BY MICHAEL RETHMAN – I typically ride the Blue Line train to and from O’Hare airport whenever I visit Chicago. When in DC, I ride the Red Line on the Metro every day. When in NYC, I’m a frequent user of the A, Q or R trains.
Despite once having had my wallet pick-pocketed while boarding a blue line train in Chicago, I sometimes offer-up a silent thank-you to the taxpayers who subsidize all these train systems whose fares are held low by local politicians.
Therefore, the large subsidies and the specialized security needed to keep these rail systems operating have me troubled regarding key fiscal questions that remain mostly unanswered by Mayor Hannemann and the Honolulu City Council.
These questions include:
1) What taxpayer subsidies will be needed to operate our train once it’s open? I know it’s impossible to be exact, but an honestly derived range of costs would be helpful. Estimates need to account for the fact that such trains will ride mostly empty for many hours each day. My thumbnail analysis suggests that our train will require a 15-25% increase in the city’s budget – translating into a similar increase in taxes. Of course, my estimate could be wrong, but if so, what is are the better figures?
2) Unfortunately, trains attract criminals who sometimes prey on riders, especially visitors. Who will provide security on our trains and in our train stations and at what cost?
Unfortunately, those most strident in support of a Honolulu train transit system routinely pillory Governor Linda Lingle regarding her concerns regarding costs.
Such criticism of Lingle in this regard is ridiculous and nothing more than pure politics. Indeed, every responsible official and citizen ought to know how much in additional taxes will be required to build and operate our train. Therefore, Governor Lingle is wise to re-look at the train’s ever-increasing cost estimates — because I’m not sure that most of us can afford a big increase in taxes these days.