The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good
I had intended to do a lengthy, detailed post in favor of the commuter rail proposal, responding to most of the objections raised by the critics. However, my ambition exceeded my time, and Mike Clark Madison
did a great job in his column addressing most of the points.
Is the proposed Red Commuter Rail the best line or the ideal solution that we would have come up with in a perfect world? No. We live in a world of practicalities where we have to deal with the facts on the ground. There are six governing facts that have brought us to the Red Line:
1 - The voters rejected a more complex, more expensive proposal in 2000.
2 - Capital Metro already owns the rail line allowing them to put forth one of the most cost-effective rail transit proposals in the country.
3 - After the failure of the 2000 light rail proposal, Capital Metro studied several rapid transit alternatives. I served on the community advisory group for this project. It made one thing clear, there is no way to put rail along the Lamar-Guadalupe-Congress corridor, the route proposed in 2000, that will not be expensive, technically challenging, and politically divisive.
4 - Using the conservative ridership estimates required under Federal Transportation Administration criteria, Capital Metro estimates that the Red Commuter Line will carry ~17,000 riders per day by 2025. If the trains carry 200 people per hour during the peak times, the Red Line will provide 5 percent additional capacity on U.S. 183 at a cost equivalent to 2 miles of highway.
5 - If this rail referendum fails, it could be a decade or more before we get another chance. Capital Metro would likely have to fight aggressively to retain its full 1 cent sales tax authority. Michael Levy has already revealed the greedy lust among the road warriors for grabbing 1/4 cent or more of the tax authority.
6 - The referendum really comes down to choice. The proposed Red Commuter Line will provide us with a new transportation alternative. There is an expression where if the only tool that you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail. Transportation is like that. If cars are the only way that we have to get around, roads look like the only solution to our traffic woes. Roads aren’t the only solution, though. The proposed referendum will give us a more diverse and more flexible transportation system with rail and expanded bus service, offering us more transportation alternatives.
The Red Commuter Line is a solid proposal and a good start to providing this region with a more flexible transportation system. As part of its proposal, Capital Metro has committed to studying circulator options to provide connections to the rail line in four areas: Downtown, Mueller/45th Street, Highland Mall, and Braker/Arboretum. A modern streetcar system
may provide a great means of traveling within some or all of these areas or even between Downtown and Highland Mall. But, we aren’t going to get there if the proposed Red Commuter Line doesn’t pass on Tuesday.
Vote for the Capital Metro Rail Referendum. It will be at the bottom of your ballot, on the second screen, and if you vote a straight party ticket, you will also need to scroll down to vote on the referendum.