NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


February 5, 2008

Dallas does not need an "ambitious" regional rail network, says Mary Katherine Stout, vice president for policy at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. 

Were such a plan to pass the Legislature in 2009, local voters would be asked to add a penny to their sales tax rate for expanded transit.  Once the 8.25-cent sales tax cap is breached for the first time, what is to stop the spread of such special, local-option tax increases across the state?  Higher sales taxes will affect businesses to be sure, but it is the consumer who will foot this bill and bear the heftier tab, says Stout:

  • Less than two months ago, Dallas Area Rapid Transit announced that it would be $1 billion short of what is needed to meet existing building obligations.
  • Assuming local taxpayers are hip to the notion of paying more on every purchase so they can cruise around -- or subsidize others cruising around -- in trains, it might be wise to consider how well this expanded rail network can be sustained in the future.
  • Taxpayers should ask whether the apparently cash-strapped rail system fleecing them today will get better as it gets bigger.
  • Texas already has the eighth-highest sales tax rate in the country; the local-option increase would catapult the Dallas-Fort Worth area even higher and reduce the region's economic competitiveness.

Combine inflated ridership projections and enormous cost overruns that have plagued rail projects like this across the country with the reality that people have not given up their cars en masse despite the construction of fancy rail lines, and the only promise taxpayers can count on is that this will require their continued and growing financial obligation for decades to come.

Keeping Texas moving is a high priority, and the inescapable fact is that Texas needs more roads, not more rail cars, says Stout.

Source: Mary Katherine Stout, "More roads, not rail; Only promise transit brings is expense, "Dallas Morning News, February 4, 2008.


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