Tag Archive for commuter rail service

Even with perceived future rail passenger benefits, San Antonio area Texas taxpayers will need to write checks

Observations on a story yesterday speaks to the due diligence outcome about the proposed commuter train service near San Antonio TX

http://www.ksat.com/content/pns/ksat/news/2015/06/12/rail-line-from-sa-to-austin-may-be-up-for-discussion-again-soon.html

The Lone Star Rail Project is a proposed passenger line from Georgetown to San Antonio.  Some are questioning if San Antonio is moving fast enough.

“If I was back in political office or I was a local official, this would be my one project,” says one proponent.

A commuter like service, the proposed San Antonio to Austin operations would take an hour and 20 minutes on the express route.

The sponsors say “the main purpose of the rail line along Interstate 35 would be to cut down on traffic on I-35”  ‘It’s a game changer. It’s transformative.’

MY OBSERVATION as rail economist:

Based on experience around the US, that will not happen.  The local expressways will still be jammed with traffic. The service may serve around 20% to 30% of the total driver commuter market — but likely capture less than 12 % of that market share.  That is not enough to clear the road traffic jams.

Proposed trains would run on existing rails from north of Georgetown to the Texas A&M San Antonio campus and back.

The service may provide local community benefits.  Agreed.  But none of these rail commuter lines in the US cities cover all of their direct annual operating expenses.  And none cover their capital expenses.  In the end, to provide community soft economic benefits around Austin, taxpayers at the city or regional or state level (or all three) will have to see their government bodies write an annual subsidy check.  Nothing wrong with that approach.  As long as everyone understands from a due diligence feasibility report that this subsidy will be the most probable economic outcome.

Is the train worth it?  They will need to calculate that based on the total future costs with continuing local expressway traffic jams.