Over at the CATO@Liberty blog, they ask Is Portland Light Rail a Success?.
I routinely hear people say that Salt Lake City’s light rail, TRAX, is a success. When asked for more information on what makes it a success, they generally devolve to their own personal opinion that they find TRAX convenient for them and that they like it. I’m sure its easy to like something that you don’t have to pay for, but that is not the measure of success for spending public money. I’d like it if tax money were simply diverted to my bank account. I would consider that a success, but the people who pay those taxes would disagree.
When I watch the TRAX cars roll by they are mostly empty. The exceptions are when there is a sporting event at the arena downtown or other such activity and people are using TRAX as a way to get downtown without having to find a parking space (not that finding a parking space in downtown SLC is even remotely hard). I hear news reports, increasing in frequency, of people’s cars being vandalized and burglarized while they are parked at the TRAX station. When you think about it, all those cars parked in the TRAX station are just sitting ducks. There’s no patrolling of the TRAX station parking lots as far as I know and if people are commuting to work then the cars are just sitting there unattended and unmonitored all day long. It must be easy pickings for thieves.
TRAX has always felt like bureacratic empire building within UTA more than a solution to a problem. If light rail were an alternative that people really wanted compared to their cars, then private industry would already be providing it.