Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Hampton Roads Residents Want Light Rail...

...like I want a Maserati Spyder GT sports car. There are lots of things people want. But that doesn't mean they're willing to pay for them.

According to an editorial in today's Virginian-Pilot, 60 percent of the respondants to an Old Dominion University telephone survey stated that "they wanted local leaders to focus on building a commuter train system."

Does that finding really mean anything?

First question: What does it mean to "focus on" building a commuter train system? Does that mean the poll respondants want to build such a system, or just that they want to local authorities to complete a final project design and then decide?

Second question: Did the survey mention that the project has a $200 million price tag? The Pilot doesn't tell us. Would Hampton Roads residents still want the transit system if they had to pay the full price? Probably not, as the Pilot implicitly concedes, stating that the project "can't be built" without federal funding.

Third question: Even if the feds were forthcoming with the lion's share of the $200 million project, would respondants still support light rail if they considered the alternate uses of that $200 million?

Fourth question: Would Hampton Roads residents actually use the light rail, or do they perceive it as something that "other" people would use, thus relieving congestion on roads and highways, which they will continue to use themselves?

Final question: Did the Old Dominion poll probe the sentiments of local residents regarding alternatives that don't entail spending hundreds of millions of dollars? Were they asked about telecommuting and flexible work hours? Or synchronized traffic lights? Or development of balanced communities where they can live in close proximity to where they work, shop and send their kids to school?

That's not to say that light rail is a bad idea: Just look at how Arlington is using it. Road to Ruin will examine the Norfolk project in detail in the near future.


At 10:45 AM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

That sounds like something I would write, Jim.

Before we do anything, maybe we should at least try to find out the answers to your questions?


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