A week has not even gone by since we observed in this space that light rail is a bad idea because of, among other things, Saint Louis’ experience. We wrote:
Years later, in 2008, Metro threatened to cut about half
of its bus routes in Saint Louis if a sales tax, partially to expand
light rail, was not approved. In other words, they would sacrifice
efficient bus transit to pay for inefficient rail transit.
Now we read on KCUR’s website that Kansas City’s bus system is struggling for much the same reason: having to transfer money out to support studies on streetcars.
Area Transportation Authority general manager Mark
Huffer said diverting transit tax money for streets and streetcars is
taking its toll.
“It’s going to be virtually impossible for us to sustain current
service levels like things such as Max on Prospect or Max on North Oak
that we hear a lot of people asking for – for the long run – if what is
continuing to be allocated to ATA lessens every year,” says Huffer.
Whatever the motivations of Kansas City light rail
and street car aficionados, it should be clear that providing efficient
transit is not one of them.
Ronald Reagan once quipped, "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'" Today in Jefferson City, legislators are hearing testimony on the Washington's latest effort to help, this time with education. At issue is whether the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) had the authority to sign on to Common Core Standards without legislative approval.
James Shuls of The Show-Me Institute writes in his testimony (available here) that most of the reasons for adopting the Common Core standards don't stand up to scrutiny. Moreover, the move weakens Missouri's ability to set its own education course.
As it is, Missouri retains sole authority to set our standards and the level required to achieve proficiency on state tests. By implementing the CCSS, we are ceding that authority to a consortium where we will have one small voice. Furthermore, we will be removing the standard setting process one step further away from the individual parent. If a parent has an issue with the standards in their child’s school, who should they approach? Their teacher, principal, and local school board will not have the authority to make changes and even DESE officials will have little influence in altering or improving the standards.
Whatever decisions are to be made about Missouri education policy, they should be made by Missourians and in Missouri. Common Core makes many promises that may never materialize, but we know that it would further remove from parents the power to influence what their children are being taught. Taxpayers should find this frustrating; parents infuriating.
A new study about the effect of light rail on traffic was just conducted in England. According to an article in The Atlantic Cities,
planners Shin Lee and Martyn Senior, of Cardiff University, “discovered
that car ownership and car commute share often continue to rise in
these corridors, and that ridership growth is often the result of
travelers shifting over from buses ? — not cars.”
This is what has happened in Saint Louis and what would happen in
Kansas City. Ridership from valuable and successful bus transit is
depleted in favor of a much more expensive and much less flexible rail
transit. In 1999, Tom Irwin, who was executive director of Saint Louis’
transit authority, the Bi-State Development Agency (now Metro),
indicated that increases in rail ridership — in the face of a fare
increase — seemed to come directly from bus ridership. From a 1999 St. Louis Post-Dispatch article:
The increase in light-rail riders is canceled out by the
drop in bus ridership, meaning the agency’s revenue remains relatively
flat, Irwin said. That’s because there are more bus passengers than rail
riders, so each percentage point signifies a greater number of riders.
Years later, in 2008, Metro threatened to cut about half of its bus
routes in Saint Louis if a sales tax, partially to expand light rail,
was not approved. In other words, they would sacrifice efficient bus
transit to pay for inefficient rail transit.
Kansas City voters have rejected light rail multiple times, so city
officials contrived a special tax district in which only 300 affirmative
votes were necessary to embark on a multi-million dollar city outlay.
The line they propose will be along existing roads, and likely will not
attract the traffic (or the convention business) to fill them. What is
certain is that it will never be self-funding, but instead will require
taxpayer subsidies in perpetuity.
Supporters of light rail will never be dissuaded from their vision.
Economics will not do it, studies such as these will not do it, and in
Kansas City, even repeated rejection from voters will not do it.
Last week was National School Choice Week, and in Kansas City there was a rally in favor of school choice at Union Station. Most of this debate is, pardon the pun, academic because people with means already have school choice. In Kansas City, families have fled the school district or opted to spend the extra money on parochial schools. But not everyone can afford those choices, and so they are forced to remain in the worst schoool district in the United states.
Amy Hawley of KSHB TV filed this report on the event and the reality of school choice in Kansas City.
James Shuls of the Show-Me Institute is featured in the video and has written here and elsewhere on the need for education reform. His articles for The Missouri Record include:
As Gov. Jay Nixon delivers the State of the State speech tonight, it is worth considering the state of his Democratic Party. The Democrat's terrible, horrible, no good very bad week is a good place to start.
Hummel said Jones decision to set up new committees makes a “mockery of
the House rules” because the minority leader is supposed to be able to
select Democrats for committees. Meanwhile, the issue can be seen as a
win-win for Jones, who got the Democratic vote he needed from Hubbard
and managed to protect her from caucus retaliation.
And in the race to replace US Rep Jo Anne Emerson, Democrats have decided to eschew a transparent and public campaign by choosing their candidate at a private forum.
It's been said that university politics are so vicious precisely because the stakes are so small. This may be true of internal Democratic politics in Missouri where their power is ever shrinking. Republicans hold veto-proof majorities in both houses of the General Assembly (holding 24 of 32 Senate seats) and the 8th District is surely to go for the Republican candidate, whoever it is.
Stories of lavish spending, palace intrigue and closed door meetings suggests that Democrats have given up on growing the party and are instead just interested in preserving their own (dwindling) power.
Randy Georges Sr. moved to the U.S. to obtain a good education; now, he may have to move across town so his kids can have the same opportunity. This is a sad state, especially when alternatives, such as giving families private school options, exist.
Should Missouri and other states accept an offer of “free money” from Uncle Sam to expand the Medicaid program in their states? Instead of acting as enablers of fiscal profligacy, Missouri and other states should say “no.”
Proposition B might have brought some much-needed funding for education, but voters turned down the measure. The “no” vote may actually turn out to be a blessing in disguise if legislators act on the need to address school funding issues.
The state board of education voted to grant provisional accreditation to the Saint Louis Public School District, which is the correct decision, but this distinction will mean very little to schools or students.
Strong teachers’ unions in large public school districts with multiple failing schools will do everything possible to maintain their jobs and benefits. If it is to happen, major reform must come from outside the existing system — through increased competition and choice.