103 Reasons Why The $103M Trolley is Pure Folly

April 4, 2008

1.  “The legitimate object of government, is to do for a community of people, whatever they need to have done [emphasis added], but can not do, at all, or can not, so well do, for themselves — in their separate, and individual capacities.”  Abraham Lincoln, 1854.  Where is the clamor, among our “community of people,” for the trolley as a public “need”? 

2.  The trolley is being imposed by a Mayor, onto the people, upon the premise that the people need not be consulted and should remain silent, even if they do not see value in the trolley, because the Mayor sees such value. 

3.  A huge, discretionary public works project should not be undertaken in the teeth of broad community opposition.  The Mayor should follow the lead of the mayor in Madison, Wisconsin who abandoned his trolley pipedream in 2007, saying: “Major public investments like streetcars should only be undertaken when there is broad consensus in the community, and that is clearly not the case with [the Madison trolley project] . 

4.  The trolley is a solution in search of a problem.  Are 12th Avenue people having trouble getting to the county jail?  Is the sheriff having trouble getting to 12th Avenue?

5.  Trash-burning power plant.  (This costly local government project truly put Columbus  “on the map” — as home to the nation’s top dioxin producer.)

6.  The Columbus trolley will be a City Center on rails.

7.  Local goverment should correct its last development blunder (see #6) before stumbling into another. 

8.  Columbus already has tens of thousands of “streetcars.”  They are called “automobiles.”  Until trolleys become as clean, comfortable, infinitely flexible, and private as automobiles, or until automobiles become as prohibitively expensive as personal airplanes, automobiles will remain the “streetcars” overwhelmingly preferred in Columbus. 

9.  Even the most ardent short rail line supporters, if honest, will admit that such rail systems economically function, if they do at all,  only as a local circulator for huge numbers of pedestrians already present in the narrow benefit district.  A short rail line functions best if the line also connects, at its terminal points, to other transportation systems. 

One may observe quintessentially appropriate short line rail systems operating at many large airports, where a short rail line may be in place to transport planeloads of passengers, hour after hour and day after day, between multiple terminals and between ground and air transportation. 

Where is the huge daily volume of pedestrian traffic, already situated in the narrow benefit district on either side of High Street, between United Dairy Farmers at 12th Avenue, on the northend, and the county jail at Mound Street, on the southend, which might provide some economic justification for the Columbus trolley?  And, where are the connecting modes of air, rail, or ground transportation at the trolley’s northern and southern terminal points?

10.  There is no room along High Street for any new massive and highly dense development projects essential to justify a trolley.  Does the city propose to have the statehouse lawn densely developed with highrise condominiums? 

11.  Why should the city build the the trolley and then sit, wait, and hope for new massive and highly dense development projects to spring forth?  The Mayor should obtain upfront commitments now from developers for such developments.  If he cannot obtain adequate commitments now, why should we assume that such commitments will follow, in due course, after the $103 million is spent?

12.  But, who even wants new massive and highly dense development in Columbus?  Many people in Portland did not.  They voted with their feet — they moved across the Columbia River to Vancouver, Washington to escape the utopian  planning bureaucrats and their radical neighborhood densification schemes.  And now, Portland is suffering from that forced government planning: congestion, deprivation of basic government services,   higher taxes, and unaffordable housing.

13.  The Mayor’s trolley funding plan already has begun the process of diverting substantial money from essential goverment services — proposing the diversion of $3.6 million per year from parking meter revenue to pay trolley debts.  How will this $3.6 million deficit in the general fund be made up?  What services will be cut?  What taxes will be raised? 

The Mayor’s raid on the general fund is particularly ironic inasmuch as 100 city employee jobs are up for elimination (including police and firefighters), and service cuts (including elimination of swimming pools) and tax increases are being implemented.  All of this is occurring even without new trolley debt.  The Mayor has known a fiscal crisis is looming — in February, 2008, he appointed an Economic Advisory Committee to address it — but yet, he inexplicably bulls ahead on the budget-busting trolley, notwithstanding the projected $75 million shortfall in city revenue for 2009.

14.  Even if there were space and demand for new massive and highly dense development along High Street, increased traffic congestion would inevitably result.   This is exactly what happened in Portland.  Moreover, the trolley  would create a transit problem, not solve an existing one. 

15.  New massive and highly dense development probably also would require new massive infrastructure improvements.  Were the water and sewer lines along High Street designed to accommodate massive and highly dense development? 

16.  Economically appropriate short rail line systems are a consequence of development, not a cause of development. 

There is not a tiny shred of empirical evidence to the contrary.  If there were, private entrepreneurs would long ago have crisscrossed the country with rail lines, initially leading to nowhere, but later becoming the focal point of lucrative development. 

Who can honestly assert, for example, that contructing a short rail line to a possible location for a new airport terminal will lead to the building of the terminal.  Or, that such a spur to nowhere will lead to increased air passenger traffic.  Increased air passenger traffic may, however, lead to the need for another airport terminal, thereby requiring another short rail line spur.

17.  Medical researchers have no trouble with the concept of causation.  They know that a one event  may well not be causally linked to another just because the events occur contemporaneously or because one follows another in time.  These researchers use such techniques as double blind studies and placebos to isolate actual causes from possible causes.

Judges and lawyers have no trouble with causation either.  They know that there can be no legal causation unless it can be said that, “but for” one event, the second event would not have occurred.

Why do some politicians and activist urban planners have so much trouble with causation?  When attempting to assess causation, why do they refuse to consider all possible causes and then rule out all but one before concluding that the one is the cause?

An impartial causation analysis on the trolley, as an alleged development catalyst, would save Columbus many headaches and many dollars.

18.  The old time trolleys in Columbus were operated by private companies because the ventures made economic sense.  For many years, the Columbus Transit Company (subsidiary of Columbus and Southern Ohio Electric Company) operated Columbus’ streetcars.  If the current trolley proposal makes so much economic sense, why does the Mayor not put the trolley franchise up for bid?  Then the private developers who, according to the Mayor, will build if they have a trolley, can place their bids and recover the trolley’s cost as the new massive and highly dense developments are sold.  This is what was done historically.  Why should the approach differ now?

19.  If development is the goal, building an expensive trolley line is not only a very  ineffective means toward that end, but also a very inefficient one.  It would be better just to line the pockets of the developers directly.

20.  The trolley will not even offer the slight benefit of visual interest, as the Mayor has indicated that the trolley will be “modern,” not nostalgic, in design.  So, the public is getting a COTA bus on rails.

21.  Will the trolley’s electric lines, and the columns supporting them,  contribute favorably to the streetscape?

22.  COTA bus #2 already serves the exact same transportation route.  Why would anyone propose to replace bus #2 with a functional equivalent costing hundreds of times more? 

23.  But, who said anything about “replacement?”  COTA’s President and CEO has noted (without any fault being attributed to him by this author)  that “[f]or the foreseeable future, I’m sure there are going to be streetcars and buses on N. High Street.”  1 April 2008 Columbus Dispatch. What!?!?!?  After being out-of-pocket $103 million to replace COTA bus #2, the public will not even save the cost of operating a single, solitary COTA bus?  Say it ain’t so , Mr. Mayor.  Tell us there will not be two publicly-subsidized transit systems competing for the same tiny ridership base.

24.  Consistent with the experience of other cities, most trolley riders will be former bus riders.  Instead of half empty buses on High Street, we will have three-quarter-empty buses and three-quarter-empty trolley cars.

25.  Why have the trolley economic projections not used the modest, existing ridership for bus #2 as the proxy for trolley ridership?  The ridership on that bus line is the best indicator of demand for public transportation along High Street, yet trolley economic projections inexplicably use ridership figures vastly higher.  Again, why?

26.  The Mayor views the trolley merely as a “starter line.”  If the High Street trolley is a precursor to more trolleys elsewhere in the city, the initial blunder simply will be compounded, extended, and repeated.  Columbus has bus service.  An extravagantly priced duplicate rail transit system would be wasteful in the extreme.

27.  What aspect of the trolley would cause development? 

It cannot be the trolley’s function.  Bus #2 already performs the identical function.  If that “transportation function” generated development, the streets of Columbus already would be paved with gold, given that half-empty COTA buses have been rumbling throughout the city for decades. 

If it is not the transportation function that will generate development, what it it?  The visual appeal of the trolley?  Ple-e-e-e-ease!!!!!!!  Actually, double ple-e-e-e-e-ase, considering the Mayor has specified that the trolley will look “modern,” thus fashioning it in the image of a COTA bus. 

The Mayor’s suggestion that the transportation system needs to appear permanent in order to attract development is likewise fatuous.  Buses have been running up and down High Street since 1933 and, being currently subsidized by a generous sales tax allotment, are hardly an endangered species.

If bus #2 has not fostered development along High Street after operating there year after year, why would a “COTA bus #2 on rails” foster such development?

28.  Most new development along existing urban rail systems has occurred as a direct consequence of tax abatements, grants, below-market land sales, and other public subsidies.  

For example, hundreds of millions of dollars in goverment incentives had to be offered in Portland to generate the development that planners sought.  [Note: Portland planners also count new government buildings — funded by taxpayers — as development supposedly caused by urban rail.]  

So, the taxpayers pay for the rail line and pay a second time for development along the rail line.  The pathetic reality is that urban rail does not cause development.  Urban rail causes development subsidies.

In his 2008 State of the City address, the Mayor called for these same “aggressive incentives” (his terminology).  Here we go.

29.  If a trolley could cause development, why would the Mayor want the trolley to run northward along High Street?  Of the four directions extending outward from Broad and High, the northern route is developing quite nicely on its own.  (Even if the trolley could somehow deliver new development, the trolley is too late, and now unneeded, for the Short North.)  South, east, and west are the areas extending from Broad and High that need new development.   If the Mayor truly believes that the trolley can transform blighted areas, then he would advocate running the trolley line from the near east side to the Hilltop. 

30.  Which neighborhood along the trolley line has volunteered to accept the dirty, noisy, and unsightly roundhouse necessary for trolley storage and maintenance? 

31.  Economics 101: As a seller, if you increase the price, you will sell less,  because buyers will seek lower-priced competing or substitute goods/services. 

A  new tax is a government-imposed price increase that will reduce sales of the newly taxed goods/services.

The Mayor proposes to subsidize the trolley (it cannot economically stand on its own — an ominous sign in itself) by taxing downtown parking.  As a consequence, the Mayor will “sell” less downtown parking because fewer people will choose to come downtown when lower cost parking is available elsewhere.  (E.g., parking is still free at Easton and Polaris, is it not?)  Why would the Mayor impose a disincentive to downtown development — fewer residents, fewer businesses, fewer workers, and fewer customers wanting to come downtown?

32.  The irony of the Mayor’s trolley tax is that  the parking price increase would aggravate a very significant existing problem for downtown business development, i.e., the price of downtown parking.  Parking costs are a  major reason doing business downtown is not competitive with outlying areas.  Who wants to start a business downtown, paying $1,128 per year ($94/month City Center Garage rate) for each employee?  The Mayor should be undertaking measures to make downtown the business location of first choice by lowering the cost of conducting business there.  Instead he is doing the opposite.

33.  And, why would the Mayor want to tax, and therefore dampen, ticket sales for performances by the struggling, and perhaps defunct, Columbus Symphony Orchestra?  Or, tickets sales by BalletMet and many other arts-organizations offering performances in downtown venues?  Is this the path the Mayor should be treading when a recent survey ranked Columbus last, among midwestern cities, for its comparatively dismal arts scene?

34.  The McConnell Group and Nationwide Insurance brought us a major league sports team and a world-class venue.  And now, is the city going to discourage ticket sales, via more taxes, as a “thank you”?

35.  “Convoluted” is the only term that can fairly describe the logic of taxing downtown parking on the theory that persons parking downtown will somehow benefit from the trolley.  How they will benefit is never explained, because, of course, no coherent explanation is possible. 

People park downtown because they live or work there, or because they have business to conduct there.  No one parks downtown as a jumping off point for a bus or trolley ride up High Street to United Dairy Farmers.  

36.  With the price of gasoline at $4 per gallon, persons parking downtown hardly need, or deserve, another transportation expense in the form of the Mayor’s parking tax.

37.  A short line trolley operating 2.8 miles on High Street is not a solution to $4 per gallon gasoline. 

38.  Fastening another tax onto the backs of downtown workers, many of whom are disenfranchised non-residents, and all of whom already contribute mightily to city coffers via the income tax, is wholly unjust, as they will not specially benefit from the trolley. (see #35) 

Assuming the trolley were to bring anything positive to the Columbus area (though such has yet to be identified), then central Ohio as a whole would benefit, not the fractional segment currently targeted for the tax; and therefore, any levy for trolley-subsidy purposes  should, as a matter of fundamantal fairness, be imposed throughout central Ohio, just as the pain of the existing COTA sales tax is endured by all.  And, just as the COTA tax was self-imposed, via the ballot, so should the trolley tax be placed before the voters.

39.  Punishing Blue Jackets fans, concert goers, and other event attendees has no logic to it either.  How do they benefit from a short line trolley running 2.8 miles on High Street?  Does anyone believe that attendees will park on 14th Avenue and take a slow-moving trolley to get to Nationwide Arena?  That would be a sight – 10,000 Blue Jackets fans competing for the same 15 parking spots on 14th Avenue.

40.  The Mayor speaks effusively about the Portland streetcar example (Columbus is not remotely analagous to Portland) and how it allegedly caused development (it did not).  But, why has the Mayor neglected to mention our neighbor’s failed 2.2 mile Waterfront Line? 

With much (undeserved) exuberance and fanfare, the Cleveland rail loop opened in 1996, running from the downtown area to the Flats and the Lake Erie shoreline.  After a short honeymoon, ridership was down 40% only two years later.  By 2002, ridership was so minimal that trip frequency had to be cut to limit losses.  Ridership now has collapsed so dramatically that rail officials no longer even bother to count passengers.  The Line’s nickname is the “ghost train” because it glides along empty much of the time.  The latest proposal is that the Line only be operated during rush hour and for special events.  Cleveland’s RTA director has termed the Waterfront Line “a transportation manager’s nightmare.” 

And, there is no evidence that this multi-million dollar, stated-funded white elephant has generated any development in the Flats (or elsewhere).  In fact, the popularity of the Flats actually has declined.  Cleveland’s former planning director relied upon the government-funded Portland  experiment for the notion that development would spring forth along the Waterfront Line.  But now, he admits that the expected development has not occurred, rationalizing the dismal failure thusly:  “No one should be surprised that [the Waterfront Line] is not carrying many passengers.  It doesn’t go through any areas of very dense residential development.  It doesn’t go through any areas of high-density employment.  What RTA has got to do is try to urge the city to build more housing close to the line, develop more opportunities close to the line [italics added].”  His explanation is not surprising, given that urban rail does not work in non-dense areas.  (see #8)  Nor does urban rail create development; it merely creates government subsidies.   (see #16, #27, #28)

What is surprising is that our Mayor has not openly discussed our neighbor’s “nightmare” and explained how Columbus’ $103 million trolley will fare differently?  Why is this?

41.  Another northern neighbor has a $12 million per year, failed rail experiment on its hands too.  The daily ridership of the 2.9 mile Detroit People Mover averages one percent of design capacity.  Why has Detroit’s problem not been discussed in Columbus?  And, where is the development that the People Mover caused?

42.  Rail buffs have great fun with their hobby interest.  They think the trolley will be cute because, understandably, they view anything on rails — even a COTA bus on rails — as cute.  But, their perception of cuteness does not justify any request that we buy them a trolley for their leisurely amusement.

43.  As extravagant as $103 million is, that princely sum will purchase only the trolley hardware.  Four and one-half million dollars more will need to be extracted yearly, from those unfairly targeted (see #35 and #39), for annual operating expenses.  Over the next 25 years, trolley costs (unrecovered by fares) will exceed $200 million.

44.  Since a 2004 scandal broke, it is now known that Portland’s Mayor selected urban rail for that city for the precise reason that rail projects are very costly — he wanted to wield the political patronage resulting from high-priced rail construction contracts and, later, to steer contracts to cronies.  While this author does not remotely suggest that Columbus’ Mayor is actuated by such impure motives, no one should pretend that replicating the failed Portland experiment will be a wise investment of public funds or otherwise consistent with midwestern notions of thrift.

45.  With alarming frequency, pre-construction cost projections for urban rail projects have materially underestimated the actual construction and operating costs later incurred.   For example, Portland’s West Side Line suffered a 184% cost overrun (inflation adjusted).  Moreover, the Mayor’s current figures, as exorbitant as they are, probably represent lowball numbers arising from the same type of fuzzy math endemic to such projects.  Who will be tapped to pay the cost overruns?  Or, will be city’s general fund be raided again?

46.  The average trolley rider will pay a $1 fare.  Every time such a rider steps onto the trolley, those laboring under the trolley tax will be paying the other $10 (or more) that each trolley ride actually will cost.

47.  If a trolley rider were to ride the trolley to work and back, each day for a year (225 workdays), the total public outlay would approximate $4,500.  Moreover, it would be cheaper for the unfortunates targeted for the trolley tax, and more useful for the lucky rider, if the unfortunates simply leased the lucky one a small car at $299 per month.

48.  A tourist attraction??  The Mayor has not identified a single person who would travel to Columbus, when he or she otherwise would not have done so, to ride the trolley.  Admittedly, a handful of rail buffs might. They are a hardy lot who would cross four states to ride anything new on rails.  But, does the prospect of such tiny caravans justify the expenditure of more than $200 million, particularly where the funds are those removed from the pockets of disinterested bystanders?

49.  If the trolley were a genuine tourist attraction, then the businesses catering to tourists — rental car companies, hotels, and restaurants — should be taxed to pay for a trolley that benefits them.

50.  A genuine rail tourist attraction could be acquired for a fraction of the $200 million trolley cost and, would not only pay for itself, but would accrue a profit.  For example, Cedar Point’s Top Thrill Dragster opened in 2003 at a cost of $25 milllion.  Since then, ridership has increased ever year, with  1,082,218 persons patronizing it in 2007.  For $103 million, we could break ground on our own roller coaster park and, in due course, have that entire investment returned (with interest).

51.  The trolley will not ease any Columbus traffic congestion, as there is no evidence that the trolley will reduce motor vehicle miles traveled on High Street or elsewhere. 

52. The trolley will be yet another slow-moving, freqently-stopping traffic obstacle on High Street.  Drivers will have COTA buses stopping in both outer lanes and the trolley occupying the middle.  Has the city done an impartial traffic study to assess the congestion to be created by taking the middle lanes of High Street out of vehicular service and devoting them to the trolley?

53.  Because the trolley will be situated in the middle of High Street, embarking and disembarking passengers, as they cross northbound and southbound traffic lanes, will compound the traffic congestion created by the trolley itself.   Essentially, High Street will be completely blocked every time the trolley stops.

54.   Rail works in New York and Toyko.  This is the exception, not the rule, because each has more than two million jobs in the central business district. Rail would not work in Peoria; and it will not work in Columbus, at least not economically.

55.  To the extent rail works in Portland (it does not work economically, as Portland rail is heavily subsized by tens of millions of dollars in public largesse), it works because, more than three decades ago,  new development in Portland was banned beyond an artificially-designated boundary intended to control sprawl.  Hence, from a geographic perspective, Portland is six times more dense than Columbus.  As a consequence of that boundary and the accompanying experimental zoning requiring densification of existing and new neighborhoods, new development in Portland also must be dense, proceeding upward, not outward.  The Portland template, though at least somewhat closer to a proper one for rail (see #9), due to conditions artificially created by goverment mandate, does not fit Columbus.

56.  Equally worrisome is that the Mayor apparently wants to emulate Portland, a city now severely compromised by past utopian planning experiments:

“[P]ortland[‘s] … integrated land-use and transportation plans have greatly reduced the area’s livability.  To halt urban sprawl and reduce people’s dependence on the automobile, Portland’s plans use an urban-growth boundary to greatly increase the area’s population density, spend most of the region’s transportation funds on various rail transit projects, and promote construction of scores of high-density, mixed use developments.

***

Planners made housing unaffordable to force more people to live in multi-family housing or in homes on tiny lots.  They allowed congestion to increase to near-gridlock levels to force more people to ride the region’s expensive rail transit lines.  They diverted millions of dollars of taxes from schools, fire, public health, and other essential services to subsidize the construction of transit and high-density housing projects.

***

Those high costs have not produced the utopia planners promised.  Far from curbing urban sprawl, high housing prices led tens of thousands of families to move to Vancouver, Washington and other cities outside the region’s authority.  Far from reducing driving, rail transit has actually reduced the share of travel using transit from what it was in 1980.  And developers have found that so-called transit oriented developments only work when they include plenty of parking.”

[Randal O’Toole, Debunking Portland: The City that Doesn’t Work (2007), p. 1.  Mr. O’Toole’s policy analysis is required reading for anyone flirting with the idea that the Columbus trolley might be a worthwhile expenditure of scarce resources.  See http://www.cato.org/pub_display.phppub_id=8463]

57.  There is no empirical evidence that the presence of the trolley will increase property values along its route, though common sense suggests the trolley’s roundhouse will have the opposite effect on properties adjacent to it.  

58.  There has been no critical analysis, done in Columbus, of the radical Portland experiments; rather, the Mayor and others have gullibly accepted, at face value, the spin applied to those experiments by Portland’s utopian planners. 

59.  The Downtown Streetcar Working Group has not provided the missing critical analysis.  The Mayor hand-picked the members of this group, and, predictably, it has functioned solely as a trolley cheerleader.  The Group has 42 members, but not one member has written a dissenting report.  Why not?  The Group’s one-sided, superficial work product is entitled to no weight. 

60.  The the Downtown Streetcar Working Group’s own documents expressly admit that the trolley would not function as a practical means of transportation, but rather, would be a “convenience” in the nature of an “amenity.”   How a traffic obstacle (see #52 and #53) can be considered an amenity is not explained.  If the city has extra funds for amenities (it does not — see #13), it should be spending the money on true amenities, such as adding two swimming pools in 2008 instead of closing two.  (The city is now down to one swimming pool per 100,000 residents.)

61.  The Mayor should not be advocating the expenditure of $103 million on an unwanted “amenity” when the city’s finances are such that the city has placed a measure on the November ballot to authorize $1 billion in borrowing for such basics as road repairs.

62.  That the Mayor and his Downtown Streetcar Working Group have not done any critical thinking on the trolley is further evident by the contradictory messages being disseminated.  For example, first the trolley is touted as a viable transporation system, but then we are told the trolley is a mere amenity.  Which is it?   We also are informed that the trolley will cause development, but then we hear that the trolley will not generate development unless supplemented by developer tax breaks.  Does it cause development or not?

63.  No private business would invest even $103 upon the strength of the biased trolley analysis done so far.  Why should those targeted for the trolley tax be forced to put down $103 million based on it?

64.  If the presence of the trolley were capable of increasing property values along its route, then those property owners should be the persons taxed to pay for a trolley that benefits them.

65.  Likewise, if the Mayor is correct that developers will play off the trolley, for their financial gain, then they should be taxed to defray its expense, a tax that can be passed to their customers.

66.  Of course, even taxing those who allegedly will benefit runs counter to basic principles of economics.  (see #31)  Why would the Mayor want to tax new development, thereby reducing demand for the very thing he wants to promote? 

This paradox underscores the absurdity of the city attempting to construct a trolley with money it does not have — a new tax must necessarily be levied, punishing those who supposedly will benefit and providing a disincentive for doing what might otherwise be done in response to normal market forces. 

So, any developer already considering a new project along High Street will be handed a cogent reason — a new tax — to abandon the project.

67.  Being in the middle of High Street, the trolley will expose its embarking and disembarking passengers to the hazards of vehicular traffic.

68.  The trolley’s tracks also will be dangerous for bicycles, motorcyles, and  and women wearing high heels (perhaps even to ordinary pedestrians).

69.  The trolley will come with a heavy opportunity cost.  If the city had, in hand, $103 million for discretionary spending, why should the money be spent on a duplicative and expensive public transit system, when there are so many other, more deserving projects.  By way of example only, these four endowment funds ($25 million each) would make infinitely more sense:  (1) Columbus Symphony Orchestra, (2) BalletMet, (3) arts organizations generally, and (4) microloan fund for disadvantaged residents seeking a better life through entrepreneurship.

70.  Alternatively, instead of promoting a pricey ornament, the Mayor should spend his time, and our limited discretionary resources, pursuing (to the extent a Mayor can) the single project that would do most to aid Columbus and its residents: fix the public school system, so that families will want to move into Columbus, not escape it.

71.  Market movements represent the collective choices made by all of the individuals participating in a given market, and as such, a market is never wrong.  However, opinions about future movements in a given market can be, and frequently are, wrong. 

The urban rail market has been in a severe bear market trend since ridership peaked during World War II.

More than six decades into this severe bear market, the Mayor is placing a very heavy bet (using other people’s money) against the pronounced and entrenched bear market trend, hoping that he is right and the urban rail market is wrong.  If you were a gambler, as the Mayor apparently is, but you had to wager your own money, on which side of the ledger would you place your bet?

72.  Ohio State University should not be spending $12.5 million on an ornamental trolley when OSU annually increases tuition at a rate materially exceeding the rate of income growth for the average Ohio family. 

73.  Why is the Mayor prioritizing a high-profile, duplicative luxury for city funding when, in 2007, the city’s sanitary sewer system was still dumping 670 million gallons of raw sewage, with its deadly pathogens and toxins, directly into the Olentangy and Scioto Rivers and Alum Creek?

74.  The trolley lobby says the trolley is necessary to “connect neighborhoods,”  invoking that quaint and homey metaphor to imply that the trolley will bring us all closer together.   But, those buzzwords are worse than empty hype:  they are misleading to the point of falsehood.  The neighborhoods along High Street already are connected — by High Street itself.  The trolley actually will impair the existing connection by delaying and impeding traffic on High Street.  (see #52 and #53)

75.  In Cleveland, the RTA recently touted the success of its onboard surveillance system by noting how a  camera had recorded footage of one passenger slashing the throat of another rider.  By the end of 2008, RTA plans to install the cameras on the Waterfront Line rail cars.   This is why people do not ride COTA buses in Columbus, and why people will not ride the trolley.

76.  The Mayor is responsible for the Columbus Urban Growth Corp., which he founded as a councilman and has championed as Mayor.  Millions have been spent on financially-troubled projects like the Linden Cafe, only to have the City’s auditor now conclude that, overall, the Urban Growth Corp. “was just never financially successful.”  As a consequence of an uninterrupted string of financial disasters, the agency is being dismantled, and its unfinished projects are being pushed onto the City’s plate for completion.  Aside from this unwelcome burden, the City also is still owed $3.8 million for loans made to the agency, and these loans appear to be uncollectible. 

Why should we gamble on the the Mayor’s new development scheme — the trolley — when his last one was an unmitigated failure? 

 

102.  The history of urban planning is a lesson in the law of unintended consequences.  While the Mayor’s motive may be noble, we, not he, will suffer the consequences.

103.  I do not want the Columbus trolley because it is pure folly. 


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