Denver’s ambition is laudable. Their Regional Transportation District (RTD) wanted to do it all at once…and in the last gasps of the boom economy they passed a measure, Fastracks, to extend rail transit in exclusive rights-of-way to all corners of the metro area (well, except Brighton). Well their initial $4.7Billion budget went to hell. The recession hit, sales tax revenues dropped, construction costs rose sharply (because of perfectly understandable Chinese demand for steel, etc…), and for a while in 2007/2008 the dollar fell against other major currencies. Two predictable groups went batshit crazy: the libertarian folks out at the Independence Institute and the Colorado Springs-types whose vision of anti-civic paradise is a city without street lights and libraries.
But calm down people, budgets are forecasts, we should expect them to be unreliable, and at the very least we should expect them to mirror developments in the larger economy. In other words, RTD’s structural budget problems aren’t unique in the slightest, and in fact are shared by every major wealthy democracy and by almost all capital projects planned within the past 10 years. RTD should only shoulder blame for not financing with rainy-day reserves in mind, not for the deficits themselves.
So this post is just a reminder to the good folks of Denver, Jefferson County, Douglas County, Boulder County, Adams County, and Arapahoe County. A vote for tax money is coming…for a modest sales tax increase (probably 4/10%, or 4 cents for every $10), this is what you could still have in 2020:
(Image Copyright Zach Shaner 2009, Rights Reserved)
You need to understand, Denver, just much of a bargain $8 Billion is for 120 miles of rail.
Seattle is spending $2 Billion for just two stations! You are blessed with friendly topography (flat, dusty plains), lots of buildable space, endless development opportunities, and a healthy fixed demand for transit to both downtown and (crucially) NON-DOWNTOWN locales (The Federal Center, The University of Colorado, Denver Int’l Airport, Denver Tech Center, Olde Town Arvada, Littleton-Downtown). Union Station will be revived as a gorgeous and glorious civic hub. Inner neighborhoods such as the Highlands will be revived. You alone will be THE regional leader in commuter rail and urban transport. You can kiss sporting-event-related traffic jams goodbye.
So please, when the vote comes this November, VOTE YES!
[Then we can all get on to building even more lines, to Cherry Creek, all the way down Colfax, and even more! =) ]