We have commented earlier about advice we’d had from a former boss. He said, "Don’t argue with a man who buys his ink by the barrel." The rationale of the statement was driven home this morning when the Sunday paper appeared with a full two page editorial with a screaming headline across both pages - "WHY WE NEED MASS TRANSIT."
But, what the hell. May we make a comment or two without actually arguing?
The editorial is divided into three sections. One has to do with the alleged "need." Another tells us of a legislator who has now seen the light about said necessity. The third carried the sub-head, "Planners have conservative budget." We’ll limit our input to that one.
The estimated price tag for the program is $1.3 billion. They’re anticipating "...seven revenue streams - three involving federal sources...." There appears to be no concern about the availability of these monies, despite some folks in Washington apparently feeling a serious financial pinch.
We’re told "...the projected capital costs would be paid out over 10 years as bus rapid transit routes come on line in Marion and Hamilton counties, existing bus services is (sic) vastly improved, and a light rail or BRT line is built from Noblesville to Downtown." Presumably the original massive costs will come from the federal free money since the project "...would not require new debt."
The instigators of the project have "...adopted a pay-as-you-go model to construction so that planners could delay the rollout of later lines if revenues fall short or costs unexpectedly rise." (We admit to ignorance as to the workings of "pay-as-you-go" construction costs.)
While claiming to have "...settled on a much less costly option..." to light rail, the next sentence proclaims that "At least four of the first five rapid transit lines..." would involve on-street vehicles. When one recalls that a light rail line from Noblesville to downtown is still mentioned early in this section of the editorial, it seems entirely fair to question what is in mind for that fifth route.
We find some phrasing in the editorial both vague and bothersome. We have consistently questioned the absence of any stated system of priorities in the whole plan. We will again suggest that local fiscal history indicates activities beneficial to the mass of ordinary citizens - the ones who really need public transit - will take a back seat to the wants of the stadium-to-Palladium crowd.
Or, very possibly, no seat at all when revenues fall and costs rise!