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

Richard Rider, Chairman, San Diego Tax Fighters Richard Rider, Chairman, San Diego Tax Fighters


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.