So says this piece in today’s News and Observer, which reports on a survey showing that 80 percent of Triangle residents want improved mass transit in the region and a majority say they would use rail to commute. But here come the blinkered pols:
State Rep. Paul B. Stam of Apex said he doubted commuter trains could ever draw so many riders in the sprawling Triangle.
1) In the past 15 years, the population of the Triangle has grown nearly 75 percent. Do you imagine that this will suddenly stop?
2) I know that Apex, with its beautiful homes and chemical fires, has pretty good road access to the Research Triangle Park, to Cary, and to downtown Raleigh, all big job centers. You should try moving to some of the these new developments with affordable homes, in places like Clayton maybe or Zebulon, where it takes over an hour to get pretty much anywhere. Then you’d probably realize that sprawl quickly runs into diminishing returns. Unabated sprawl increases commuting costs for everyone, until the cost to society significantly exceeds that ofÂ any rail system. So, think about this, Mr. Stam. Let’s just look at the actual cost of lost time in commuting (leaving aside other matters like pollution, the value to increased capacity of the city, the value of increased transport efficiency for transport of goods, and all that jazz). In 2000 (according to Census), Wake County had about 341,000 employed people earning a mean wage of $13.5/hour and with an average commute, each way, of 24 minutes. Based on that, if rail could reduce the average daily commute by ten minutes each way, the annual savings in time would be worth $384 million. That’s just for Wake County, of course, and since that time, the number of employed in the city, the mean wage, and the average commuting time have all increased considerably. Rail doesn’t seem quite so costly now, does it?
3) Rail doesn’t just make sprawl less painful, it helps fix it. People willÂ crowd around rail stations, because they allow residents to avoid long commutes. Rail creates density (and in doing so, it boosts land values and tax revenues).
So come on, Stam. Give the people what they want.