Cities should take a cue from Congress

Every so often, you hear good things come out of the Washington beltway, the kind of idea you wish would trickle down to the local level.  Such was the case this week when the House Ways and Means Committee in Congress voted 20-17 to end the federal gas tax diversion that went toward public transportation – i.e. light rail.  (source)

Rail is proving to be quite the boondoggle in city after city, so we have to applaud the Congressmen who decided to stop diverting funds to it.  Meanwhile, in Austin, the ongoing debate about funding for Capital Metro’s MetroRail continues.  The latest discussion is over whether to expand service to the weekends, in the hopes of increasing ridership.  The estimated yearly cost would be about $2.2 million.

Whether people would use the line on the weekends or not, the added cost for something taxpayers have rejected repeatedly in Austin’s history should be prohibitive.  Austinites are already paying through the nose for a service the majority never use or need – they are subsidizing convenience for a very small segment of the population.  Expanding service to the weekend will cost more than it is ultimately worth in terms of revenue.

The city council met today to discuss this, among other matters, and postponed a decision on expanding service for MetroRail.  One has to wonder if the council simply didn’t want to pursue this with a room full of agitated activists – also on the docket was a decision about the Austin Energy rate hike, which has plenty of folks hopping mad.  Either way, this isn’t something that should just be postponed – shelving it would be an even better idea, at least until Austinites have the opportunity to vote on the talked-about bond package for MetroRail later this year.  MetroRail was foisted on the public without their approval already, and adding to the cost on a whim would be extremely foolish.

A shame Congress does something right, in stopping a diversion of money meant for highways, and cities like Austin continue to insist on funding transportation boondoggles.