Light rail will serve only 3% of Austin's
Light rail takes only 2% of all cars off of
It's cheaper to buy a Lexus or Mercedes for each person
who would ride light rail than it is to build the train
Light rail does little more than attract people
who are already riding buses
Buses are as efficient as light-rail, without
the cost of expensive rail construction
Double decking Mopac is much more effective
than light rail for addressing Austin's north/south commute traffic
Light rail makes no impact on pollution reduction
The density along the proposed light-rail route
is anywhere from a half to a fifth of the density that is generally required
to support a rail system
Light rail will lower property values and
destroy homes and businesses along the route line
The $900 million Dallas system may have 40,000 riders
a day, but it only gets 4,000 cars off the road
Investing $1 billion over ten years would allow
Austin to fully upgrade its road system to a level of adequacy that our
city planners should have built twenty years ago
Claim: Light rail will serve only 3% of Austin's
Fact: Anti-light rail forces frequently quote this statistic in order
to scare the public towards a misleading conclusion that "everyone"
uses roads and "no one" uses rail.
- it's silly to measure how much any road, bus, or rail-line touches the population
because we would then argue that nothing is justified. imagine for a
moment that in order to justify a new road or bus line, "at least
30%" of Austinites would have to sign up to use it everyday. Nothing
would get built because it would require that we all live in about the
same area and want to go to the same place, using the same road, everyday.
- A more rational approach is to consider how Austin's population is involved
in the majority of daily commutes, and where and why these commutes are taking
place. For example, the increasingly congested north/south commute on Mopac
is partially due to a commute in and out of a downtown area that is only 40%
built out. As Austin's downtown reaches an 80% build-out level over the next
two decades, existing parking lots will be consumed by new buildings. Downtown
will no longer possess the physical capacity to house the cars required to
transport 10,000's of new employees commuting to their downtown jobs. Now,
even when we have this many people working downtown, it will only be a small
percentage of our total population. But if we can keep many of these rush-hour
cars off of Mopac, then the majority of Austin travelers who are not commuting
will have substantially more highway capacity available for a faster, safer,
and cleaner commute.
Claim: Light rail takes only 2% of all cars off
of the road.
Fact: This is utter nonsense. The argument is faulty in its approach
and its figures. Again, unless Austin is going to wall itself off and not allow
anyone new to live here, we are going to see an indefinite increase in the number
of cars in the area. Therefore, attempting to reduce the number of cars is a
faulty approach because new cars are coming in faster than it is possible to
redirect or remove them. The proper debate is over how to manage the growth
in demand for transportation capacity.
- if Austin were to require all new road projects to be held to traffic
reduction metric, we would never approve the construction of SH-130, because
it is expected to only remove 5% of all cars from I-35.
Claim: it's cheaper to buy a Lexus or Mercedes for
each person who would ride light rail than it is to build the train.
Fact: This is a road-worn argument that has no basis in logic and has
been used by every anti-transit effort ever mounted.
When we look at an "apples to apples," fully burdened cost comparison
of cars vs. light-rail, we find that auto costs are 50% to 100% greater than
transit costs. According to the AAA and the US Department of Transportation,
a Chevrolet costs about 25 cents per passenger-mile (average peak hour occupancy
1.15) to buy, including the cost of the loan. It will cost about seven cents
per passenger-mile for insurance and eight cents for gasoline at just over a
dollar a gallon. Add two cents for oil changes, two cents for tire replacement,
two cents for repairs, a penny for deductibles on insurance, two cents for incidentals
and it costs 49 cents per passenger-mile. In addition to these user charges,
16 additional cents are needed to subsidize the roads the car drives on, and
anywhere from ten cents to fifty cents for parking the car, depending upon where
it is located. The total burdened operating costs for a car can total over $1.00
per passenger mile.
By comparison, light rail averages 35 cents per passenger-mile outside of subways,
plus about 20 cents for capital recovery (amortization of investment).
Claim: Light rail does little more than attract people
who are already riding buses.
Fact: Not true. Almost every study and survey provides data showing
buses and trains attract different sets of riders. Bus passengers tend to be
from low to middle income groups. In a phenomenon called "rail bias,"
light rail riders tend to be more representative of the middle and upper-middle
class who were previously dependent on their cars.
- in Dallas, surveys show a consistent figure of about 30% of riders diverted
from automobiles to the DART light-rail system.
Claim: Buses are as efficient as light-rail, without
the cost of expensive rail construction.
Fact: Not true and quite misleading.
- Buses and light-rail are complementary parts of a complete, multi-modal
transportation system. Both are most efficient when used in concert, such
as in park-and-ride configurations where light-rail functions as the "spine"
and buses function as the "ribs" of a regional mass transit system.
- Cities that have chosen bus-only approaches spend more money moving their
Claim: Double decking Mopac is much more effective
than light rail for addressing Austin's north/south commute traffic.
- Double decking is the most expensive form of highway building.
- in contrast, recent light rail projects have averaged a cost of about $20M
per mile. And virtually all of the light rail construction in the past decade
has come in on time and on budget.
Claim: Light rail makes no impact on pollution reduction
Fact: This is a false claim. Unless Austin is going to wall itself off
and not allow anyone else to move here, we are going to see continued increases
in the number of cars in the area. Therefore, attempting to reduce pollution
through traffic reduction is a broken approach because new cars are coming in
faster than it is possible to redirect or remove them. Instead we should focus
on managing the growth in demand for transportation capacity, in order to achieve
our three goals of decreased congestion, increased mobility, and improved air
- To this end, light-rail is proven to have had a very positive effect in
controlling the future rate of traffic and pollution growth. In Houston, where
they have no light rail, the average motorist consumes 565 gallons of gasoline
annually. Yet in cities with light rail, drivers use an average of 130 gallons
less per year than in Houston. Assuming a population of 2 million, the result
is a savings of 260 million gallons of gasoline, $350 million worth of gasoline,
and thousands of tons of auto-emissions every year. And this doesn't even
consider the savings due to less car repair, tires, accidents, insurance,
etc. Using just the fuel savings costs alone, Dallas could have justified
their investment in DART in just three years of operation!
Claim: The density along the proposed light-rail
route is anywhere from a half to a fifth of the density that is generally required
to support a rail system.
Fact: This is an inaccurate and misleading claim that puts the cart
before the horse.
- One of the primary goals of light rail is to motivate smart residential
and commercial growth along the entire rail line corridor. This counteracts
the otherwise naturally occurring phenomenon of clustered and creeping downtown
development that leads to loss of middle-class neighborhoods.
- The success that Dallas has had with DART has demonstrated this desired
effect, with hundreds of millions of dollars invested in new residential development
within previously low-density and undesirable neighborhoods.
- Use of light rail will eliminate the commute "penalty" for living
in outlying areas by delivering predictable and convenient transit (as far
north as McNeil road) directly into the downtown corridor.
Claim: Light rail will lower property values
and destroy homes and businesses along the route line.
Fact: The exact opposite is true.
- Property values increase near the light-rail line. In Dallas, property valuations
within one mile of the DART train are averaging 25% greater than other real
estate in the area. High quality development as a result of DART has been
so strong that their system has already paid for itself: $860M invested in
the light-rail line, and $800M in direct business investment along the rail
line, in less than five years of operation.
- With regard to economic impact, light-rail construction has minimal negative
impact, typically removing one house per new mile of rail. (By comparison,
new highway construction typically requires the destruction of 150 houses
per new mile of roadway.)
Claim: The $900 million Dallas system may have 40,000
riders a day, but it only gets 4,000 cars off the road.
Fact: Those are not accurate numbers for vehicles taken off the road.
Turnstile counts and ticket sales indicate 45,000 people travel DART daily.
if all of those are roundtrips that means 22,500 people a day are not in cars.
Even if you assume that only half of the light rail riders were previously driving
their cars, there are still 11,250 cars off the road. Add to this the average
of four "induced" trips per day per household (i.e.: incidental trips
that would normally be taken with a car but are now taken with the train). Multiplying
11,250 (people on the train,) by 4 (induced trips that would have otherwise
been taken with a car) indicates that Dallas streets have 45,000 less car trips
a day because of DART.
Claim: investing $1 billion over ten years would
allow Austin to fully upgrade its road system to a level of adequacy that our
city planners should have built twenty years ago.
Fact: Not even close to true. The anti-rail group ROADS (Reclaim Our
Allocated Dollars) claims that we can build a) an elevated highway loop around
Austin, b) an east/west highway through the center of Austin, c) upgrade all
bypasses and roads, and possibly double decking Mopac, and d) complete this
entire effort in ten years and for just a billion dollar cost.
This plan is poorly thought out and flawed at several levels, and it has been
called "extreme" by Mayor Watson.
- This massive project would require the destruction of thousands of homes
and businesses around Austin (studies show approximately 150 houses per mile
- it would require a tax increase to pay for the majority of the project likely
to be $5-$10 billion in cost and size.
- Because Austin does not have its own roadway approval authority, it could
take a decade just to approve, and then take decades to complete.