Sunday, May 18, 2008
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Gwinnett Daily Post
Emory Morsberger wrote a guest viewpoint on April 20 to rebuke comments by Ken Young, who expressed his thoughts on the proposed Brain Train. In his piece, Morsberger said similar commuter systems recommend fare pricing to cover more than 50 percent of operating expenses.
Does he include New York and Chicago, which would distort the true picture (the norm is closer to 35 percent)? Even so, the other 50 percent would be subsidized by the taxpayers.
Morsberger does admit that commuter rail will not solve our congestion alone, although we need this to be a part of a well-integrated system. He asserts commuter rail is 25 times safer than driving a car. Any statistics showing auto vs. commuter rail would be grossly inflated. The National Safety Council does not break out auto fatalities of work commuters into a separate category. There is absolutely no fair comparison. This tactic is used by proponents, even though they know the numbers don't collaborate their claims.
Would Morsberger suggest that we tax everyone so the few can ride a train? This would be subsidizing the transportation choice of the few. Commuter rail will not pay for itself. Is it fair for those who wish to commute via auto to pay for their costs as well as the costs of rail commuters?
Morsberger implies commuter rail would contribute to better air quality. Just to be clear, commuter rail is not electric nor magnetic levitation. Commuter trains will likely be operated with diesel engines spewing far more carbon emissions per passenger mile than any trivial number of cars taken off the road.
Young implied the only people to benefit from commuter rail would be developers. Morsberger disagrees. Are we building rail lines for developers or to relieve traffic congestion? There may be a reasonable way to determine this. I propose that any developer or developer/real estate consortium who owns property along the route of any proposed commuter rail line and/or owns property adjacent to any proposed rail stations declare their holdings as such.
I conclude with this. Morsberger stated that the only thing worse than doing nothing is making the same transportation mistakes that have created the current dire situation. I believe the thing that is worse than doing nothing is spending billions of taxpayer dollars on the wrong thing.
Jimmy Orr is a resident of Bethlehem.