Et tu Rochester? Here we go again! Rochester wants to gamble with taxpayer $$
“Another Minnesota city is debating jumping on the municipal broadband wagon and ignoring the risks and disastrous fate of similar projects. This time it's some on the Rochester City Council and Rochester Public Utilities who seek to join nearly 450 communities that have invested over $2 billion to construct, own and operate some form of taxpayer-funded, government-owned Internet service.
Before the Rochester broadband proposal moves ahead, everyone should be aware of one crucial fact: Many local governments that have invested in city-owned Internet services have left taxpayers and bondholders with returns of pennies on the invested dollar and created a huge financial mess.”
You can read the entire August 12th, Rochester Post- Bulletin commentary HERE.
SWLRT – Just Say No!
2016 has been a tough year for several major mass transit systems in the US. Specifically, Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Philadelphia commuter and light rail systems have been forced to “take rail cars out of service” and, in the most dramatic case, the entire D.C. Metro was forced to shut down all service during a workday while they investigated a series of public safety calamities that have recently plagued the system including fires inside the subway and several fatalities.
Many transit observers blame these recent shutdowns on deferred maintenance and overbuilding very expensive rail transit. Indeed, the current Secretary of Transportation, Anthony Foxx, said in a speech delivered June 29th, that the transit mentality was “build it, build it, build it, and let’s worry about repairs later. We bought the house, but didn’t set aside any maintenance dollars for the house. So the roof got leaky, the floorboards started popping up. We decided we could live with it for a while, and now things have gotten so that the repairs are so much more expensive.” Foxx continued his remarks by commenting on the dangerous situation facing the D.C. Metro system by saying, “My view is that Metro needs to really get its house in order and focus on what it has, before thinking about doing any expansion.” That’s good advice for any major government infrastructure but especially so for our light rail system in Minnesota. We cannot continue to build rail projects that we (meaning taxpayers) can’t afford to operate nor maintain.
Reason Foundation transit expert Robert W. Poole, Jr., added the following to Secretary Foxx’s bold statement: “The problem at many of these agencies is basically the incentives of the political appointees who constitute their governing boards. Zachary Schrag’s 2006 book, The Great Society Subway: A History of the Washington Metro, includes a serious discussion of what even then was ‘a looming maintenance backlog’ that was greatly exacerbated ‘by the constant desire of politicians to prioritize shiny new stations and extensions’ rather than boring old maintenance work. In other words, what we have is an institutional failure, at its core a dysfunctional governance model.”
A dysfunctional governance model is a kind description of what is happening in Minnesota where enthusiastic support for building a $2 billion new light rail line to the southwest suburbs appears to come from only members of the Met Council and CTIB politicians – the same ones who get to have pictures taken at ground breaking ceremonies. Much like the D.C. Metro and other transit systems across the country, politicians appear to have an unending appetite for building additional rail systems that currently have no sustainable plan to pay for on-going operating expenses. The politicians who run CTIB continue to promote only one solution: build more rail and “they”, meaning passengers and the funding will come. Paid ridership on these systems will never cover even 50% of operating expenses and will continue to force Metro Transit to be unable to serve growing transit needs in our region with vibrant and easily changeable alternatives like bus rapid transit and other commuter options.