PHOENIX -- In a policy brief released today, the Goldwater Institute revealed numbers showing that the light rail project proposed by the Maricopa Association of Governments will be a highly inefficient use of public resources, ineffective at reducing traffic congestion and pollution, and unfair to county taxpayers. The brief highlights findings from a study by Phoenix transportation expert John Semmens, which will be released January 8, 2004, at a policy forum co-sponsored by the Goldwater Institute and the East Valley Tribune.
"The most shocking thing about the findings is that these are Valley Metro's own numbers," Semmens said. "The county is planning to spend $2.2 billion on light rail, equivalent to one-third of the state's entire general fund. If policymakers do not reexamine the numbers, they may make a mistake of gigantic proportions."
Semmens reported that the cost per trip for light rail would be $12.39, compared to $1.51 for automobiles using the county's roads and freeways. And non-riders would pay 95 percent of the cost of light rail trips, while automobile drivers currently pay 100 percent of the cost of roads and freeways. Worse, light rail would do almost nothing to relieve traffic congestion. Because 80 percent of new light rail passengers in Maricopa County would be former bus passengers, light rail would remove less than one car in 1,000 from traffic. Indeed, light rail would account for only 0.2 percent of the person-miles of travel in the region over the next 20 years. To gain relief from traffic congestion and air pollution, Semmens argues that the county must focus its reforms on automobiles, which would account for 98.9 percent of all person-miles of travel in the region.
Semmens maintains that the light rail project is highly unbalanced from the point of view of geographic equity. Eighty percent of the proposed 57-mile light rail system will be within the borders of Phoenix, and only four of the county's 25 jurisdictions will see any light rail service. "In terms of light rail service, taxpayers in those jurisdictions will get a zero rate of return for the money they pay," Semmens wrote. "Indeed, because of the increased traffic congestion that light rail is likely to cause, they may experience negative returns."
The policy brief is available online.
Author contact: John Semmens, Transportation Policy Analyst, Laissez Faire Institute, (480) 940-9824
Goldwater contact: Satya Thallam, Fiscal Policy Analyst, Goldwater Institute, (602) 462-5000
Press contact: Tom Jenney, Director of Communications, Goldwater Institute, (602) 712-1257