Monday, February 21, 2011

Dallas Light Rail: Costs Up, Ridership Down

Time and again mainland cities shine a (dark) light on Honolulu's future with rail. Of course given our tiny population size and huge rail construction costs, the actual consequences will be far worse for Honolulu than these "achievements" of the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART), as summarized by the National Center for Policy Analysis:

  • The fixed-route (bus and rail) ridership on DART is less than it was 10 years ago, despite population in the service area growing 17 percent since 2000.
  • In that same period, DART has collected almost $4 billion in local sales taxes and hundreds of millions of federal tax dollars on a system that makes hardly a dent in area traffic congestion.
  • DART's staff has grown from just under 2,800 employees in 2000 to 3,900 in 2010, an increase of 39 percent.
  • For comparison, the Dallas district of the state Transportation Department -- which includes seven counties with a population of more than 4 million and oversees almost 11,000 lane miles of highways -- has fewer than 1,000 employees.
  • DART's operating expenses from 2000 to 2010 grew from $242 million to $402 million, a growth of 66 percent to operate a system with declining ridership.
  • Meanwhile, as predicted, the agency has reduced the number of bus miles to force ridership onto the light rail system, in many cases making the commute last longer for the regular rider.
  • Every time a rider stepped on a rail car or bus in 2010, local taxpayers were paying a $4.45 subsidy for that ride, compared with $2.94 in 2000.