Sunday, March 3rd, 2013
I’m not generally in the habit of picking on interns, but a recent article written by one in the conservative magazine the Weekly Standard deserves at least a quick critique. Called “Railroad to Ruin?,” it’s a hyperbolic attack against the proposed transit system investment in Indianapolis.
I certainly think there’s room to vote against the transit plan, though I’ve generally supported it. But as I noted, opponents have yet to articulate anything remotely resembling a credible alternative development plan for Marion County. This piece is no exception.
Also, in its attempts to score rhetorical points, it misses some basic facts. First, it refers to the governors of Wisconsin, Ohio, and Florida turning down high speed rail funds. While the author tacks on an “and new public transit projects” (though without any specificity as to what those are so I’ll have to take his word he actually has some in mind), by picking only the three states that turned down HSR money, the intent is clearly to link the Indianapolis plan with high speed rail (which I’ll be the first to tell you has been completely bungled by President Obama and its advocates) even though the Indianapolis system is in no way, shape or form even remotely related to high speed rail.
Beyond that, describing the proposed Indianapolis system as a “railroad” is a gross mischaracterization. The system is almost entirely a much more cost effective bus system. There’s only one light rail line, and it may well be dropped in the final plan.
Taking a plan that is majority bus, mislabeling it as a railroad, then trying to smear it by linking it with high speed rail might work in the snark department, but doesn’t give the reader much confidence this is a serious analysis.
I find it amazing that a national political magazine would take time away from bashing Obama to take on a local transit project in Indianapolis. (Maybe Mayor Ballard’s goal of Indy becoming a “world class city” is becoming realized after all…).
The Weekly Standard advocates fiscal conservatism, yet their outrage at spending seems to disappear when it comes to highway projects. For example, why aren’t they calling on new Indiana Gov. Mike Pence to revisit the massively over-scaled and overpriced Ohio River Bridges project near Louisville? That $2.6 billion project is a poster child for my maxim that there’s no highway boondoggle big enough that even the most fiscally conservative governor is willing to cancel it. It’s also a disaster for Indiana motorists and taxpayers, especially since there’s a better alternative available at half the cost (see here, here, here and here – this project includes a $795M road segment that will cost Indiana over $100,000 per foot!). If Pence wants to prove his bona fides as a fiscal conservative, staging an intervention to save Hoosiers several hundred million dollars here would be a good place to start. If he won’t do that, it will be hard to take him seriously elsewhere.
I’ll eager await the Weekly Standard’s article taking the bridges project to task. In the meantime, there’s no need to bother with their subpar take on Indy’s proposed transit system.