Issue point #1:
I don't understand where the $330 million is coming from. You can issue bonds, but how will we pay for the bonds? You can't keep borrowing money forever. We've all seen statistics on how transportation projects never "pay for themselves" - fares tend to be somewhere around a quarter of operating costs (if I remember rightly from the attack propaganda that was leveled at our beloved streetcar proposal, R.I.P.). As it goes for streetcars, so it goes even moreso for light rail. Is there an expectation that property values will be increased by proximity to the light rail, hence driving up property tax revenue? Judging by the reactions in Mistletoe Heights, there is a good proportion of people who don't want to live next to commuter rail. Sales Tax? We all know where that conversation goes. What's left? Federal money? anybody read the tea leaves on Capitol Hill lately?
Issue point #2:
This is not quite the chinning bar I had in mind. I wanted to compare its usefulness to the equivalent amount (in capital costs and operating costs) being spent on a combination of streetcars and busses to provide a decent level of public transportation to the central city - to the point where most residents within 10 miles of the county courthouse could make a legitimate choice not to own a car.
To address your comparison, though: TRE is a heavy-rail train, running on an existing right of way. The proposed TEX would be a light-rail design, with mostly new tracks, new-design cars, and new-design engines. TRE services several large employment centers from downtown - including Bell, American Airlines, and Centreport. It also connects to AA center, so I could go to a basketball game and back on the train if I watched basketball. I've gone to a couple of hockey games on the TRE. My wife and I used it to get over to Dallas to go to a movie one Saturday a few months back. TEX will do none of these things. There are no major employment centers along the route save the Medical District. There are no major entertainment or cultural destinations along the SW2NE corridor. I just don't see what it is good for. It seems to be the pet project of one of our most talented, energetic, and influential city council members.
FWTA revenues as last posted on the internet. http://www.the-t.com...finalweb v4.pdf
Total Revenues = $88,516,000 (including the following)
Operating Revenues (Fares) = $6,459,000
Sales Tax = $45,552,000
Grants = $26,388,000
Grapevine Contributions = $7,200,000
Total Operating Expenses = $60,026,000 (including the following)
Revenue Vehicle Operations (Buses) = $14,121,000
TRE Operations = $9,032,000
Vehicle Maintenance = $8,629,000
MITS Vehicle Operations = $6,015,000
Facilities Maintenance = $2,973,000
Administration = $2,244,000
All other entries less than $2 Million eachNet Available for Capital Expenditures and Reserves
FY2011 (Budgeted) = $28,365,000
FY2010 (Budgeted) = $29,646,000
FY2009 (Actual) = $38,452,000
In just the last 3 FYs, FWTA has amassed $96,463,000 in cash. Presently, FWTA has issued no bonds. At that rate, FWTA could raise a total of $300 million in less than 10 years. I'm almost positive they would have no problems finding investors willing to buy $300 Million in bonds with a record like that. And if the TexRail operating expenses were twice their TRE operating expenses, not sharing 50% of the operating expenses on the TRE with DART, FWTA would still have over $10 Million per year available for bond payments.
Yes, FWTA can afford to build and operate TexRail if it received a 50% FTA "New Starts" match.
DCTA train operations are regulated by the FRA, just like the TRE. DART's light rail train operations are regulated by the FTA. The TexRail trains will be regulated by the FRA because it will share tracks with freight operations. Therefore, without knowing which trains the FWTA will eventually buy, it will be more akin to Heavy rail than Light rail. The FRA will most certainly demand that.
As for which transit lines would be better for FWTA to build and operate, I suggest looking at what FWTA can afford to do with around $30 Million per year. Dallas will be spending a total of $60 Million over 20 years to build and operate two streetcars on a line less than 2 miles in length. Keeping it simple, that's around $3 Million per year per streetcar per mile in Dallas. Therefore, FWTA could afford to build and operate 10 streetcars over 10 miles track with $30 Million per year, and that is with averaging the costs over 20 years. FWTA would have spent a total of $600 Million over those 20 years. That's 10 miles of single track, or 5 miles of double track.
Which would you rather have, 5 miles of double track streetcars for $600 Million, or more than 20 miles of commuter rail for $300 Million of FWTA money and $300 Million of Federal money? I'll admit, if FWTA could convince the FTA to fund streetcars with "New Starts" funding at 50% participation, it could be 5 miles of double track streetcars for $300 Million local funding and $300 Million Federal funding. But the FTA hasn't been quick to fund streetcars with "New Starts" funds, even Dallas streetcar received just "Stimulus" funding.