Monday, February 21, 2011

Wasting Money

Originally uploaded by lotus_07

I keep hearing supposedly intelligent people repeating things that they have seen on the news or on the web about how money is being wasted on things that aren’t doing any good, or are costing too much, or shouldn’t be built for one reason or another.

The constant barrage of these endlessly forwarded news clips, YouTube videos and web links is really starting to annoy me. If only because the people that are forwarding these via e-mail, Twitter or Facebook are being duped and don’t realize it.

The latest Facebook post that pushed my button was regarding the ‘boondoggle’ that is the Phoenix, Arizona Light Rail system called the ‘Metro’.

The Metro has been in operation for about 2 years now, and by most accounts, the people that use it like it. I have used it numerous times and it is a nice inner-city light rail system.

However, all during its planning and construction, there were special interest groups yelling and screaming about how much money it was costing and how the money could be spent on better things that were more beneficial to the population as a whole.

Then I read this little blurb on Facebook earlier today, posted by someone I know, who re-posted it from somewhere else. It reads as follows: “So Phoenix could have bought every single light rail rider a brand new Prius, and given them 10,000 miles of free gas a year...and it would have cost 1/3 of what we spent on light rail? Who could have seen this coming...this guy”...which lead to this “Link” about the story in Forbes Magazine.

A nicely written piece that totally misses the bigger picture.

We didn’t want to build the light rail system in Phoenix. We were mandated to. This goes back to the basic concept, that many people that LIVE in this country, don’t really know HOW this country works.

Since the end of the ‘War for States Rights’ (you called it the Civil War in social studies), the Federal Government has been the arbiter of how the states do things. It is a carrot and stick approach. The Federal Government will offer a state 200 billion dollars to improve their state infrastructure if the state builds a regional airport. If we don’t build the airport, then the 200 billion goes to some other state. Since the airport only costs us 50 billion to build, it is sort of a no brainer to build the damn thing, even if no one uses it.

The concept here, is that the Federal government steers the overall direction of the country by giving states incentives (or conversely, withholding incentives ) to do certain things. If the planners at the Federal level want to increase the availability of jet travel to the masses over the next 20 years, airports have to be built.

With regard to the light rail system in Phoenix, it was the same thing. We have WAY too many cars in Phoenix, and the freeways are overly congested which makes pollution very bad. The Feds knew this and also knew that if left unchecked, it would get much worse, because Arizona wasn’t about to do a damn thing about it. So here comes the Federal stick.

Arizona was told that if they did not start to reduce auto miles traveled significantly over the next 50 years, the federal government was going to start withholding Federal Highway funds. Translation, build mass transit or fix your own damn bridges and freeways. The yard stick to measuring the states compliance is the level of particulate pollution in the Phoenix Metro area measured at yearly levels.

How much the ‘Metro’ system cost isn’t the issue. Quality of life 50 years down the road is the issue. In 50 years, no one is going to be driving Prius’ and gas is going to be over $10 a gallon and there will be millions of us that have to get around this city. How are we going to do it? Bicycles? Since, per the Forbes article, the Metro has reduced 20,000 cars a day from Phoenix streets, that is one big boatload of pollution that I don’t have to breath in.

I often times don’t agree with what the Federal Government does, but in this instance I think they have the right idea. So if you don’t like the Metro System, shut your damn mouth and walk to work you idiot.