Light Rail Revisited

You're going to hear the word "intermodal" a lot in these light rail discussions, that's light rail speak, for "we have to hang a lot of crap around this thing to make it work".

Everyone is all in a flutter about a recent poll that shows a growing sentiment for light rail in the Bay area.

On the surface light rail seems like such a good idea. Get on the train and smoothly and effortlessly get where you are going. No cranky motorists or maddening red lights, it all seems so wonderful.

It rarely works that way, unless you live right next to the light rail station, and where you are going is close to a rail station.

Fact is few of us will live next to a light rail stop, even fewer of us would want to, and the probability that where you want to go, especially in Pinellas County, being within even a reasonable walking distance of the light rail station is very low.

All of the beautiful pictures of futuristic trains and idyllic views of smiling riders can lull you into a false sense of feeling light rail is the answer.

Here in Pinellas County with 24 different local governments, multiple retail, industrial, educational and governmental centers, light rail becomes problematic.

For most of us it will be either a bus ride or a car trip or bike ride  to the light rail station and then a hike, cab, trolley or bus ride to our final destination. Reverse that process including dragging all those packages to get home. Going to the grocery store becomes a four hour trip with multiple fares verses a drive.

You're going to hear the word "intermodal" a lot in these light rail discussions, that's  light rail speak, for "we have to hang a lot of crap around this thing to make it work".

Things like busses, cabs, trolleys and other forms of transportation to actually get riders to where they want to go. All very expensive, generally inconvenient and not self supporting from a revenue perspective.

Once in place the flow of tax payer money to subsidize light rail will only grow.

Then there is the old ruse that the community will evolve and business will tend to congregate around the light rail stops. That will be real comforting to you if you own a business that will be nowhere near a light rail stop.

Could light rail really work in Pinellas County. Maybe. But the people who push it the most are those who will benefit the most: those selling the train systems, building the tracks and acquiring the right of way.

When you get down to the facts, the cost of acquiring right of way, building the system, operating and subsidizing  it and all of  light rail's supporting infrastructure in Pinellas county will be as staggering as will the tax bill that goes with it.

Next time they poll the light rail issue, the question should probably be would you support an increase in your property tax or sales tax to build a light rail system? The results might change a little.

Have your say.  Be sure to get a petition for the Pier Referendum and complete it properly. Information and schedule of events at Stop The Lens.

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Dan Pressler January 10, 2013 at 02:00 AM
with all these comparisons between taxpayer support for roads vs light-rail what percentage of people use the road directly (car/bike) or indirectly (bus/taxi) vs what percentage would be willing & able to use the light-rail. I live in safety harbor but work over by the hard rock cafe & i have looked into a bus ride but I could get a bus early enough to be at work at 7:00 as the commute would be 2-3 times as long as it is now. *Maybe* an elevated train (disney style monorail?) from st pete to clearwater to TIA to netpark with no other stops. Put commuter lots at those four spots & you might have something that would work if it ran frequently enough with low enough fares & low enough tax-based subsidies.
Jon January 22, 2013 at 03:48 PM
If the need for light rail between St. Petersburg and Clearwater is so great, why don't we have Express buses serving those customers now? If "the majority" of citizens support light rail and the added taxes it brings, then why did PSTA spend $300,000 on a Public relations firm (Tucker Hall) to do a PR campaign to convice us rail is "good?" How is it that the proponents of light rail can confiscate our tax dollars to promote their plan, while opponents get nothng?
Rider January 24, 2013 at 06:54 PM
Installing a rail line to Clearwater is not solving the major problem we have in the Bay Area and smacks of that old and tired argument and rivalry...Pinellas vs Hillsborough. US 19 to Clearwater has undergone multi million dollar improvements and congestion on that road is not a problem. With the bridges built over intersections along the route, installing light rail is increasing in difficulty and expense....and to answer how a rail to Clearwater would hurt our beaches...it may draw visitors in St Pete to visit Clearwater instead of St Pete Beach, etc as many visitors come here for a day trip. I support the proposal for a real, municipal water taxi from Tampa to St Pete and a real streetcar that connects to that line here (like it does in Tampa) that goes to our beaches. Now that is getting around in style and is pragmatic, too. Spending all this money on a train to Clearwater just doesn't make sense as a priority and it probably will have no impact on the Rays' situation (they're hoping it will convince the Rays to build at the Gateway area)......
Concerned Floridian January 30, 2013 at 07:05 PM
I agree with you Lynda. The author does not have a conservative position, much of a reactionary one. Against changes. To be more in line with the true meaning of being conservative, his position as a fiduciary of our commonwealth, would have been to preserve our environment.
Concerned Floridian January 30, 2013 at 07:15 PM
Walking to a train station? Or reducing one's daily driving to & back from a train station? Heresy! Total disregard of the love a man has for his car ;-) Who knows it may be due to this that some folks renage to the idea of a more efficient mode of transportation. Some seem to entertain a stronger emotional relationship with their car than with one family member.


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