Published: Oct 02, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Oct 02, 2012 05:25 PM
Here we go again! thats all I could hear myself saying when I heard of Orange County leaders decision to place the Transit Tax Referendum on this Novembers ballot.
Orange County residents had just had the recent new sales tax put on their already-over-taxed shoulders in November 2011 and, well, here we go again.
Yet there is one glimmer of hope in this November referendum. The tax-em-til-they-bleed-orange leadership in Orange County was shamed into getting the whole county to vote on this, not just the few, as would have been the case had this ended up on the May 2012 ballot as they preferred and were very vocal about.
Following a story in the Nov. 9, 2011, edition of the Herald-Sun, Durham Vote May Reignite Transit Debate in Orange County, it was more than hinted at that getting the new transit tax referendum on the ballot in May 2012, rather than November 2012, spoke volumes about the County Commissioners strategy of voter avoidance.
Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton, in particular, expressed his desire to see this referendum on in May so it would not be drowned out by the noise of the General Election in other words, slip the vote under the wire, banking on low voter turnout versus a robust turnout in November which would handily defeat this wasteful, unnecessary burden on taxpayers. To imply they are doing the voters a favor by this move is despicable, at best. Mr. Chiltons and other area leaders suggestion is not only transparent but also shameful.
The November 2011 sales tax win by the commissioners, in a municipal election, brought out an average of 17.6 percent of voters county-wide. In essence, Chapel Hill and Carrboro voted this tax onto the shoulders of all county taxpayers. Our job is to make certain it doesnt happen again and for this transit tax initiative, were working overtime to defeat it.
The current draft plan for light rail as written by the areas transit and regional planning agencies utilizes glowing language about the benefits of the plan in terms of a positive effect on traffic congestion and air quality. What congestion?
Unfortunately, that positive impact on congestion and pollution hasnt occurred in other cities that have already wasted billions of taxpayer dollars on light rail. Of the 33 U.S. cities with some form of rail transit, only six carry more than 1 percent of the passenger miles traveled in the area and 22 carry less than 0.5 percent. To add further insult to injury, in our own Charlotte, the per-rider cost is upwards of $42 per passenger per day. And the other systems are not far behind. Where is the sense or value in that proposition?
Have you seen the Orange buses that travel between Chapel Hill and Hillsborough lately? Other than the 7:30 a.m. route and the 5 p.m. route, there are no more than a handful of riders on each bus throughout the day. With ridership already so low why do we need to add to the service when what we have is already so grossly underutilized?
The overwhelming cost and complexity of the project combined with low ridership makes it hard to say Yes to this enormous undertaking. At this time, light rail in the Triangle region just doesnt make sense, plain and simple.