Rep. Craig Frank, you're wrong. TRAX is a winner.

This is a response to a blog by Rep. Craig Frank.

TRAX is actually a winning proposition. It moves 3-4 times as many people per square mile as a highway expansion can, it largely utilizes existing rail corridors (eliminating eminent domain issues), ridership regularly exceeds esitmates, and… it runs in the black. Yep, public transportation that makes money. I guess that makes up for all the red ink that the bus system bleeds.

The existing TRAX lines handle some 60,000 riders a day. I don't know where your math comes from, but estimating that the new lines will only pull 5,000 passengers a day seems very low. Even if ridership doesn't increase substantially, existing rail passengers will have less distance to drive including the masses from Utah County. You also discount the secondary benefits of light rail. Prior to TRAX, the U had a horrible parking problem and would have had to spend millions on new garages. With TRAX in place, finding a parking spot is now a piece of cake, a real marvel for any major university. The extension to the airport could have a similar effect and make Salt Lake City more convention-friendly, especially with the commuter rail lines up and running.

Even if we figure that TRAX is only taking about 30,000 cars off I-15, that's still about 20% of the traffic we see on the freeway. That's a pretty large dent to make. Your average TRAX rider will also be saving money by hopping the train. Someone going downtown from South Jordan could easily drop about $10 in gas and parking compared to a $3 train ticket.

It's a false premise (though a widely-believed one) that those who don't own property are somehow going to have the opportunity to vote away money from property owners. Those renters have to live somewhere, and I don't think the landlords are just going to eat a property tax increase. Sure, they may not understand fully that they will be paying the increase indirectly through increased rents, but this doesn't mean they're pulling a fast one on the rest of us.

The question, of course, is why it is that Salt Lake County is having to resort to a property tax increase. The short answer is a lack of forward-thinking on the part of the various counties and the state legislature. California got caught in that trap in the 60s. Las Vegas learned from it but still ended up behind the curve in this decade. Have we been so oblivious to not see that at the first inklings of rapid growth, immediate action is required? Apparently so.

There's a record surplus in the legislature at a time where there is a record need for transportation projects, yet instead of using the money to secure transit corridors, the legislature instead chooses to talk about tax refunds. This is happening as construction costs are soaring, especially the price of concrete which has quadrupled in the last decade. The legislature could take decisive action to build transportation projects now and save billions of dollars in future construction costs… but I guess posturing on tax reform and school choice takes top billing these days.

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3 Responses

  1. Shauna says:

    What’s wrong with giving school choice top billing? I thought we were pro-that.

  2. Jesse says:

    Nothing. The posturing, however (mainly by the “supporting school choice is opposing education” crowd), is despicable. Thought I’d get my digs in at both sides, y’know?

  3. Andrea says:

    You obviously are not aware that UTA double counts TRAX users. If you switch from one TRAX line to the other, you are counted twice. That would be like saying one person drives two cars to work.

    Your analysis does not even include a cost-benefit analysis. How many cars (w/o dbl counting) are being removed at what cost and how does that compare to other alternatives, such as BRT.

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