If you’ve lived in the Denver metro area in the last decade, you’re likely to be familiar with the light rail fiasco called FasTracks. You’re probably aware that voters approved the project in 2004 and with it, many claims about hundreds of miles of rail in and around Denver. For just a few pennies on a $10 transaction, we were promised less traffic, better connectivity, easier living, convenience, and of course, a cleaner environment. You’re also aware that from the very beginning, the Independence Institute warned that this ambitious project was doomed. Our transportation expert Randal O’Toole predicted that FasTracks would be under funded and over budget. He was right. He also proved that empty rail cars would pollute a heck of a lot more than cars do. He was right. We also predicted that RTD would have to come back to voters for another tax increase to continue the failed rail experiment. We were right. They continue to mull tax increases each year.
Now it seems like Denver’s “success” in passing a tax increase to fund a failed public transportation project caught the eye of the central planners in Atlanta. Because of their heavy congestion, they are studying the fine art of selling a transportation tax increase according to this article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. They are looking to Denver for inspiration for their own tax increases and silly transportation projects. For some bizarre reason, the article heaps praise on our FasTracks project as if it were a success. Oh, I get it. That’s step number 1 in selling a tax increase to voters: pretend the massive transportation failures in other states were actually successes. By the time you reach the bottom of the article, I’m quoted – a lone voice in a wilderness of doomed central planning.
If I had to do it over again, I would have said, “Please study our tax increase in 2004 and our failed FasTracks experiment. Please! So that you don’t repeat the same mistake!”