The Record Blog



Monday, March 11, 2013

Rush To Rails Harms Bus Transit

[ Patrick Tuohey ]

[This post originally appeared on the Show-Me Daily blog.]

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.

3/11/2013 6:23:51 PM

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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Core of Standarizing Education

[ Patrick Tuohey ]

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.

3/6/2013 4:56:05 PM

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Light Rail Does Not Replace Cars

[ Patrick Tuohey ]

[This post originally appeared on the Show-Me Daily blog.]

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.

3/6/2013 9:54:51 AM

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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

National School Choice Week

[ Patrick Tuohey ]

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:

 

2/5/2013 9:09:22 AM

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Monday, January 28, 2013

The State of Missouri Democrats

[ Patrick Tuohey ]

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.

Starting with the governor himself, Nixon bought a new airplane. Republicans were upset at the expenditure, naturally, but even newspapers and some Democrats voiced their displeasure. Democratic Representative Chris Kelly chimed in, saying, "Does the governor abuse the airplane situation? Clearly, yes."

One of Kelly's Democratic colleagues, Rep. Penny Hubbard, was stripped of all her committee assignments by House Minority Leader Jake Hummel because she didn't tow the Party line on a vote. She has since been named to lead some committees by Speaker Jones, a Republican. According to the Post-Dispatch:

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.

1/28/2013 8:31:12 AM

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NEXT >>
  • Stop the Aggression

    Answering individual aggression with government aggression will not lead us to the society we desire.

  • Taxes Do Harm Growth

    The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is wrong when it says that Kansas is going to fall of a fiscal cliff with its pro-growth tax reforms, and that Missouri will do the same if it follows the same path.

  • Moving For A Quality Education

    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.

  • On the Border War

    Missouri has at least two chances to win the Border War.

  • Mo' Money Will Not Solve MO Problems

    The state’s foundation formula for K-12 education is currently underfunded. Some are calling for more spending, but freedom, not money, is the answer to our problem.

  • It Is Time to Reform Medicaid, Not Expand It

    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.”

  • The Conservative Case for a State-Based Health Insurance Exchange

    Conservatives ought to consider these items before ceding state power to the federal government.

  • No Vote on Prop B, A Blessing in Disguise?

    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.

  • Regarding Turk

    Letters regarding Jacob Turk's race for Congress.

  • Can Missouri Stop The Bleeding In A New Border War With Kansas?

    Missouri and Kansas have maintained a steady rivalry for decades, but Kansas' latest tax reforms have changed the competitive landscape between the two states — decidedly in Kansas' favor.

  • A Low-Performing School By Any Other Name . . .

    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.

  • St. Louis Gets Ballpark Village And You Get The Bill

    Subsidies to Ballpark Village and other big-city sports complexes are a gift to some of our wealthiest citizens — sports team owners — that provide little or no broader economic benefit.

  • Lessons For Kansas City From The Chicago Teachers Strike

    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.

  • Taxpayers Lobbying For More Taxes

    Taxpayer-funded lobbying for local government entities likely will not be banned so it is time to create transparency so citizens can see how their money is being spent.

  • School Transfer Case Needs Common Sense Solutions

    Despite a final judgment in the school transfer case, the issue remains unresolved and neither taxpayers nor students will benefit.

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