Beating a Dead Horse: The Light Rail Push Continues

This column appeared in today’s Scottsdale Republic. As noted previously on ScottsdaleTrails, the current torchbearers for light rail (primarily Jim Derouin and Mr. Gettinger, as proxies on behalf of Scottsdale City Council member Virginia Korte) conveniently forget that not only has the Scottsdale community already had the discussion for which they are calling, we’ve actually paid a significant amount of money for a consultant to study this issue. 

To paraphrase myself, I offer to Mr. Gettinger the ScottsdaleTrails Quote of the Day from yesterday.

I do not believe Mr. Gettinger, Mr. Derouin, or Council member Korte are really interested in having another dialog on ‘transit.’ They want to keep asking the question until they get the answer they want, which is light rail.

The bulk of Mr. Gettinger’s comments refer to “transit” and a “transit system.” Of course, that ignores the fact that Scottsdale already has a transit system, consisting of buses, trolleys, dial-a-ride service, bikeways and walking paths. Only in his final paragraph does Gettinger even use the word “rail.”

As I said before in my interview on KJZZ last week, I’d like to see 1/10th of the money Gettinger would spend on rail applied instead to improving the bus/trolley system with newer low-floor vehicles; more routes; better routing; more frequent headways; actual shade structures, benches, and bike racks at all bus stops; and better resources to help new riders understand the system.

I also want to note Gettinger’s magic money statement: As far as costs go, the government pays 70-80 percent, a big boost to Scottsdale’s economy. I guess he thinks that government money just appears out of thin air…well, lately it sort of has, but in a real economy it has to come from somewhere…like taxes.

However, rather than having a real dialog, Gettinger, et. al., are shamelessly promoting their own “ideological” (to use his term) agenda, without regard to the facts for which he clamors, and which, for the most part, are already available for the asking.

As Councilman Bob Littlefield observes among his “Rules of Scottsdale Politics” as his Rule Number 8:

In Scottsdale, no bad idea every really dies.

Nevertheless, I reprint Mr. Gettinger’s column here, for what it is worth.

City needs a frank, honest discussion about mass transit

When discussing the pros and cons of a project, it is all too easy to fall into the trap of “he said, she said.” However, the state­ments of some opponents of rapid (or mass) transit need responses.

My family and I moved to Scottsdale in 1990 and have lived here since. Dur­ing that time, I have witnessed our city grow from a sleepy town to a city that has a worldly reputation as a tourist destination as well as a highly desirable place to live.

Along with growth came complica­tions and problems. Moving people from one place to another is one. Scotts­dale needs an open and factual dis­cussion about transportation needs. There seems to be an undertone from opponents of mass transit that says if you are a supporter of mass transit, you are bad and want Scottsdale to meta­morphose into an unde­sirable place to live. Nothing could be fur­ther from the truth. While I may be a Johnny-come-lately, I am still at the table. What brought me to the discussion is the way in which certain officials and non-resi­dents have rejected mass transit. It was, and still is, a sub­ject of such importance that a detailed discussion and investigation is an obli­gation.

The need for a mass-transit system is evident. What is in question is what type of transportation best fits Scotts­dale’s need. I was of the opinion that a discussion was lacking and needed. The decision will affect our city’s future.

The subject should not be rejected without a thorough and unbiased in­vestigation.

I remember my statistics professor constantly cautioning us on the dangers of misusing statistics without attribu­tion. One example he offered is the correlation between the increase in sales of Toyotas and the increase in illegitimate births in the U.S., an almost direct link during the mid-1950s to the early 1960s. Were Toyotas responsible for the rise in out-of-wedlock births? Of course not!

I did indeed cite $50 a gallon as a cost on the horizon. At the risk of dat­ing myself, I remember saying, “check the tires and the oil, wipe the wind­shield, front and back, please, and fill ’er up at 35 cents a gallon.” As the sta­tion attendant handed me a beverage glass, I remember saying, “before you know it, I’ll be paying 50 cents a gal­lon.”

Fifty cents to $4 is 800 percent! Eight times $4 is $32. That will not hap­pen next week, but Economics 101 teaches that with a finite commodity, each price trend offers higher lows and higher highs.

A few additional comments: Are people standing at a bus stop less ex­posed to crime than those at a rail sta­tion? As far as costs go, the government pays 70-80 percent, a big boost to Scottsdale’s economy. Let’s ask our government to give us facts, not ideo­logical statements that have no rela­tionship to the truth. In other words, let’s talk about it.

Jerry Gettinger is a political adviser and consultant in Scottsdale.

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