By Juan Saldana
The biggest pipe dream advanced by the proponents of this $31 billion tax increase is that building more light rail tracks is an effective way of achieving urban “in-fill.” The notion that all prospective land owners are waiting for a few more miles of expensive and slowmoving trains before they upgrade their properties is ludicrous.
Aside from some limited improvements to structures near the train stops, the vast majority of the real estate near the first 20 miles of light rail track remains rundown. If the first 20 miles couldn’t rescue these eyesores, why should we expect the next 20 miles to do the trick?
Rehabilitating urban property requires money. Unfortunately, light rail doesn’t generate income for most property owners. Quite the contrary. During the construction the streets in front of businesses will be torn up for a lengthy period, making it hard for customers to get in to buy anything.
Some businesses won’t survive the construction phase. Those that do will mostly see fewer customers return, since the tracks will prevent left turns into the businesses. The loss of lanes for automobiles will add to traffic congestion—further deterring customers.
If the City were serious about revitalizing the urban core, it would opt for a more efficient means of accomplishing this—like giving small businesses in the core area a tax holiday. This would allow them to keep more of the money they earn. Businesses already in the area would be more likely to thrive. Others would be drawn to the area by the improved net income they could obtain.
If we really want to revitalize the urban core we should reject hiking taxes to fund a lame railroad and pursue sounder methods.