Last month the Trump administration released their budget proposal, which among many shifting priorities, included eliminating a long-standing federal program called “New Starts.” New Starts was created in the 1990s and has funneled hundreds of millions of federal monies to localities to build expensive transit projects, including light rail systems.
It was no surprise that many who have benefitted from the light rail gravy train over the past few decades reacted as if the fields were on fire.
Among the arguments made to attribute value to the New Starts program, was the claim that light rail in the Phoenix metro area has generated $9 billion in “real estate activity” surrounding the transit line in the last decade. More than being overly optimistic, this claim has been summarily debunked.
Just a year and a half ago, light rail enthusiasts took credit for $7 billion in development. Upon further investigation however, it was discovered that new development was actually $6.9 billion in development plans. And these plans were mostly submitted prior to the financial crash and prior to the light rail line opening or even being announced.
Furthermore, many of these plans languished and never came to fruition. Specifically, at least half a billion dollars were cancelled and as a result, assertions that a boon of development had occurred were pared back from $7.4 billion in 2009 to $6.9 billion in 2013.
Not only did many private developments fall through or cancel, much of the development that has occurred has been subsidized by the government in the way of low-income housing tax credits and other government programs. In many instances the…
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