Austin taxpayers have already spent $105 million on MetroRail, a light-rail system that isn’t ridden and hasn’t improved traffic. But that isn’t stopping the Austin City Council from now drooling over a brand-new transportation boondoggle. The price tag on this new “urban-rail” system: $1.3 billion.
The city council heard more information about the project on Tuesday, including what routes it would take, how many people would ride it, and how it will be paid for. The most likely option would be general obligation debt, which would require a mixture of higher property taxes, federal funding, and ticket sales.
But before you say to yourself, “have they learned nothing from MetroRail?”, read this quote from Council Member Mike Martinez:
“What I’ve learned from Cap Metro is there are so many variables on who would ride it and how many trips per day it would be,” Martinez said.
No, it’s not the lesson that taxpayers expected them to learn: that Cap Metro has barely enough net working capital to keep MetroRail afloat, or that a $105 million investment (using that term loosely) in MetroRail has done absolutely nothing to relieve traffic congestion in Austin.
The real lesson that they learned was to not tell you how many people they actually expect to ride it, so you the taxpayer won’t have such high expectations this time. Given the fact that they aren’t even conducting surveys of who will ride this new train, and that MetroRail averages less than half of the riders originally estimated, that might be a wise move on their part.
Since the Austin City Council seems to have no hope of coming to their senses and realizing what a waste of money this new urban-rail will be, it’ll be up to Austinites to save themselves. The referendum for the project will be on the ballot in November 2012.