1. On a scale of (0) most disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) most
agreement, what is your view on whether Minnesota should make
significant investments in expanding passenger rail service?
2. On a scale of (0) most disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) most
agreement, what is your view on whether arrangements to finance
operating deficits for expanded rail service should be made before
Question 1. Fool
me, at first I thought maybe the question was ambiguous. Is it the
State of MN that has to "invest" in rail, or does anyone in MN have do
so. But question 2 clarified that easily.
Please note: it
cannot be called an "investment" if at the outset you know you will be
running at a loss. Hate to be hard nosed about this, but a major
reason for the general mess we are in nowadays is our Alice In
Wonderland use of the language. If you know you will be running at a
loss, then it may be some kind of social service, but it's not an
benefit," however defined or however quantified, is not an acceptable
form of return on investment (ROI). At the end of the day, no matter
what activity you are engaged in, you have to balance your books.
However, this does not mean that I endorse the use of State funds to
cover operating deficits.
You always have to
detail your up-front costs and your operating expenses, and where
you'll be getting the money or the financing to cover them, even you
intend to run this operation as some kind of a service by the State --
and in that case the start-up costs and the operating expenses have to
be budgeted via the normal legislative process. Apparently MN and
others are already doing that.
So the question
really is, whether building, running or subsidizing mass transit is a
legitimate State function. I say no.
Just reflect for a
moment. It mass transit were a good investment, then it would be done
by private enterprise; the government could help with appropriate
legislation, short of funding or confiscating property. If there
really is popular support for mass transit, if the public had really
decided it was badly needed, then some wily entrepreneur would have
already figured out how to provide the service at a profit, i.e., so
he could stay in business.
But at this point
it looks like all the clamoring for mass transit comes from people
eager to expand government into yet another area of our private lives.
This is especially clear in this era of bickering over all the "free"
money flowing from Washington in the name of stimulus or whatever;
people lose sight of the huge continuing expenses and huge new
intrusion into our lives that are mandated by accepting that money,
which the States and local governments will have to continue long
after that money runs out.
messages on this topic I have explained my feelings about the tragic
departure from the business (and urban planning) model that was
successful throughout the world a hundred years ago: commuter rail
lines radiating from a central big city throughout its suburbs,
livable cute little town clustered around each station, and people
from outlying areas traveling to the nearest station in their station
wagons (guess why they called them that). But governments moved
aggressively and vengefully against Big Rail, and sided with Big Truck
and Big Car to subsidize roads, interstates and long-distance
trucking. Well, at this point I'd say that rather than cure the
disease by prescribing more of the same poison, it would be better if
we reversed course and remembered the principles on which this nation
was founded, trim government back to its bare essentials, and let
people solve their own problems without the implied or express threat
of the government's powers hanging over them. The government can
certainly run studies, suggest plans and generally explain to people
the true out-of-pocket cost of a trip to work by car, living out in
the boonies rather than closer in, etc., thereby educating and
convincing them about the benefits of mass transit. But in the end the
people will decide how they'll choose. But you still can't bring home
a family's groceries for a week by bus or rail, and you won't catch
the pig flu if you are alone in your car.
George Pillsbury (0) (10)
Milton (10+) (5)
We are indeed at a turning point. Demand for a rail system, based on
the success with the Hiawatha line (and in every other place in the
world) makes this a better possibility. With federal funding, we may
still have an opportunity to move Minnesota into 21st century
transportation. I agree, leadership is important. We need to have
the governor, legislative leadership, the Met Council all on the same
page. Maybe we could locked them all in a room (without weapons) and
feed them, but not let them out until they come up with a plan for
integrated rail-bus-highway transportation. Good luck!
My criticism is about Pawlenty's policies . . . that have set
Minnesota backward and will do even more damage with his new scheme of
"unallotment." Wreck the UofM, wreck MNSCU, deny healthcare to those
most in need of it, strip the quality out of K-12, close the parks and
libraries, dump more people out onto the streets without jobs . . . so
that is, I guess, an ingenious solution to the transportation problem
Carolyn Ring (6) (8)
Question 1: We do
need more transportation alternatives.
Question 2: There is no point in having it, if you do not know how it
be funded after completion.
Clarence Shallbetter (0) (10)
Jennings (8) (7)
I liked his
criteria for rail: (a) Move people? (b)
Contribute to economic development? (c) Reduce use of fossil fuels?
(d) Help people who are transit-dependent?
Donald H. Anderson (0) (0)
Much as we need a
coordinated transportation plan, given the cuts in education, health
services and other essential services we are faced with in this "no
new tax" climate stalemate, I don't see how we can afford any
transportation changes other than resurfacing roads and replacing
Keller (10) (10)
Miller (9) (7)
Hamm (1) (10)
Minnesota no, the Metro area your choice. I don't care about your rail
service so long as you keep your hands out of my pocket to create it.
Your rail service is of no benefit to me so don't call it a Minnesota
Question 2: Again
a Metro problem keep it to the Metro area this isn't a rural issue
keep it that way.
There seems to be
a certain element in the Civic Caucus leadership that is committed
to metro commuter rail paid for by rural transportation dollars. The
reality is we will fight this even harder than your repeated attempts
to get us to pay for your sports stadiums. This is specifically why I
will fight tooth and nail to stop any attempt to include rail in with
highway funding. You want it you buy it leave us and our funding
Stone (5) (10)
question implores refinement, e.g., light rail, integrated national
high speed rail, intrastate intercity rail? Public investment or
public investment? Or has rail become synonymous with public
construction, maintenance, operating costs and periodic total
rebuilding of rail systems should join the balanced budget as a
requirement of the Minnesota Constitution.
“One cost that is
rarely, if ever, mentioned by promoters of passenger rail
transportation is that of reconstructing and rehabilitating rail
lines, which is
needed about every 30 years.”—Cato
Institute High Speed Rail Policy Analysis, October 2008
Slocum (7) (10)
Jacobson (9) (4)
Lutz (8) (8)
Nowicki (8) (10)
Dorfman (0) (_)
Hively (7) (7)
along the route benefit greatly. There should be something similar to
tax increment districts whereby operating deficits are paid by
communities/regions based on a percentage of economic development
generated by the line.
Miller (10) (3)
Halstead (0) (10)
Question 1: Again we have politicians looking out for their interests
rather than identifying needs, preparing realistic ridership,
estimating operating and maintenance costs and fares, comparing
transit/transporatation services now and in the future and doing what
is in the best interests of the public.
Question 2: LRT and commuter rail fares should be approximately 50%
of the operating and maintenance costs including park and ride sites,
not the approximate current 25%.
I suggest that Mr.
McFarlin become familiar with LRT service in Denver. They have
several LRT lines adjacent to their highways and it is helping
moderate road traffic. The Central Corridor LRT provides zero benefit
to our highway system and is just a very expensive bus
replacement. 40+ minutes to ride end to end and much slower than
express bus service. The politicians and Transit Managers have
installed and are planning rail transit with minimal transit benefits
and very large transit subsidies.
transportation/transit system is broken!!!
Lampe (1) (10)
I'm in almost
total disagreement with Bob regarding rail investment. Rail is "coming
back" only because of the vast sums of federal money being pumped in,
not because it's analytically defensible. There is a "transit
industrial complex," people who benefit enormously from the status quo
in transportation, but who have become delusional about
the alleged benefits of what's being proposed.
There is no meaningful market share available for long distance rail,
and the capital and operating costs will be an abomination. Rail works
in Japan because of population density and reasonable travel distances
(Tokyo has 16 times the density of the Twin Cities). The US is too big
and too dispersed for rail to work properly. It worked to some extent
in an earlier age before the interstate highway system and reliable
And I'm a rail enthusiast who rode trains extensively in the '50s,
'60s and even into the '70s. Alas, that era is gone forever.
More analysis from a noted environmentalist:
excellent urban transit analysis from Sweden:
450 miles to
is at the outer limit of feasible rail trips and there isn't much in
between to stop at. Trips on trains will always be a very small
fraction of trips by air or automobile. Rail is being done only
because of Deep Throat's advice to Bob Woodward: "Follow the money."
Certain people make a lot of money from rail projects and politicians
are able to create monuments to themselves. A wise voice long ago said
of rail: "Better you should build pyramids. They are much more
have much lower operating costs, and last far longer."
This set of statements is foolishness:
"Rail deserves its own set of evaluation criteria. Such as:
Does the rail project: (a) Move people? (b) Contribute to economic
development? (c) Reduce use of fossil fuels? (d) Help people who are
If you measure transit against roads,” Bob
said, “you will miss much of its intrinsic value.”
The truth is: (a) trivially, (b) inefficiently, (c) trivially, (d)
There is no "intrinsic value." If you want development, spend directly
on it. It's insane to propose that transit is not about moving people
-- almost the whole point of transit is to move people out of cars and
provide mobility for folks who don't have cars or can't or shouldn't
drive. MOBILITY IS THE GOAL.
We need to do much better. Met Council proposes to spend $4.1 billion
double metro area transit ridership from 300,000 trips per day to
per day. The goal should be to increase it from 300,000 to 3 million
14 million daily trips expected in 2030. But this requires a radically
solution set than LRT and busways alone. To be useful, transit has to
everywhere all the time." Only Personal Rapid Transit has a prayer of
meeting such ambitious goals.
Quie (10) (11)
I am for No. 1
only if No.2 is done. Consider a substantial percent being paid by
those who benefit from the line in addition to the fares paid by the
Schwarzkopf (4) (10)
Press (10) (10)
Alderson (5) (10)
Eklund (9) (9)
Heegaard (10) (10)
Bishop (10) (7)
Kuisle (1) (10)
Pierson (3) (9)
You could remove
all Minnesota ID's and you'd be considering Osceola county, Florida
(where I live). Rapid transit is an issue which comes continually
before the state legislature for consideration and this year, as
before, nothing was done. When you realize that one of the reasons we
succeeded in our inter-state road system in the early '50's was
because of the fear that "The Russians are coming, the Russians are
coming" and there was the need to enable quick movement of people and
goods. Wonder what it'll take to get things 'moving' this time?
Sen. Sandy Rummel (8) (8)
Frenzel (1) (10)
Hauge (9) (9)
Detert (10) (10)