Read a Pacific Northwest, liberal perspective on world, national, and local politics. From majestic Redmond, Washington - the Northwest Progressive Institute Official Blog.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Pro-light rail group starts in Vancouver

This is interesting:
Nearly three dozen Vancouver businesses are jumping into the mass transit debate on the side of light rail.

Vancouver Businesses for Smart Transportation, as the group calls itself, has signed up 35 businesses that favor light rail for the planned new bridge over the Columbia River. The group also supports Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard's plan to cover Interstate 5 through downtown.

"It will make us more connected to downtown Portland, and connect Portland with downtown ­Vancouver," said Joanie Sather, a Wallis Engineering employee and the group's president. "But the big thing is not adding more traffic."
Obviously, these are downtown businesses, many of which could stand to benefit greatly from light rail. So what? Governments do tons of things that shape markets, from regulatory climates to tax policies to outright subsidies.

The bridge project is in the DEIS phase now, so it's going to be a while (perhaps early next year) before more definitive things can be done. In the meantime, it's nice to see that the anti-light rail forces aren't the only ones willing to speak out.

If one were proposing building a light rail system in Clark County from scratch, it probably wouldn't pencil out. What should keep people at least somewhat open minded to the idea is the relatively short distance to connect to Portland's system. A meaningful cost-benefit analysis can't be done until we get the answers to some basic questions, like what the preferred local alternative will be and how much extra a light rail connection would cost on top of that alternative.

An honest debate starts with the admission, which the pro-rail group seems to be making, that light rail is very expensive. MAX has some serious shortcomings, not the least of which is that it is slow, but as things continue to get worse with the Interstate Bridge over time, travel times on MAX may start to look more attractive. Presumably MAX's travel times could be improved in some distant future where express trains run.

Long ways off on a lot of this, but wanted to note the non-wingnut approach to light rail. Next thing you know everyone in Vancouver will grow their hair long and start wearing sandals.

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