Tags: Taxpayers | Subsidize | Transportation | Vihstadt

Taxpayers Shouldn't Subsidize Extinct Forms of Transportation

Thursday, 20 November 2014 12:07 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Letting voters that don’t vote set your political agenda is so liberating I’m surprised politicians didn’t think of it years ago.
Richard Nixon used to refer to the “silent majority” when he was beleaguered and isolated in the White House. (This was during the dark days when a rogue IRS investigated and persecuted political groups without fear of reprisal as part of a conspiracy to win an election . . . wait, that’s not Nixon, that’s Obama!)
But Tricky Dick still expected the silents to show up at the polls. A non-voting group of supporters, imaginary or otherwise, is even more convenient because one can attribute all sorts of views to it secure in the knowledge they’re too lazy to contradict.
Surprisingly enough, President Obama didn’t invent hearing voices from non-voters. An earlier instance happened in Arlington, Virginia, a D.C. suburb, where the county board ignored special election results to fill a vacant seat.
Last April John Vihstadt, a Republican running as an Independent, beat Democrat Alan Howze by 16 points. Vihstadt’s one-issue campaign was opposition to a half billion-dollar streetcar project promoted by the county.
The board decided listening to voters in a low-turnout special election was no way to run a railroad or a streetcar line, so they ignored Vihstadt and said the November election, a rematch between the two candidates, would be more representative.
This is just the latest example of what I call the Rice-A-Roni effect on Democrats. You recall the commercials: “Rice-A-Roni, the San Francisco treat!” followed by the double ding of a streetcar bell. I don’t know how much rice the spots moved, but they sold generations of free-spending Democrats on boutique transportation solutions like streetcars.
In the northern Virginia county where I live we have a supervisor pushing for a rush-hour ferry to D.C. I’m waiting for the proposal to reopen the C&O canal or launch steamboats on the Mississippi.
If there wasn’t a danger of being chewed up in one of the windmills that taxpayers are also subsidizing, I wouldn’t be surprised to see nostalgia-crats promoting balloon transportation.
Besides impracticality, the one thing these projects have in common is the expenditure of hundreds of millions of tax dollars. The Arlington streetcar was a two-stage project, the first being a $333 million, 4.5-mile-long track that essentially connected a dying shopping center with a potential bar crawl.
Arlington Board Chairman Jay Fisette, another Democrat, claims the little cars that could are “our next generational investment; we are at a crossroads and we must lead for the future.” The Washington Post, source of extensive coverage on the issue and these quotes, reported Fisette claiming the streetcar is needed to “accommodate the expected increases of 40,000 residents, 20,000 residences, and 37,000 jobs by 2040.”
That’s a big claim when one considers that those 40,000 people — an estimate delivered prior to the Obama amnesty — standing shoulder-to-shoulder, would wrap around the entire line twice and no doubt be disappointed at what their money bought.
Post columnist Robert McCartney supports the streetcar; “For the sake of the environment and our quality of life, we need more dense, urban-style neighborhoods where people are less dependent on cars.”
In other words, a Soviet-style society where workers live in tall, hive-like, “affordable” structures and docilely ride trains on routes picked out for them by central planners who are too busy to travel on the trains, streetcars, or jitneys themselves.
Much like the former D.C. Metro board that used cars to get around town because the Metro was too slow and inconvenient.
McCartney found a graphic design firm owner that located to the streetcar route to “attract younger talent.” But it’s difficult to predict how many sardines will be working in graphics 10 years from now.
What streetcar devotees don’t tell the public is that most of the travel on the car will average about 5 mph, because the system shares the road with cars and stoplights. To make the carrying capacity numbers work streetcars are designed to hold only 29 seats with another 126 passengers standing and reading over your shoulder.
Vihstadt contends Bus Rapid Transit can carry more people and is more responsive to development changes since the buses move on tires and not tracks permanently affixed to the pavement. Elites hate buses because they aren’t cool, burn fossil fuel, and don’t lend themselves to ribbon-cutting ceremonies.
Fortunately for Arlington taxpayers the board kept its promise, even though the results were not what it expected. In the November rematch Vihstadt beat Howze 56 to 44 percent and this week the board voted to derail the streetcar project permanently.
It took two tries for this Democrat board to pay attention to voters; too bad President Obama won’t follow their example.
Michael R. Shannon is a commentator, researcher (for the League of American Voters), and an award-winning political and advertising consultant with nationwide and international experience. He is author of "Conservative Christian’s Guidebook for Living in Secular Times (Now with added humor!)." Read more of Michael Shannon's reports — Go Here Now.

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Last April John Vihstadt, a Republican running as an Independent, beat Democrat Alan Howze by 16 points. Vihstadt’s one-issue campaign was opposition to a half billion-dollar streetcar project promoted by the county.
Taxpayers, Subsidize, Transportation, Vihstadt
Thursday, 20 November 2014 12:07 PM
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