Charlie Crist proves once again that he'll compromise principles for federal funds. Fervor over the $1.25 billion in federal stimulus money has Democrats and train supporters beaming with glee. Ignoring the voice of the people without hesitation as voters have been against the project for years and there's little concern where the rest of the money will come from.
"We'll have to do some reassessment," said Nazih Haddad, manager for passenger rail development for the Florida Department of Transportation.
Ed Turanchik, a Tampa developer who headed a statewide grass roots campaign for the project, said the $1.25 billion announced today is enough for the first two years. A second infusion will be needed to lay track, install signals, build stations and buy trains for the Tampa-Orlando connection, he said.
"This is testament to people in politics working in the right way," said Republican U.S. Sen. George LeMieux. "Democrats and Republicans, local, state, and federal folks pulled together to get these needed dollars for Florida."
Crist's opponent for the 2010 Senate election Marco Rubio disagrees: "I think we should all be concerned about increased spending on anything at a time when the federal government is borrowing money to function."
Maybe Florida's leaders should STOP behaving like drug addicts ecstatic to get a fix from the federal stimulus drug dealer. Maybe we should be concerned that light rails have been a complete and utter failures all over the country.
So few people actually ride the rails that single car riders leave less of a carbon footprint. The calculations for trains assume maximum capacity (400 per car for the Florida rail) yet in Seattle, a similar sized rail, only average 12 riders per car.
The proposed rail from Chicago to St. Louis will actually run on diesel fuel and the Bellevue rail may be routed through the beautiful wetlands -- neither are particularly green environmentally friendly projects.
Nobody rides them!
Supporters paint a utopian vision of highways free of congestion luring more people to love proposed commuting by train -- well, for other people. Unfortunately, the train costs are so high that DOTs cut other means of mass transit (buses are a common target) and here in Florida, the West Palm to Miami ride, only covers 13% of its operational expenses.
The most damning visual is the famous train riding coyote who boarded a train without fear of interacting with a human.
Randall O'Toole of the Cato Institute has been a vocal adversary to high-speed trains points out that California predicts its 220-mph trains would take 3.5% of cars off of roads while the DOT predicts California highway traffic grows that much every two years.
So why are politicians so excited about these projects?
The number one rule applies: follow the cash.
Billions for local engineers and contractors which can be levied for political support and votes. $1.25 billion of "free" federal tax money is nothing more than a laundering of funds to predetermined businesses for political equity.