Policy Point #6:
Re: Paul Weyrich column on commuter rail (May 17, 2002)
My friend and Amtrak Reform Council colleague Paul Weyrich has it wrong on the Northstar Commuter Rail line. The worst possible reason for supporting commuter rail is that it will serve conservatives. There is already enough "getting ours" politics. Such blatant and pitiful political justifications should drive less, not more public policy. The Northstar line should rise or fall based upon its merits. Will it perceivably reduce traffic congestion? Is this the best use of the money? Can the objectives be more efficiently achieved by other means? The answer to each of these questions is an unqualified no. That Chicago's Metra commuter rail system is effective is no more relevant to the Twin Cities context than that Floridians use air conditioning during the winter. . Minneapolis-St. Paul is not Chicago, and it is likely most Twin Cities residents like it that way. The reality is that, using the highly optimistic project ridership projections, it would cost less per year to lease a new mid-sized car for each new commuter. And, with the overwhelming share of new metropolitan employment being created outside downtown Minneapolis, it would make more sense to develop more efficient alternatives that would benefit much larger numbers of commuters. The Northstar commuter rail line may be a good deal for a few downtown businesses and the companies that build the system and the trains, but do nothing but cost virtually anyone else.
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