Friday, December 5, 2008

Transit -- less money or more?

So now we learn the half-cent sales tax for transit may not be enough to pay to build the planned system. Should anyone be surprised? Outraged? No way.

Guess what. Things change. And the Charlotte Area Transit System bumped up against skyrocketing concrete, steel and land costs this decade. And now we're into the worst recession in a generation. Sales tax revenue is down and so is government spending at all levels.

By now, of course, no one knows whether or how much construction or land costs might fall, or what that might mean for CATS' financing plans.

Nor does anyone know what the feds will do, though you'd be smart to bet on higher transit funding and changed rules for divvying up the money in the Obama administration. Both those things might bode well for CATS plans. So would an Obama stimulus package that -- as is widely expected -- includes transit.

In other words, not much is clear just now. But this is: Other counties in this region should be getting ready to join the transit system. That doesn't mean levy a tax this month or even next year. It does mean the region's leaders should do just that -- lead. Start educating voters about transit's benefits, and exploring ways to find dedicated revenue for CATS extensions.


Anonymous said...

Good heavens!

This is pathetic. The entire Charlotte power structure stood shoulder-to-shoulder 12 months ago -- more recently even -- and swore up-and-down to the public that the half-cent would be able to fund the 2006 transit plan.

Anyone who suggested otherwise was lampooned as a buffoon, cretin, and oh, yes, a caveman. You might remember that.

The question all along has been how to build an effective mass transit arm that is a net plus to Charlotte's transportation and mobility needs. Some of us have held that heaving a half-cent of sales tax revenue at CATS and hoping for the best was bound to lead us astray. Some of us pointed out that CATS was fantastically inefficient, actually spending more money per each additional ride and refusing to capture sufficient revenue from users -- how is it that CATS ridership can skyrocket yet that make no meaningful impact on CATS revenue? -- while planning a train system it could not possibly afford to build and operate. Some of us said CATS was CERTAIN to come asking for additional sources of dedicated revenue if the 2006 plan was not jettisoned and a new plan adopted that could live within the half-cent.

Now that we critics have been proven to be absolutely correct about the 2006 transit plan, your response is to disdain "outrage" -- and ready plans to throw yet more tax revenue at CATS and hope for the best.

Isn't that embarrassing?

Besides, you had your chance to educate local voters on the facts of transit and failed spectacularly. Our community cannot afford anymore propaganda on behalf of special interests.

Maybe shame and guilt will find traction where logic and facts did not.


Havermeyer said...

I cancelled my subscription again to the paper just today. I did so the first time when you published the actions my government was taking to protect my family from Islamic terrorists.

I did so today because the paper is a parrot for the uptown crowd, too quick to justify poor public policies and too inept to challenge them.

Given MNI's place in the market, I must not be alone in this decision.