A few weeks ago we posted an article that ranked the some of the “Worlds Biggest Boondogles” in publicly funded civic projects. The list bothered me initially because it reminded me of the colossal failure of the PTP, but there was something more that bothered me. In looking over the list I realized that most of the projects, with the notable exception of the PTP, were actually successful, or could not be evaluated thru a simple cost-benefit analysis. The Chunnel, the Sydney Opera House, Sound Transit, these are all important projects whose benefit is not only manifested in the amount of money each produces, but through a variety of other means. What would Sydney be without the iconic Sydney Opera House? How many people have visited Sydney as tourists, and spent tourist dollars, because of that image? That’s hard to say, but one thing that can be said is that we would not be better off without these projects.

The same needs to be said of our PTP, and the transit system in general. Mass transit is not a money making operation. It will never be cost effective, but then again building highways is never cost effective either. We don’t have a problem funding that though. A recent Herald editorial shared our collective disgust with the commission and the shoddy job they are doing. The editorial snipes that the commission should, “pitch for repeal of the half-cent of sales tax for transit,” in some misguided effort to reform its image. This would be even more of a failure than the original tax, as now the tax is vital to supporting our system. How much more do people have to suffer this backward mentality.

On Tuesday, the Commission narrowly voted in favor of increasing fares and tying future increases to the Consumer Price Index, both much needed measures in getting our transit house in order. Unfortunately, yesterday Carlos Gimenez decided that he would ask fellow commissioners to reconsider the measure on the September 16th meeting, and postpone it until the County holds a transit summit. He claims to have questions on how the Mayor’s office came up with its numbers, and whether an increase will make any substantial change to the budget problem.

It might not solve the problem Commissioner, but it is a good first step. I urge everyone who is interested to contact their commissioner and let them know what you think. In the meanwhile I will eagerly await the Transit Summit, and hope that it leads to some positive changes around here.

1 Response to “Boondoggle”

  1. 1 JM Palacios

    Good catch, Tony. I had thought of the same things about the other major projects. So they cost a lot, but the world would be a different place without them. I wonder how much the Pyramids overran their cost estimate? Or the Great Wall of China? Or the Roman roads?

    I just saw this article about more problems with the Big Dig. This time it’s cracks in the concrete. But despite all its costs and problems, from everything I’ve heard it has vastly improved the downtown community.

    I certainly hope the Metrorail and the PTP can achieve the same status. Despite all the problems, if the Metrorail gets expanded properly, it will be a vast improvement. The key is to get to that point.

    I also found it interesting that they listed Sound Transit as a boondoggle, which a few weeks ago we also held up as an example for us to follow. See a Seattle blog’s take on their being called a boondoggle. It’s rather similar to ours, and brings up the good point that this is just how projects are done these days. Contractors bid low and then try to make as much as they can along the way. I had a project go out earlier this year well under our estimate, but I’m sure the contractor will get more money as it goes along. Let’s wait and see if the same thing unfolds with 595 or the Port of Miami Tunnel. I bet it will.

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