Lies

Light Rail Lies
..or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Getting Hit With a Bat

Proponents of Light Rail (MAX) are having a really bad month. They’ve spent the last 20 years and $1.6 billion in metro area transportation funds building fixed rail lines, claiming it would reduce congestion and enhance Portland’s image.

Livability is the code word today. Light Rail and Livability, they told us, are Progressive twins.
A few weeks back the growing crime problem along MAX lines, which has existed for years, finally got the attention of Portland’s media elites. As with most liberal lies it took someone dying (or in this case being beaten within inches of death) to force the Certified Smart People to admit the truth. It seems MAX can be quite an unlivable experience. As one local resident said:

Except during the peak rush hours, MAX is little more than a way for the criminal element to move from one crime scene to another… I used to say MAX was one of the best things for maintaining the environment, but it has been circling the drain for years…

Even though the people running TriMet know that criminals (especially juveniles) use their system to travel around the city terrorizing local residents, they have steadfastly refused to take the one action that would have the most dramatic positive effect on crime–namely, forcing riders to actually buy a ticket instead of riding for free.

The reason TriMet doesn’t check tickets is because this would drive their annual ridership numbers down. TriMet will do anything to boost ridership numbers in order to justify the multi-billion dollar system they forced us to build. If that means innocent Portlanders end up the victims of violent crime, well, as Lenin famously said, “sometimes you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet.”

But then the roof fell in when someone forgot to tell the Liberal editors of the Seattle Times that it’s verboten to tell the truth about Light Rail. The editors wrote the following about a proposition in their city to build fixed rail:

Seattle may deny this, but the surest way to reduce congestion on roads is to build more lanes. So says a report issued by State Auditor Brian Sonntag last week, and so says human experience. New roads help…

Buses also reduce congestion if people will ride them. Much more could be done with bus service, particularly if high-occupancy lanes are kept flowing by the smart use of tolls. Light rail replaces buses, and at a much higher cost per rider. Rail soaks up money buses might have used. Rail funnels transit. Buses extend it. And most rail riders will be people who were already riding the bus….

Throw these arguments at the Proposition 1 defenders and the ones thinking about the short term say, yes, we could reduce congestion with roads, tolls and buses, but voters aren’t ready to buy that: They believe in light rail, so give the public that. The farsighted ones say light rail is about changing the way we live. It is about increasing density, levering us into apartments around rail stations. If we live next to rail, we will drive less and help save the Earth. It is a fetching, utopian vision, but it is not so easy to change the way Americans live.

Consider Portland. That city opened its first light-rail line two decades ago, and has built several of them, all of which replaced bus lines. Overall, Greater Portland is no less car-dependent than Seattle. Its congestion has gotten worse, just as it has here. Many Portlanders are proud of light rail, but the last three times new light-rail plans have been on the ballot in the Portland area, the people rejected them.

Maybe they learned something.

Dear Seattle Times Editors: We’re Learning the hard way. Thanks for the beacon of truth in a sea of insanity. –MW