Hidden Letter to the Editor: Phony Light Rail Claims

This letter appeared in the Scottsdale Republic today. Becky Fenger has long been an advocate for factual discussion of transit options, but isn’t known for picking the right horse in mayoral races.

Don’t be too quick to buy into phony claims of ‘rapid’ transit

A June 19 editorial titled “City leaders must get on board rapid transit for Scottsdale” is chock full of misinformation. For starters, let’s look at the title. There is nothing “rapid” about a system that averages 14.9 miles per hour in 25 of the cities that have light-rail transit — even slow­er for modern streetcars, which have to fight automobiles for road space.

Next, its author worries that the price of gasoline could climb to $10 a gallon. That would be a good argument for abandoning the automobile until, after running the numbers, one learns that the price of gas would have to reach $50 per gallon before light-rail transit can move people cheaper than by auto travel!

There is one question I would ask riders of light rail: “Would you still ride the system if you had to pay the actual full cost of your daily com­mute, which is well over $25 per day? No wonder Phoenix pas­sengers are enamored of riding the rails when they are paying only 14 percent of the cost of their trips. Does it make sense that a single mother is subsidizing 86 percent of the trip down Central Avenue for a lawyer making five times her salary?

Rail brings crime. That’s a fact. The passengers waiting at the station are sitting ducks. Retired Police Officer and Scottsdale resident John Rowton recently wrote of a 50 percent increase in crime at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn. Arizona criminals are no less enterprising.

Statistics from the Federal Highway Administration show that government now spends 20 times as much per mile of travel on public transit as it does for roadways. Yet light rail and modern streetcar together account for only three-tenths of 1 percent (0.3%) of pas­senger travel. What a poor allocation of scarce resources.

It is silly for a Johnny-come-lately to talk of other cities that have fallen for the false allure of light rail and modern streetcar in order to “have arrived.” Why should Scottsdale strive to acquire the average deficits of $158 million in every city that succumbed to the tran­sit pushers’ promises?

The Final Environmental Impact Statement of the Central Phoenix/East Valley Light Rail Project, prepared by Valley Metro, revealed that both air pollution and traffic congestion would slightly increase if light rail is built. Despite efforts by officials, politicians and some publications to hide these facts, that is the indisputable truth.

Scottsdale is special and doesn’t need to lower its standards to the level of other Valley cities by jumping on the snail-rail deficit trail.

Becky Fenger is a spokeswoman for the Scottsdale Citizens Transportation Study Committee and a former Scottsdale resident.

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