Spokane trolley cost estimates double

It was $36 million as recently as months ago: STA Votes To Approve Electric Trolley | News – KXLY.com.

Now its $72 million: STA considers $72 million trolley from Browne’s Addition to SCC

(Both KREM TV and the Spokesman-Review fail to mention the price doubling. Censoring the project history is bad journalism – or good fiction writing. )

Next year: $96 million? How about $129 million?

They are considering options that raise the price to $129 million for a system that is no better than a bus except its cooler. There is, in fact, no reason provided for this extraordinary expenditure except it has the cool factor.

As shown in many studies “there’s no clear evidence trolleys bring growth but it’s clear they’re expensive.”

What are the objective measures of success of this project?

There are none.

The only measure of success is they spend money, which is an easy target to reach! Indeed, with each passing month they keep increasing the price tag!  Spending Federal money is the only goal for this project.

Objective measures would set goals for:

  • Total passengers per day
  • Average passengers per trolley trip
  • Revenue earned per trip and per day
  • Operation costs per passenger per mile
  • Energy used per passenger per mile
  • Specific, measurable economic growth metrics

And management would be held accountable.  But lacking objective measures and that no one at STA management is ever held accountable, they’ll squander money once more. Remember their hybrid bus project that wasted money? All of the information needed to know that hybrids were a waste was available in advance. After the STA wasted the money, no one was held accountable.

The STA has not come up with a single meaningful reason for spending up to $129 million other than its “cool” and the Federal government would pay 80% of the costs. They will make absurd promises, just like the Convention Center expansion campaign lies about creating more jobs and visitors – when actual use of the PFD facilities has gone down during the past 15  years, jobs have gone down, and there is no evidence of an increase in visitors.

Meanwhile, the STA Plaza remodel is on hold after six years of planning – because the downtown business cartel did not approve. After six years of public involvement it now comes down to secret deal making between the business cartel and STA management. Update: It appears the downtown cartel will get its wish – at great taxpayer expense and rider inconvenience, the STA plaza will probably be moved out of downtown, throwing the STA system in to planning chaos (the STA plaza is THE central hub of the system). Second Update: A couple of sources say that original – linked – report that the STA Plaza might be moved was based on poor reporting and its not going to happen.

The evidence that downtown trolley’s create economic growth is nil but they are the rage for mid-sized cities all over the country since the Feds offered grant money. Mostly they shift local money to those who will benefit (downtown businesses) and away from other local businesses that are not so well connected.

  • Proponents must come up with compelling, fact-based arguments for the trolley. “Cool factor” and “spending Federal money” do not cut it.
  • Proponents must develop a set of objective measures of project success.
  • Spokane’s news media must perform actual journalism in spite of their conflicts of interest (instead we are already seeing the puffy propaganda)
  • Local political leaders must ensure that the STA management is held accountable to specific, measurable objectives.

If these steps are not taken, this is just another feel good project designed to funnel other people’s tax money into the downtown business cartel, leaving most of Spokane worse off, in the long run.

Advertisements

Comments are closed.