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“Light Rail Is A Dinosaur, It’s Completely Useless.” ITS – Part 7

February 27, 2010

Interview with John A. Charles

In part 1 of our interview with John A. Charles, Jr., President & CEO of the Cascade Policy Institute we learn about his background and his approach to transportation research. John Charles is often called by local government agencies and the press for his contrarian views on public transportation issues.

As head of the free market think tank, Cascade Policy Institute, he has plenty of research and facts to back his strong opinions and recommendations. Mr. Charles thinks “High-speed rail lines are a huge waste of money.” and he doesn’t support funding the light rail system so beloved by Portland’s environmental elite. He says. “The Environmental movement is now about running peoples lives… most of their environmental goals have been accomplish. They ought to declare victory, dis-incorporate… donate their office furniture and move on.”

Hear this and other no-punches pulled pronouncements in part 1.

Part 1 topics:

  • Intro to his background
  • Finding out how commuters really behave
  • Promises and forecasts unrealized
  • Innovation and government: how it should be done
  • Low taxes, less regulation, hands-off picking winners
  • High speed rail is a big waste of money

John sites 1000 Friends of Oregon as advocates of  light rail in Portland.  They were founded in 1975 by Governor Tom McCall and Henry Richmond as the citizens’ voice for sound land use planning. In 1996 the group claimed that the proposed Westside MAX line would carry 28% of commuters during peak times. Thereby eliminating the need for building new highway capacity to reduce congestion.

Now after twelve years in operation, Cascade research shows that the billion dollar Westside MAX line is actually used by commuters around 8%  during peak times, and less during other times of day. The highways are more jammed and the MAX line loses about $17 per rider when considering capital and operating costs.

The reality is a far cry from the vision. It’s little wonder the highly touted MAX lines now find themselves in deep finacial trouble.

MAX, WES and Bus Service Cuts Proposed for September 2010

February 10, 2010

Due to the continued economic recession and declining payroll tax revenues, we need to cut the budget for our fiscal year that begins in July by $27 million. The changes will include a 5 percent administrative cut, a salary and hiring freeze, reductions to bus and MAX service and a five-cent fare increase. We are also exploring WES frequency reductions of up to 15 minutes and/or reducing hours of operation.

And MAX is not alone, most of public transportation systems in this country are facing similar difficulties and bleeding tax dollars. The Bay Area’s beloved BART system is in worse condition. See the below excerpt from The SF Chronicle.

BART begins budget process $14 million in red

Friday, February 26, 2010

The numbers look bleak as BART begins the ritual of preparing its budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1. Projections show the transit district continuing to see declines in ridership and sales tax revenues, and facing a $14 million deficit.

The transit agency will consider service reductions, fare and parking fee increases, and cutting labor and other expenses. It will hope for another infusion of federal economic stimulus funds and a return of state transit funding. And it has invited its labor unions and managers to suggest cost savings. See full article and related story,  Bay Area transit in crisis…

Interview continues…

John was invited to close out the NWT Conference in a point- counterpoint type presentation with Professor Richard Wilson on the merits of Transit Oriented Development. Their presentations can be accessed by clicking on their names below.

NWT Conference Closing Plenary Session

“Transit-Oriented Development: Two Views”

John Charles, Cascade Policy Institute and Richard Willson, California Polytechnic University, Pomona, CA


Interview with John A. Charles, Part – 2

In the second part of this interview with John Charles, CEO of the Cascade Policy Institute, Mr. Charles makes a number of controversial statements. A couple of choice ones are:

“There is no role in government for promoting green jobs… it’s just pork-barreling.” and “Light rail is a dinosaur, it’s completely useless.” There’s more like that from this free market champion – enough to make a public transportation advocate’s blood reach global warming levels.

We talked with John on Thursday, Feb.11, 2010,  after he presented at the NWT Conference. He was brought in for the concluding session of the conference to add a dose of reality with a sting of facts to balance the by-in-large positive pro-government approach to transportation presented by most of the conference speakers. He was a smart and fair choice for the conference speaker selection committee to make.

John’s approach is lucid, uncompromising and very politically incorrect. And as you can see from viewing his interview, his views, particularly in a place like Portland, take a bit of courage to voice.

Part 2

  • The value of green job incentives
  • Government funding of infrastructure projects
  • Columbia River Crossing controversy
  • How the U.S. can be more globally competitive

Innovational Musings thanks John Charles and the other speakers, Glen Hiemstra, Scott Blecher, and Galen McGill who were kind enough to talk with us. Links to their interviews are provided below. It was an excellent conference put on by the NWTC committee, staff  and sponsors. We appreciate their graciousness in inviting us to cover the NWT Conference.

Innovational Musings now in High Definition

Hopefully you noticed that we posted these videos in Hi-Def. Select the highest resolution that loads and runs smoothly for your system. Let us know how it works for you and if makes for a better viewing experience. Thanks!

Links to the other parts of the Innovational Musings ITS Series:

ITS Part – 6ITS Part – 5ITS – Part 4ITS – Part 3ITS – Part 2ITS – Part 1

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Bill Vancouver permalink
    March 11, 2011 5:44 pm

    Parts One and Two start (with much pounding on the keyboard) and stop every few seconds with minutes between the audio.
    Does it work for you? – neither one did for me.

    • March 11, 2011 6:13 pm

      The videos run OK for me. Click on the YouTube button, lower r/h of the player window. It may work better for you direct from YouTube.

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