Trains For America

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Dallas-Ft. Worth ready to move ahead with commuter rail

Dallas-Ft. Worth, Texas’s largest metropolitan area, is getting ready to put a 250 mile commuter rail plan to voters. In an interesting move, lawmakers are proposing that each of the metroplex’s counties choose its own method of paying for the plan from a pre-determined list.

Officials from cities, counties and transit agencies spent about an hour explaining the need for rail, as well as the work done in the past six months with Texas Instruments and other powerful companies that had opposed the plan.

In a nod to those businesses, planners have abandoned a proposal to raise the state’s 8.25 percent sales-tax cap and are instead proposing that Metroplex counties be given a “menu” of taxes and fees to choose from — possibly including vehicle registration fees more than double today’s rate.

Texas might seem like an unlikely place to see progressive transportation policies, but the state has a history with rail transit. The original Texas TGV high-speed rail system was squashed by Southwest Airlines in the mid-90’s (ironically, American and Continental are now members of the new HSR corporation there) and Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) has been rapdily growing its modern light-rail system (currently operating at capacity, according to the article).

Filed under: Regional USA Passenger Rail, , , ,

4 Responses

  1. Allan says:

    If DART is already often running at capacity as it claims, then the fares should provide a starting point for some expansion. Let’s not raise the taxes on motorists, let’s raise the fares on commuters. If there is not increase in fare offered along with the increase in registration fees proposed, this could easily go down in flames.

  2. NikolasM says:

    But the more people that ride rail, the less crowded the highways are for you, which benefits you…

  3. Allan says:

    You’re talking about a POTENTIAL indirect benefit to certain highway users (those who would be on the highway at the time the DART line is crowded AND whose travels doesn’t coincide with the DART line (couldn’t use DART because it doesn’t go where they’re going). Otherwise, you’re penalizing motorists who wouldn’t benefit to subsidize the rider who benefits directly.

    What’s wrong with the idea that fares should cover the costs of a transportation system? At a very minimum, it should cover the operating and maintenance costs.

    And please, don’t go into the “highways are subsidized” myth … maybe in your state but not in mine where the general assembly has been known to raid the Road Fund (funded by gasoline taxes) to balance the general budget … in other words, gas taxes subsidized the state. Not on that, but a portion of the gas tax already goes to public transportation … it’s already be subsidized by motorists.

  4. Densha Otoko says:

    Yes, that’s exactly the point. You penalize motorists who don’t benefit because they are refusing to benefit, while people who ride public transit are providing a service to the community by not driving.

    What planet did you come from in which fares alone could cover the cost of a transportation system? Successful private railways in countries like Japan don’t make their money off of fares–companies like Odakyu, Tokyu, Seibu, Hankyu, etc., all own major department store chains and act as real estate developers along their corridors, which is where they make their real money (and ensure ridership by building near stations).

    Also, if highways are paid for by the gas tax, it doesn’t matter what is done with the leftover money: the highway has just been subsidized. It’s not a myth, it’s a reality. Unless you pay for that highway entirely through tolls (which is what you’re insisting on for trains), then it is being subsidized by taxpayer dollars. Again, you could follow Japan’s example–the major expressways there are privately owned and paid through tolls. Every vehicle has to pay $1.50 just for access to the highway, and then ordinary passenger cars need to pay another $0.40/mile after that. The prices get so steep that even express train tickets look nicer (especially since you don’t have to drive).

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August 2008


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