Today’s story on a BYU professor criticizing FrontRunner for being a financial flop is typical of the anti-mass transit genre for what it ignores, not what it says.
I need to look up numbers so I can do a dead tree column on this subject in more detail, but here are some initial thoughts. Feel free to chime in/add in/criticize. If anyone has any of those numbers laying around, send them along and save me the work.
– UTA is a government-run enterprise. No government-run enterprise ever makes money, nor is it intended to. Government is something we buy, not something we invest in.
– Any time someone wants to get rid of something the government does they call the money spent on it a “subsidy.” Items government does that those same people see as necessary are not.
The Mount Ogden Golf Course is “subsidized” by Ogden, for example, as is the Marshall White Center, but money the city spends to send Mayor Godfrey and the council on a trip to Europe to look at gondolas is “a wise investment.” Residents of Davis County won’t get any money back, directly, from the millions they spend on upgrading their fairgrounds, but I don’t hear anyone there saying it is a horrible “subsidy.”
– Prof. Michael Ransom compares the monthly cost of a ticket on FrontRunner to the total cost of setting up FrontRunner, including capital costs, and says that the excess over the monthly ticket cost is an unreasonable “subsidy.”
– Ranson cites the initual capitol costs of building FrontRunner, plus maintenance. At the same time, he ignores the vastly higher cost of the alternative.
Utah spends several billions of dollars a year maintaining roads, for example, not to mention the initial billions to build them. Not one of those roads is a toll road, so not one of those roads generates a cent in income.
Drivers on those roads have to spend $15,000 or more to buy their individual motorized steel boxes, plus spend hundreds of dollars a month on insurance, upkeep, fuel, road and fuel taxes, and so on.
– The fuel in those motorized individual steel boxes is also heavily subsidized. The $100 billion our nation spends every year in Iraq is directly related to maintaining access to oil (as is proven by the somewhat snarky but nevertheless appropriate question: Would we really be fighting for Iraq’s “freedom” if its chief export were broccoli?) We don’t pay that $100 billion at the gas pump, but we do pay it.
And so on.
As I said, I need to look up some numbers, but I think my thesis is sound.