American Elephants

A Bargain On Subways: 1.7 Miles for Only $1.6 Billion. by The Elephant's Child
August 24, 2011, 9:02 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Economy | Tags: , ,

Whenever I get completely exasperated by the actions of my government, or my city council or county council, I always think — it could be worse, and look to see what they’ve been up to in San Francisco.

In 2003, then Mayor Willie Brown sold a half-cent sales tax hike to the voters in order to pay for a 1.7 mile subway line which he claimed would ease congestion on the crowded buses in Chinatown.  He was more interested in getting the political support of the power brokers in Chinatown.   In 2003, the city estimated that the line would cost about $647 million.  Unsurprisingly, or should I say “unexpectedly,” the latest cost projection is $1.6 billion, or almost $100 million for each tenth of a mile.

Transportation experts say that improving existing bus and light rail service would make more sense and the subway design is seriously flawed.  Commuters will have to descend eight stories underground to get on, the subway misses connections with most of the light rail and bus lines that it crosses and there’s no direct connection to either the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) or to the ferry.  After riders go only a half mile, they would have to walk another quarter of a mile to connect to the Market Street light rail lines. Taking the bus would be five to 10 minutes faster.

The Obama administration likes the plan.

Other than those minor problems, the city’s metro system is already running a $150 million deficit.  But San Francisco has applied for a multiyear $942 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration.  The administration likes anything that gets people out of cars.

Transportation Secretary Ray La Hood said that people tell him they want to get out of their cars and enjoy clean, green green neighborhoods.  Uh huh. Everywhere I go, the people are babbling about clean green something or other.  Don’t you find everyone you know is repeating Obama’s buzz words?

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