The Record Blog

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

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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Friday, January 25, 2013

Death Penalty Shenanigans

[ Patrick Tuohey ]

We were glad to learn that the Missouri Senate is considering a study of capital punishment from a cost perspective, but it reminded us that most examinations of the death penalty concede too much legitimacy to the practice. For example, last year the Missouri Supreme Court put on hold the executions of six men on death row over concerns that the sedative to be administered to them amounts to "cruel and unusual punishment."

According to The Wall Street Journal,

Rick Sindel, a lawyer for some of the inmates involved in the lawsuit, said the court’s ruling on Tuesday “gives us the time to put before the court the evidence we think is necessary to make a decision about whether this protocol is constitutional.”

Mr. Sindel said the drug propofol “has a fairly significant history of causing pretty bad pain upon injection.” The drug was made famous for its role in the death of Michael Jackson in 2009.

Arguments about propofol are likely legal shenanigans put forth by those opposed to capital punishment regardless of how the sentence is administered. This is a shame, because in the interim they concede the larger argument in order to quibble over details. With all due respect to Missouri Senators seeking to consider its cost effectiveness—it misses the point.

This column has argued repeatedly that most arguments in opposition to capital punishment are completely facile. The practice is constitutional, neither cruel nor unusual, does not conflict with individual repentance and is applied sparingly. It is also wrong.

Opponents to the death penalty ought to own up to their principled views and lay aside the small potato arguments they make on each issue. As we wrote in January 2010,

The problem with capital punishment is that it is one more event in which the state places its prerogatives over the rights of an individual.

If conservatives believe government should be trusted with the power to kill us, how can they credibly argue against government power in significantly lesser matters such as health care and taxation?

Conservatives are completely comfortable arguing that the individual right to life is inviolable regardless of cost, utility, health or stage. Their argument only gains strength by recognizing that the right is also protected against one's own crimes.

1/25/2013 9:23:28 AM

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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Nixon's Plane Truth

[ Patrick Tuohey ]

Governor Jay Nixon—we are not making this up—bought a plane. The King Air 250 cost $5.6 million, seats up to ten passengers in addition to crew and has a range of 1,610 miles. Its manufacturer goes on to say that,

With a spacious, handcrafted interior, the King Air 250 is remarkably versatile and comfortable. New ergonomic yokes and a standard lighted chart holder increase crew comfort, while the square-oval cabin provides passengers with generous head and shoulder room. Elegant interior touches make the King Air 250 a serious business solution with outstanding amenities to match. 

Sounds nice, but not everyone is impressed. The News-Tribune editorialized on the purchase thusly,

We appreciate the desire of the governor — or any governor — to remain close to constituents, but let’s be candid about much of this travel.

Many of the governor’s flights are self-serving, dog-and-pony show photo opportunities.

The chief executive is dunning his own departments to stave off spending from his own budget. It’s a pathetic practice and poor public policy.

State Democrats are also not pleased. We imagine one of them must be Sen. Claire McCaskill who sold her own "damn" plan at a loss for $1.9 million in 2011. We did some quick research and came up with the following table comparing the two planes.

   McCaskill Pilatus PC-12
 Nixon King Air 250
 Passengers  9  10
 Cruise speed
 312.5 MPH
 356.8 MPH
 Range  1,753 miles
 1,610 miles
 Cost  $1.9 million
 $5.6 million

It looks like Nixon could have saved a few million dollars and gotten a comparable plane and even helped McCaskill break even. But don't worry, it's not like he was spending his own money—he was spending yours.

UPDATE: Missourinet reports that Sen. Brad Lager says of the purchase that,

some aircraft owner-friends of his have told him they “never would have even thought of buying a brand new aircraft right now because on the used market right now they’re paying 35 to 38 cents on the dollar.”

1/23/2013 5:08:25 PM

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  • Dead on the Vine

    Efforts to use public funds to revive Kansas City's jazz district have failed, and likely always will.

  • 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.

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