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Light Rail is an Arizona Success—NONSENSE

June 23, 2016

On June 18 a bold headline in the Arizona Republic claims “Light rail is an Arizona success story, and (unfortunately in my opinion), there’s more to come.” I will confess that, anytime government takes billions of dollars (yes, billions) from the taxpayers and spends it on any project, there will certainly be “successes,” that is, a few who will benefit. This is a classic example of the idea of concentrated benefits and distributed costs.
However, by any rational analysis, from the taxpayer’s point of view, the allegation is nonsense. Light rail is a 19th Century “solution” to a 21st Century problem that will yield red ink forever. Even the leftists and central planners who brought you light rail never predicted that it would make money, or, that more than a very small percentage of Valley residents would ever ride it. More than 95% of transportation is by automobile and that will likely remain so for the foreseeable future. (Probably self-driving automobiles.)
So, how is this turkey rated as a “success?” This can only be claimed by looking at the winners and not the losers. The great philosopher Fredrick Bastiat showed us this faulty analysis in his famous book “The Law” where he spoke of the “seen” and the “unseen” effects. The shiny trains running along the track and few people who ride them are the “seen” and the great things that could have been accomplished with the billions wasted on the trains are the “unseen.”
Because the densest areas of the Valley have already been covered, the situation will only worsen, that is, the more we build the more money we will lose. It is hard for the average taxpayer to accept this fact but the reality is that taxpayers would benefit if we stopped the trains now and abandoned this wasteful experiment.

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