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Time to kill off San Diego’s planned Mid-Coast trolley line

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Today the U-T reports that the San Diego proposed 11 mile long “Mid-Coast” trolley line is going to run a bit over its projections.

Instead of costing “only” $1.24 billion (over $110 million PER MILE), it’s now projected to cost $1.7 billion — a $460 million increase from two years ago.  Among things omitted from the original projection were such luxury items as sufficient train stations, bridges and trolley cars.If this were an isolated transit cost overrun, this would be an “oops.” But it’s no “oops.”

It’s a systematic tactic by the dishonest folks at SANDAG, understating costs to get people to buy into a new choo-choo line.  And, sure enough, we’ve already spent millions of dollars on the Mid-Coast right-of-way.  Over and over, transit officials have low-balled the projected cost of such projects — and by a LOT.One thing we can be sure of.  Not a single government bureaucrat will lose his or her job — or his lovely pension — for this gross incompetency.

But is it just incompetency?  I USED to think so, but not anymore. These agencies are manned by highly paid liars who are expected to prevaricate.  Over and over and over.  It’s their JOB.

The politicians and government drones at SANDAG will claim otherwise, but their past performance speaks for itself.  It’s one thing to err.  It’s quite another to ALWAYS err on the low-ball side.

Forget the Alamo. Remember the SPRINTER!

But it gets worse.

If this Mid-coast trolley repeats the experience of most other such lines in the city and county, about 3/4 of the riders will be former BUS riders. This line likely will save the average bus rider about 4 minutes travel time.

VERY few trolley riders will be people “getting out of their cars” — the supposedly primary goal of such expensive rail lines. The capital and operating cost per “ex-car” rider will be simply astronomical.And mark my words — the bureaucrats’ projected usage on the Mid-Coast line is JUST as inaccurate as their projected costs. Only difference? Rather than being understated, the projected USAGE will be OVERSTATED. It always is.

Actual ridership will likely be HALF their projections. Oops!

Anyone who thinks the trolley usage will at least match projections, kindly contact me for a friendly five-figure escrowed wager, with charity being the beneficiary.

One common claim of rail proponents is that it’s more energy efficient.  It is, IF the train is nearly full, all the time.  But it isn’t.  Not even close. Averaging the hours of operation usage, it’s likely that most light rail lines don’t average in excess of 30% seat occupancy.

Here’s a study that concludes that, compared with other modes of transportation, rail is often the MOST wasteful mode, from an energy standpoint.

Even favorable rail studies seem to conclude that there is little per passenger energy savings from light rail. BTW, doesn’t any sane person think this is the last “oops” in this project’s cost estimate? Would that it were so!

My guess?  Somewhere north of $2 billion. Shades of HSR.

To quote pundit P.J. O’Rourke’s advice on another government program, it’s time to “drag the thing behind the barn and kill it with an ax.

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6 Responses to “Time to kill off San Diego’s planned Mid-Coast trolley line”

  1. Ya Know... says:

    I am a huge supporter of using hundreds of millions of tax payers money to finance new and exciting places for homeless people to urinate in public.

  2. Sadly, the formatting on this blog is difficult to control. Sentences run together, and paragraphs can’t easily be separated.

    If you want to read my postings here in a better format (which is also a better format for sharing, of course), go over to my blog. For instance, here’s this article as viewed on my turf:
    http://riderrants.blogspot.com/2012/12/time-to-kill-off-san-diegos-planned-mid.html

    Indeed, consider signing up for my FREE daily email with my blog posts. Lots of good info. Try it out! There’s more than just my SDRostra posts.

    To sign up, go to:
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    Then move your mouse to the far right side of the screen where there is a thin vertical black bar. Touch it, and the “subscribe” button pops out. Just put in your email address, and you are done.

    UNsubscribing can be done in response to any daily email — which includes such a button.

    Also my stuff is available via Facebook, if you are so inclined.

  3. Thor's Assistant Thor's Assistant says:

    The formatting is fixed. A can of corn easy. Let us know if you want a primer.

  4. Thanks, Thorette. Well done!

    Yes, I want a primer. Prime away!

    Perhaps written instructions for all would be helpful. Hitting “Enter” just doesn’t work.

  5. Mole says:

    But RR, this is the legacy project of County Supervisor Ron Roberts. How could you be so insensitive as to deny him a legacy for the “people”?

  6. Mole, as you likely know, Roberts is afflicted by a common, incurable politician disease — the Edifice Complex.

    [NOTE TO YOUNG PEOPLE: The Edifice Complex is an outdated reference to a Greek tragedy we geezers had to read up until the mid-20th century -- as opposed to the more germane MODERN Greek tragedy of today.]

    The Edifice Complex is an elected official’s uncontrollable desire to leave behind something “concrete” to stand as an accomplishment — ideally with the politician’s name on it. Well, at least a PLAQUE.

    The key for a politico is to claim the accomplishment while making other faceless people pay for it. The ideal “sacrifice.”

    To be fair, Roberts is hardly alone in contracting this malady. Mayor Sanders SOOOO wanted a big, shiny new city hall (doubtless with his name on it). MANY other politicians have such dark thoughts, but most are not craven enough to take point on such efforts.

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