Regular readers know we’re big fans of Randal O’Toole — the Cato Institute’s resident expert on government-funded public transportation.
Mr. O’Toole travels a lot and addresses those who will listen about the follies and unjustifiability of historically popular public transportation systems, especially “light” rail, and streetcars that are merely light rail with a friendlier, more comfortable, more nostalgic and salable label.
We’ve railed for years against the planners in Anaheim, Santa Ana and particularly the rail fanatics at the Orange County Transportation Authority that ignore all the evidence and promote this costly nonsense on busy streets that need no more congestion, or injuries, or deaths.
LA Metro’s Blue Line from Long Beach into the city has killed more people than any other light rail system in the country. Further evidence of transit authorities’ inability to deal with this century-old technology was revealed in an LA Times editorial just this morning: No winners in this MTA train wreck. Note also the MTA is run by former OCTA CEO Arthur Leahy who had built the well-overbudget Minneapolis/St. Paul “Hiawatha” light rail mentioned below. Leahy was the OCTA’s primary cheerleader in pushing the ridiculous CenterLine light rail system on Orange County about ten years ago.
O’Toole recently prepared a presentation for the city of Virginia Beach re. his concerns for their streetcar project. In a post titled “How to Hoodwink the Public” he wrote:
Two years ago, Virginia Beach put a measure on the ballot to extend the Norfolk light rail (which stops at the border between the two cities) into Virginia Beach. All of the advertising for the measure said “Vote Yes to Study Light Rail.” But the actual measure read, “Should the City Council adopt an ordinance approving the use of all reasonable efforts to support the financing and development of The Tide light rail into Virginia Beach?” That’s a lot different than a study. The measure passed. But it is entirely possible that voters would have been less enthused if they had known that the Norfolk light rail ended up carrying 58 percent fewer riders than projected in its first year.
His detailed slide deck here has some excellent information on some of the failures of light rail in a variety of applications around the country.
We’re sure it’s too much as ask the OCTA, or the Anaheim or Santa Ana city councils to hear a cogent and well-researched anti-rail opinion (that would cost them money — Mr. O’Toole doesn’t work for free), but before MILLIONS of Measure M dollars are spent on these boondoggles, maybe an expert presentation would be in order. O’Toole has already offered a free opinion of the Anaheim streetcar boondoggle last year.
Here’s some selected slides from O’Toole’s Virginia presentation with information pertinent to the ridiculous planning efforts for streetcars going on now in the OC’s two largest cities: