Mesa Unaware It Is Broke So It Plans to Borrow & Spend Taxpayers Money to Build an Annual Money Losing Sink Hole aka Extension of the Light Rail

There is an old saying the are always some people don’t get the word.  The last ones to get the word are usually politicians.  It’s true in Mesa where the power elites who love to spend other people’s money to hasten the city’s bankruptcy want to extend the mega-million dollar money pit called the light rail.  Arizona Republic:  “Mesa officials are meticulously planning rail stations along the 3.1-mile extension through downtown Mesa that is expected to open in 2016.”

People Who Like to Spend Money Goverment Doesn’t Have on Economic Money Pits Now Wasting Money to Determine if Light Rail Should Expand to South Phoenix

Arizona Republic: “Valley rail planners are asking a million-dollar question: Would south Phoenix residents ride a light-rail line enough to justify building one?  Valley Metro, the agency that built and runs the 20-mile starter light-rail line, is weeks away from picking a consultant to provide the answer.  Armed with a $400,000 congressional earmark and $100,000 from the city of Phoenix, Metro expects to hire a consultant by March and spend 18 months figuring out if spending many millions of dollars on a rail line in south Phoenix makes sense.”

The twenty mile long Phoenix – Tempe – Mesa light rail cost over $1 billion dollars to build.   The story inconveniently fails to mention the cost to build light rail in south Phoenix or the amount of the annual multi-billion dollar subsidy Phoenix would incur if the light rail were extended into south Phoenix.   When will people stop spending money our governments do not have?

Half a million dollars to do a study!  Earmark money!  I’ll save the city money and do the study for only $250,000.  Here’s a free summary of my findings – don’t do it because rail is a perpetual black hole money loser for government.  Phoenix and the federal government are bankrupt and don’t have the money to build or maintain rail.  Rail might make sense if it could make a profit, not when it loses money every time it accepts a passenger.  Read “Government-Run Rail System Losing $32 per Passenger, Study Shows.”

It is a fact that no nationwide passenger rail system anywhere in the world is considered profitable when all costs — including capital — are accounted for,” . . . “Amtrak released a study in April to demonstrate that Europe’s system is heavily subsidized. Germany’s high-speed rail network, the most expensive in Europe, required average annual subsidies of $11.6 billion during the 10-year span that ended in 2006, according to the Amtrak study.”

See “Money train: The cost of high-speed rail.”

Story Inadvertently Reveals Phoenix Lite Rail Lunacy

A story in the Arizona Republic about Phoenix – Tempe – Mesa lite rail officials cracking down on riders who do not purchase a ticket to ride inadvertently revealed more proof that lite rail is a financial money bomb.  Here’s some of the revelations contained in the story:

  • Rather than force riders to buy tickets like DC and Chicago, Metro light rail riders are on the honor system.  There are no turnstiles or ticket takers.
  • If caught riding without a ticket, the fine is $50, but many violators just get a warning.
  • Metro light rail collects an average of 76 cents per passenger.  This is an interesting fact because tickets are $1.75 one way.
  • Metro light rail spokeswoman Hillary Foose said that the honor system is working because fewer than 1% of riders fail to purchase a ticket.  What Hillary forgot to mention is that Metro has no way of determining how many people do not buy tickets because nobody counts the number of riders and runs the numbers against the revenue.  Metro just puts its head in the sand and makes up a number that makes its policy look good.  The story quotes a frequent rider who said that she sees people boarding without tickets all the time, a statement that conflicts with the 1% guessitmate.
  • Last year the light rail ticket police nabbed 5,660 perps.  If Hillary Foose’s estimate of the percentage of scofflaws were correct, then the number of Metro riders during 2009 should have been 566,000.  According to Valley Metro stats, the number of riders during 2009 was 11,348,343.  Note that the number of riders was 11,346,343, not 11,346,342 or 11,346,344.  Query:  How does an outfit that has no way of counting actual riders come up with the monthly and annual number of riders?   We know Metro is guessing so why the precise numbers?  Why not say 11,300,000 riders?  Is Valley Metro pulling down-to-the-gnat’s-ass numbers out of it bureaucratic butt because it wants to fool people into believing Valley Metro actually knows the number of people who ride the rails every month and year?
  • The ticket police check 12 – 15% of the 1,000,000 boardings per month.  Whoa nelly!  If there are 1,000,000 boardings a month that means there are approximately 10,000 (1,000,000 x .01) ticket perps a month.  That means Metro is losing annual revenue of $210,000 (120,000 x $1.75) if you assume scofflaws only ride one way or $420,000 (120,000 x $1.75 x 2) if you assume they would have bought round trip tickets.
  • Money starved and broke City of Phoenix is paying scarce taxpayer dollars to have 12 Phoenix cops ride the rails looking for ticket scofflaws.  Instead of fighting violent crime and other more important crimes, Phoenix is wasting 12 cops to catch 5,000 – 6, 000 perps a year.  Let’s do the math for the Metro and Phoenix big spenders of other people’s money.  If the average pay and benefits of 12 cops is $75,000 a year that means Phoenix is spending $900,00 a year to catch 6,000 ticket perps and collect $300,000 ($50 fine x 6,000) in fines.  If the money goes to Valley Metro instead of to the Phoenix general fund, then Phoenix is wasting $900,000 a year instead of $600,000.
  • ASU students can purchase an annual light rail pass for $85.

Phoenix Valley Bus Riders Down 10 Million from Prior Year

Arizona Republic:  “In the last fiscal year, 10 million Valley Metro fares were lost as bus riders returned to their cars or found other forms of transportation, according to figures released by the agency that oversees public transit throughout the Phoenix metropolitan area.”

When the economy sours and there is an increase in the number of people who lose their jobs, the laws of economics dictate that the number of bus riders should go up if all other important factors stay the same.  One important factor that probably created the loss in riders is that Valley Metro has cut bus service.  It’s simple math to figure out that if fewer buses are making fewer runs, the number of riders will decrease.

If you buy that argument, then when light rail cuts its services should the number of riders increase or decrease?  According to the same story, the number of light rail riders increased during the same period bus riders decreased.  One reason for the difference is that the bus system suffered much greater cut backs in service than the favored light rail.

A problem with determining the numbers of light rail riders is that the Phoenix, Tempe, Mesa light rail does not count riders as they board the train.  Valley Metro, the outfit that runs the light rail, estimates the number of riders because unlike the buses where riders have to give a ticket or money to the driver, nobody checks tickets on the light rail.  During the first year of its operation, Arizona State University purchased 35,000 passes for its students.  Valley Metro had no way of counting the number of riders using ASU passes so it just assumed a number and pretended like that number of people rode the light rail during the weeks school was in session.

See “Phoenix Plans to Cut Light Rail Service to Lose More Money.”

Idiots Planning to Spend $200 Million Government Doesn’t Have to Expand Light Rail in Mesa

The Phoenix Business Journal reports that the people who like to spend other people’s money are planning a $200 million dollar 3.1 mile extension of the 20 mile light rail line that ends in Mesa, Arizona.  These people are unaware of or simply don’t care about Mesa’s deficit financial condition and the reality of light rail and public transportation life as evidenced by the following stories:

Update:  “Feds OK design work for rail extension in Mesa – 3-mile Mesa extension can now move forward.”

Phoenix Cuts Bus & Light Rail Service

Arizona Republic:  “Across the Valley, nine bus routes will be eliminated, including two local routes, three express routes and four neighborhood circulators. . . . The light-rail system also is reducing service for the first time since opening in late 2008. Peak hours will be shortened, and during that time Metro will run trains every 12 minutes instead of every 10.”

Arizona Economy Depressed, Unemployment High & State & Cities Bankrupt, but Loons Want Communter Rail Between Queen Creek & Downtown Phoenix

Arizona Republic:  “Imagine boarding a train in Queen Creek and arriving 35 minutes later at a restaurant on Tempe’s Mill Avenue, then hopping back on board for a 10-minute jaunt to Chase Stadium in downtown Phoenix.  That could be possibile someday, say transit planners with the Maricopa Association of Governments. . . . So, what’s the hold up? Money.”

MAG wants to spend money that nobody has so people in Queen Creek can dine on Mill Avenue and watch Diamondback games?  Why is that a reason to spend government money?  What about people in Queen Creek who want to shop at the Scottsdale Fashion Mall or go watch a Cardinals football game in Glendale?  Why doesn’t MAG want commuter rail for the people of Queen Creek for those destinations?  Why would government spend taxpayer money to benefit a select few businesses in Tempe and downtown Phoenix?  Aren’t there better ways to spend taxpayer money?

For more foolishness on this topic see “Regional planners recommend streetcar route in Tempe.”  Now the big spenders of other people’s money that the governments do not have justify building tracks down the middle of streets because the streetcars would connect to the money pit known as the light rail.  Note the bias for rail over buses.  Rail/streetcars would come by 2016, ten years before the cheaper, more efficient and flexible bus.  The story linked to starts:

“Regional transit planners are going to recommend to Tempe City Council that Tempe have a streetcar on Mill and Southern avenues by 2016 to connect the city to the light-rail. But Chandler may have to wait for a planned bus rapid transit route for the same purpose until 2026, according to a presentation by planners Tuesday.”

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