The Georgetown City Council voted twice to reject the Lone Star Rail District and then the Georgetown Transportation Advisory Board made an emergency recommendation to remain in it. Councilman Jerry Hammerlun switched positions making the vote 3-3, the mayor making the deciding vote to continue the $49,500 yearly membership.
I believe these facts to be material in my opposition to rail district.
•To date, Georgetown has paid $297,000 for annual membership in the rail district and has yet to receive an accounting of how these funds are being used.
•The rail district “budget” has been spotty. The district has never released any consecutive years of budget. They have provided “some” City Council members “estimated” budgets skipping years and have never provided an audited budget.
•The project has been going for six years and the rail district is just now starting the environmental studies, estimating an additional two to three years to complete.
•The rail district is never going to be the project to help us with our transportation requirements. When and if the rail district is able to get the railroad courses negotiated and finalized, there would be a minimum of 15-20 years of effort before a train would operate — assuming environmental forces do not file suits against the effort.
•Census data shows that the growth in Georgetown is taking place west of Interstate 35. Why build to meet a decreasing population area?
•All audits across the nation have shown that the national rail ridership is less than 1 percent of the population, according to a Cato Institute report.
•A Rasmussen Reports poll, August 2013, indicated “three-out-of-four Americans, or 74 percent, say they rarely or never use mass transit.”
•The rail district would not operate light rail. It is an Amtrak-size train.
•The rail district cannot provide any estimate of the total cost of participation in the district because it does not know what the bottom line will be. In case after case — San Jose, Calif., light rail, Honolulu Rail, Portland rail and every rail system in the United States — point to extensive cost over-runs, massive underestimates of ridership and ultimate reductions in scope or service to contain the budget deficits.
•The rail district has not provided life-of-service estimated for infrastructure maintenance and replacement. All rail systems need replacement within a 35-40 year basis and none have provision for such, according to a Cato Institute report.
•All rail systems are inflexible. There is no possibility of changing to accommodate population shifts in growth. The obvious growth for Georgetown is toward Sun City and Ronald Reagan Boulevard. The rail district will not serve the vast majority of this population.
The construction of a rail system is a gigantic wealth transfer scheme, first from the 74 percent of people who will not use it, and from the children and grandchildren of the future to pay for the never-ending escalating cost of such a project.
The beneficiaries are the few riders, the landowners and businesses near the terminals, and the construction and development firms.
A more prudent approach would focus on providing an economical and flexible system, such as overhead tramways to accommodate changing circumstances.
Claims that funding can be provided through increased property valuations is not proven in any market. A 2010 study of the Austin Street Car project titled “Zero Sum Game: The Austin Streetcar and Development, An analysis of the Capital Market Research Report” by Wendell Cox Consultancy concluded:
“The CMR report provides no basis to conclude that the streetcar will increase property values in the Austin area. Virtually all of the additional development attributed to the streetcar appears to be taken from elsewhere in the central area or metropolitan area. There is no evidence that the streetcar would materially increase total property values.”
Rail has not shown any reduction in highway traffic patterns. Austin Metro was touted as reducing Interstate 35 traffic by 20 percent or more. No reports are shown to substantiate these claims. Being a businessman, I look at taxpayer funds just as I do my own. Would I invest in such a scheme as Lone Star Rail District ? The obvious answer is no.
Marler is a Georgetown businessman