Monday, September 22, 2008

Transportation & Money: MRCOG & NAIOP

Lawrence Rael's, executive director for the Mid-Region Council of Governments (MRCOG), started his NAIOP presentation today by insulting the area economic developers.
To end, Rael pitched a new transportation tax. His proof of the need was the transportation plight of a young man commuting to a minimum
wage at a top hotel in Santa Fe. About a quarter of the guy's wages go for gas.
Having been babbling to myself throughout Rael's talk, I had to say something, which
wasn't quite as organized as this:
The young man chose to work in Santa Fe. He has a cost problem with his
transportation. he's whining about it. In general I don't approve of
whining, though as American's we do have the freedom to whine. The guy wants
the government to do something about the problem that is a result of his
Rael's testy and absurd response to me was that if the guy loses this
job, he will just end up in some other government program so we had better
spend government transportation money on him (and Rael's organization). Nonsense. If the guy loses his job in Santa Fe and has a decent performance record, he will easily get another hotel job. That's because hotel people have turnover and would love to get someone with some experience.
My babbling started with Rael insulting the economic developers, many of whom have been friends for more than 20 years. He was talking the joys of a site location Web site,, that MRCOG is now running. I'm sure the site is very cool and will improve with MRCOG's efforts. But Rael claimed at length and without truth that economic development efforts have never focused on the metro Albuquerque region. In fact, metro area economic developers have worked regionally since Rio Rancho emerged as a force, maybe 25 years. I'll concede that the regional efforts have had ups and downs, but that's not what Rael said.
In the middle of his transportation tax pitch / Railrunner-is-wonderful ode, Rael showed a slide of a four-lane street full of cars. Then he showed the people. positioned where they were when driving, but without the cars. Cars take up a lot of space, he said. Then he showed the people, bunched together, filling the amount of space needed if they were riding a bus or some other mass transportation. Our transportation is designed to move vehicles, not people, Rael intoned. Other than portraying people as robots in cars Rael left people out of the transportation. equation.
Perhaps Rael thinks of nearly all people as robots. I don't know. For sure, people choosing to drive themselves and even if they sit in traffic, they have a phone and a radio and and and air conditioner, they are the vast majority. Rael said proudly that 3,500 people per day are riding the Railrunner. The metro population is just shy of 850,000. To be nice to Rael, let's assume hat half the metro residents are adults, that only adults ride Railrunner and that passengers only ride once each day. That means that less than one half of one percent (0.4%) of possible metro users of Railrunner ride it.
And I'm supposed to vote for an additional tax to subsidize those folks.
Rael called for "more balanced" transportation spending. Good idea, dude. More roads.

NAIOP is the professional group of commercial real estate developers.

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