Idaho's Weekly Journal of Local & National Commentary Week 2815


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by Free Market Duck

Bullet train from Boise to Meridian derailed as billion dollar local option sales tax bites the dust...poof
(Mar 08, 2007)

Boise, ID – Phew, gather around, listen up, shut up, and don't spill that hot cup of Rocket Java on my asthma, girl friends.  Thanks to state legies on the House Tax Committee, you won't have to pay a 1/2 -cent increase in your Boise sales tax for a ridiculous Bullet Train from Boise to Meridian.  The House Tax Committee voted no, 11-7, yesterday to dump a bill that would allow voters to vote on a 1/2-cent local option sales tax increase for buses, trolleys, and a billion dollars for initial development of a light rail choo-choo train system in the Treasure Valley.


   This is important in that the legislators have confirmed that Idaho should not (1) override or lower the Idaho Constitution's 2/3 majority voter requirement for multi-year debt to incur local option sales taxes for any reason -- including an absurd new Jr. College system -- AND (2) that the solution to Boise's growing transportation problem should not include a mass transit system.


   Why not?  Listen up:

   Contrary to the editorial page of the Idaho Statesman, the legislature does not hold the key to a mass transit solution.  Population density holds the key to a transit solution.

   After riding the rails of Europe for five weeks last summer, let me share some key important info with you.  Germany is about the same geographical size as Idaho.  Germany's population is over 85 million.  Idaho's population is 1.3 million.  Boise's Treasure Valley population is only 400,000.

   All leading mass transit studies indicate that the ROI (return on investment) for mass transit is only successful in those areas in which trains pick up in high-density areas and deposit in high-density areas, such as New York City, Munich, London, and Paris.  So guess what, Blueprint For Good Growth and COMPASS -- Boise's million-dollar studies on solutions for growth and mass transit?  Idaho, and more specifically, Boise's Treasure Valley, doesn't even come close to qualifying for either light rail, medium rail, heavy rail, or trolley car solutions for mass transit.

   Maybe we should rethink the mass transit problem.  Maybe the mass transit problem is actually an employer big building problem in which it is assumed that employers of companies must funnel all their employees down the freeway and into one big building like Micron to log onto computers for work everyday.  How arcane.  Studies show that employees working from home are a lot more productive than showing up to corporate HQ where the main pastimes include:  cafeteria coffee guzzling, perpetual meetings, and vacation story telling time at the water cooler.

   It would be a lot cheaper for legislators to give everybody a laptop computer -- although I'm not suggesting that -- to log onto work from home instead of trying to finance a multi-billion dollar Bullet Train from Boise to Meridian.  Remember, Germany has 85 million people living in a country the size of Idaho.  They can afford to subsidize mass transit.  The Treasure Valley only has 400,000 people – maybe 200,000 adult taxpayers, projected to be 400,000 taxpayers by 2020, which is less than 1% of Germany’s taxpayers.  You do the math.

  Idaho development costs will not be proportionately downsized relative to Germany.  Infrastructure and project management costs and controls – sorely lacking in most of Idaho’s projects such as the failed $136 million University Place fiasco – will skyrocket, just like in all the other 85% mass transit failures in the U.S.:

·        Seattle, Washington’s $2 billion light rail system was derailed when public-private estimates skyrocketed to over $11 billion.

·        In Honolulu, Hawaii, 40% of the contractors working on the $1 billion BRT were under investigation, indicted, or convicted for money laundering to local politicians.

·        Florida’s Overland Express, FOX, pulled the plug when the estimate for its public-private Florida bullet train ballooned from $4 billion to $13 billion to $40 billion.  (FOX was cited as one of Civic Partner’s previous qualifications to develop Boise’s now-failed $136 million University Place fiasco.)

·        Ex Gov Kempthorne’s “Connecting Idaho” project management costs by WGI/CH2M Hill have tripled from $15 million to $43 million in less than two years.  Total costs are unknown but have escalated from the initial $3 billion (including interest) to over $5-$10 billion.

·        The construction between the cities of Caldwell and Meridian on I-84 was estimated by Kempthorne's Plan at $13.6 million.  JFAC awarded $70 million, five times more within one year, and the Idaho Statesman and others have declared that even that is not enough.

   Plus, everybody parks their cars WHERE to catch the Humphrey GO-BART (Boise Area Rapid Transit) bus system to get to the Boise Bullet Train station?  Or, did you think the Humphrey GO-BART bus or the Boise Bullet Train was going to just stop right outside your house each morning to pick you up to go to Micron?  Just getting to the mass transit train station is a new traffic problem in itself.  You do not have to be Albert Einstein to figure out that any mass transit system in Idaho is not mathematically feasible, just on the size of the taxpayer base alone. -- FM Duck

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