News $14 Billion Milkshake
posted by May 25 at 11:05 AMon
As Bradley noted in morning news, this fall, we’ll be voting on a light rail extension.
As I’ve been noting for months (and most recently in this week’s paper) the $10.2 billion light rail extension comes with a $6.7 billion roads package. (Want a shake with that salad?)
As I’ve pointed out before, expanding roads sabotages the whole point of expanding light rail.
Those 160,000 extra riders by 2030 that the Sound Transit expansion promises— will likely be cancelled out by the “carbon footprint” of all the future single occupancy vehicles we’d be investing in at the same time. I asked ST if their estimates for the ridership of this $10.2 billion project took into account its $6.7 billion evil twin. That is: When they were modeling commuters’ future habits, did they account for the new roads we’d be voting for in the same package? They did not.
This leaves me cold. I don’t want to be told about the benefits of voting for the light rail expansion without being told about the net results of the whole package I’m being asked to vote for.
But let me address something else. I’ve been using $10.2 billion and $6.7 billion to describe the two components of this light rail/roads package. That is in 2006 dollars.
There’s this other thing that’s come into vogue ever since the $3 billion monorail package got slaughtered for “really” costing $11 billion. The $3 billion was in 2005 dollars. The $11 billion was derived from adjusting payments on the $3 billion cost over time. This is called Year of Expenditure dollars, YOE dollars.
It goes like this: If I borrow $1,000 from Dan Savage today, and tell him I’ll pay him back over 10 years time, $100 a year, my $100 payment in 2015 is probably worth $85 in 2015 dollars, depending on the rate of inflation. So, for my 2015 payment, Dan would need, say, $115 for it to be equivalent to 2007 dollars. If you add all those numbers up over the ten years, the payment nominally looks larger than $1,000. Maybe it says $1250. And if Dan charged me interest at the outset, you’d have to factor that in as well. It’s called debt financing.
If you go that route: The $10.9 billion light rail expansion and the $6.7 billion roads expansion package comes out to $23 billion and $14 billion respectively when you give it the monorail treatment and transfer it into YOE dollars
Despite my bitterness about the $11 billion number that was thrown around to kill the monorail, I’m happy to shell out $10.2 billion or even $23 billion to get some mass transit in Seattle.
However, I am not able to stomach $6.7 billion or $14 billion on roads—roads— when I was told by everyone in town that $3 billion or $11 billion was too much for mass transit.