Light Rail in Georgia

Let’s be honest, shall we? No commuter rail system has ever made any money. That’s just a fact. Sure, some lines might be “profitable”, but light rail as a whole is not.

Georgia is considering light rail as an alternative to road expansion. Just as there is no direct profit generated by roads — except for the GA400 Toll Booth — there will be none from light rail. So, the legislature must decide if it wants to subsidize a system that, because it is government backed, is guaranteed to be inefficient. Right now, the DOT is considering the issue.

The future of commuter trains in Georgia will come to a critical fork in the tracks this week as state officials weigh whether to press forward with the concept of passenger rail as an alternative to continued road widenings and beefed-up bus service.

The immediate issue before the state Department of Transportation centers on efforts to develop the state’s inaugural commuter train route between Atlanta and Lovejoy, a suburb on the city’s south side in Clayton County.

It is, perhaps, an experiment worth undertaking, but let’s look at just one absurdity. For years there has been talk about extending the Lovejoy line down to Macon. But, there would be so many stops along the way, it would actually be faster to drive from Macon to the Atlanta Airport than to take the train.

If we’re going to have light rail, we should at least build it in a way that will make people want to ride it. Making it slower than Christmas and more crowded than a whore house during Fleet Week is not the way to do it. And, if we are going to do it, DOT board members and elected officials should not lie — the train system will be unprofitable and exist on taxpayer subsidies. Will a Republican led government really go for that?

It seems to me the wisest action might be to pass the buck to private industry and let them have a go at it. If a private business is willing, let it be a shareholder risk and not a taxpayer risk. The government can make reasonable accomodations for business. Heck, we have lots of land down the middle of the interstate. Why not use that!

2 comments

  1. Tater Tate says:

    This is a boondoggle by which taxpayers will be ripped off big time. Why use 19th century technology to try and solve a 21st century problem. I could get excited if we were talking about fast speed trains such as are in use in Japan, China, and Europe, but who wants to take a 2+ hour train ride for a commute of 70 miles.

    I hope we do not waste money on this. It will be a miserable failure. Rather let’s make plans for a high speed rail link between Atlanta and Savanna, Columbus and Augustaâ€

  2. GAWire says:

    Here is a great idea . . . let’s add a multi-billion dollar program that is clearly outdated and not even very viable, at taxpayers’ expense instead of working to fix the already existing problems we have with our current mass transit system in the metro area. Sounds great . . . and I have some beachfront property in Arizona that I would just love to sell for a really good price.

    I apologize for my cynicism (not really), but . . . c’mon!

    Also, to the point about letting private companies take on this project . . . that has been proposed and even considered by some organizations, but the reason that won’t work is b/c there aren’t really any organizations that want to take on this project due to the low potential for significant returns on the investment (and the lack of initial investors to start with).

    The idea sounds neat and initially appears as though it would be really convenient and solve a lot of our problems, but that is what they thought about MARTA, which has turned out to cause more problems (and costs) than expected. Moreover, trains are used much more in the Northeast to go b/t places such as Wash DC, NYC and Boston, but even they are struggling now with low usage, so what makes us think there is going to be a lot more travel b/t Macon and Atlanta?

    By DOT and elected officials considering this idea, they are simply showing that they are looking for solutions to Atlanta’s transportation problems; however, any halfway-sensible official will realize this proposal as is will not work. Let’s look to our past mistakes with MARTA and learn from them, so we can make better decisions in the future.

    I know I am doing a lot of bashing here w/o any real alternative suggestions, but the reason for that is clear: I don’t have any . . . and neither does DOT – that is why they are proposing this one.

    Tater Tate’s suggestion isn’t a bad one, but we just have to consider how many Georgians would really use such a service as this. The numbers aren’t there to show this would be a well-used program, and therefore, we shouldn’t spend that money.

    On most things, I prefer action on behalf of our elected officials – taking action to improve services for residents; however, not if they are throwing money at a program that will not prove effective.

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