The Livable Communities Coalition

Working to improve Atlanta's quality of life through smart growth

Myth-busters: The poetry and politics of anti-transit rhetoric

Excerpted from Moving Minds: Conservatives and Public Transportation by Paul M. Weyrich and William S. Lind.

Anti-transit myth #1: Light rail has been a failure everywhere. The estimated costs always prove too low and the ridership projections are too high.

If transit was a declining industry for decades, it isn’t any more. One of the most important reasons for the turnaround is the spread of high-quality rail transit to more and more cities.

Most new light systems are built on or under budget and carry more riders than projected.

The first 11 miles of Dallas’s 20-mile DART light rail system opened on June 14, 1996, on time and within budget. Initial ridership was projected at 15,000; actual ridership in July 1996 averaged more than 18,000. Current DART weekday ridership, with all 20 miles in service, is 42,000.

Why do the anti-transit troubadours keep repeating charges from a flawed 1989 report and ignoring more recent evidence? Perhaps because, as entertainers, they are more interested in Dichtung [poetry] than in Wahrheit [truth].

The United States General Accounting Office released a report in 1999 evaluating the performance of transit projects in terms of meeting budget and deliverability guidelines. The report found that most transit projects were completed on time and on-budget – or, slightly over-budget. While some projects did experience significant cost overruns, the report concludes those cost overruns can be attributed to other factors, such as (1) higher-than-anticipated contract costs, (2) schedule delays, and (3) project scope changes and system enhancements.

Another study by University of Florida finds that highway projects are subject to cost overruns for similar reasons.

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