NewspaperTree.com Blog

El Paso-centric info and commentary from the Center of North America

NPT: Talking about mass transit and roads

A back and forth between Mike Rooney and Sito Negron, posted with Rooney’s permission.

—– Original Message —–
From: Mike Rooney
To: Sito Negron
Sent: Wednesday, February 25, 2009 8:27 PM
Subject: REF: Our radio discussion — transit discussion

Hi Sito.

[P] Here’s the ECONOMIC QUESTION — I was unable TO ASK you
because
of the lack of radio time. If that downtown border to UTEP SMART ROUTE
101
— only cost around $5-Million to implement — WHY is it necessary to
expend
$100-Million to then go to BRT — Bus Rapid Transit with its dedicated and
specially constructed roadway lanes???

[P] If some of these people are really interested in getting
people
out of cars — and make El Paso “the least car dependent city in the
SouthWest — WHY are they trying to drive the transit discussion —
towards
the MOST EXPENSIVE transit options available???

[P] Unfortunately, my uncomfortable feeling is — they are really
trying TO PUSH us towards Light Rail — by eventually converting those
dedicated BRT routes. That Light Rail cost is estimated at $2.5-Billion.
The un-engineered, estimated price for the FOUR BRT routes is $370-Million
— and broken out as — $100-Million for the Mesa BRT route — $90-Million
for the Montana BRT route — $90-Million for the Alameda BRT route — and
$90-Million for the NorthEast El Paso BRT route].

[P] So doesn’t the TAXPAYING PUBLIC — have A RIGHT to have A
VOICE
— in such HIGH PRICED transit projects??? The answer is YES!

[P] Separately, you still need to have roads — so that
requirement
is not going away. So the QUESTION becomes — how do you integrate and
tie
in the transit portion of the equation??? No one has answered that
question.

[P] For each gallon of gas — I pay 38-and-one-half cents — or
18-and-one-half cents for the FEDS — and 20 cents to Texas. The state
pulls out 5-cents for education. So why should I SUBSIDIZE the bus
users???
Trouble is BUS RATES are price sensitive in El Paso — as you always see
at
City hall — when bus users storm the meetings. Will bus riders cover the
transit bill — likely NO.

[P] What about the people who like to ride BIKES??? Why aren’t
they
paying some of the fare — for their special bikes lanes???

[P] I’m not against transit — but it’s time for the DREAMERS to
GET
REAL — and tell the PUBLIC what their VISION WILL COST — and HOW AND WHO
IS TO PAY FOR IT!

[P] Unfortunately, right now — it’s like a group of college
friends
getting together on a school Friday night — over a few pitchers of beer
and
a pizza — and letting their creative minds run wild.

[P] Hope these ideas help clarify — where I was trying to go in
today’s radio conversation. You are also FREE TO PUBLISH this e-mail.
—————– Sincerely, Mike Rooney.

———————————————

On 2/26/09, Mike Rooney wrote:

Good morning Sito.

[P] Had to rush to get the BELOW e-mail off to you last night —
because we had the video “Flash of Genius” to watch which needs to be
returned today — and I wanted to catch the last of Monday’s Commissioners
Court meeting concerning the “definition of blight” item. Unfortunately,
had to give up at 12:30 and get to bed. So here are a few more thoughts
to
that BELOW e-mail.

[P] Each time we fill up the car’s gas tank — we pay approximately
around $5.39 in gas taxes to both the FEDS and State. That’s 38.5-cents
per
gallon times 14-gallons. Because of the national demand for
transportation
money — there are efforts to increase that gas tax amount per gallon.
Some
reasons given are — more fuel efficient vehicles — the sheer national
demand for roadways — and outdated inflation factors. Sometime back
thought I saw an interesting article — where Paul Foster of Western
Refining said the gas tax needed to be increased. Could not find that
news
article.

[P] We drive a 4-cylinder Toyota Camry which gets around 26-MPH in
the
city — and the last gas fill-up was at $1.899 per gallon for 14.082
gallons
— at $26.74. So the above $5.39 divided by $26.74 — equals a 20-percent
contribution to our roads. Since it seems VEHICLE USERS are paying
something into the upkeep of the roads — shouldn’t SOME EFFORT BE MADE —
to SEE WHAT the Bus and Light Rail Transit proponents are contributing —
and ALSO those local BIKE USERS who are demanding their own lanes???

[P] There was $25-Million — that was put into that $1-Billion
Comprehensive Mobility Plan. If that downtown border to UTEP SMART ROUTE
101 — could be implemented for around $5-Million — WHY DON’T WE PUT that
above referenced $25-Million TO AN ECONOMIC TEST — and see if we get a
BIGGER, plus QUICKER BANG and return FOR OUR BUCK — if we expand that
SMART
MODE of bus transit — VERSUS waiting to acquire the other needed
$75-Million to complete that Mesa BRT Route — and waiting longer to build
the companion Montana, Alameda and NorthEast El Paso BRT Routes — and
then
waiting longer to get Light Rail???

[P] As I stated BELOW:

———- “If some of these people are really interested in getting
people
out of cars — and make El Paso “the least car dependent city in the
SouthWest — WHY are they trying to drive the transit discussion —
towards
the MOST EXPENSIVE transit options available???”

———- “Unfortunately, my uncomfortable feeling is — they are really
trying TO PUSH us towards Light Rail — by eventually converting those
dedicated BRT routes. That Light Rail cost is estimated at $2.5-Billion.
The un-engineered, estimated price for the FOUR BRT routes is $370-Million
— and broken out as — $100-Million for the Mesa BRT route — $90-Million
for the Montana BRT route — $90-Million for the Alameda BRT route — and
$90-Million for the NorthEast El Paso BRT route].”

———- “So doesn’t the TAXPAYING PUBLIC — have A RIGHT to have A
VOICE
— in such HIGH PRICED transit projects??? The answer is YES!”

[P] It would be great if you would like to start that COMMUNITY
DISCUSSION on NewPaperTree — and you are more than free to publish my two
e-mails to you.
——————— Sincerely, Mike Rooney

———————————————

From: “sito negron”
To: “Mike Rooney”
Sent: Thursday, February 26, 2009 10:57 AM
Subject: Re: My earlier — “Beer, Pizza, Dreamers, Get Real” e-mail — on
TRANSIT

Mike, thanks for your courteous and thought-provoking call to the show
yesterday (plug for those added to this conversation — 920 AM, noon-1
…. 🙂 . A few thoughts:

— I suppose the picture you paint of college students dreaming over
beer and pizza is as fair the alternate picture of a few elected
officials, land-owners and/or developers, and contractors and
engineers deciding on behalf of the entire community what our
transportation priorities are. Unfortunately, in both pictures, the
public at large isn’t well represented, partly because of logistical
issues (only so much room at the table) and partly because of
practical issues (making a living) and partly because of disinterest.
You are a happy exception.

— As you start to note with your reference to the gas tax, no matter
how you slice it, transportation is subsidized. Whether it’s streets,
roads and highways, or whether it’s public transit, or even railroads
for that matter (don’t know the ins and outs of it, but I’m going to
guess railroads don’t pay a whole lot of taxes on their land and
tracks, for example — someone please correct me if that’s wrong). So,
as long as we’re all clear that we’re subsidizing our mobility ability
one way or the other …

— Just as a general, contextual note, almost every one of our peer
cities in the Southwest is working up some form of enhanced public
transit, and most have some (albeit minimal) rail. From Houston to
Denver, from Phoenix to Dallas, even Albuquerque is or is in the
process of being linked through the Roadrunner (as controversial as it
has been).

— There is a cost and a benefit to physical expansion. We as a
community have been arguing for about a decade whether expansion
outward pays for itself. It’s far from clear on either side.

— Given the regional and local context, I think you attempt to put an
unfortunate frame around the discussion by focusing only on the cost,
the cost, the cost. That is a major element to the conversation,
perhaps THE major element, but is by no means the only one, and if you
are going to fixate on that element, we ought to apply that to the
other option, which right now is building more roads. We’ve
essentially dedicated a generation’s worth of funding (the $1 billion
plan) to that option, and I don’t recall you seeking a referendum on
that as you seek on mass transit options.

— I agree that up front, all elements of the issues involved must be
open for public discussion. That’s why Crowder was the reporter who
dug into the ridership projections for the Oregon Street BRT proposal,
and merchants’ concerns about eliminating parking.

Thanks for the discussion!

———————————————

On 3/1/09, Mike Rooney wrote:

Hi Sito.

[P] THANKS for your BELOW most kind, thoughtful reply. As part of a
possible OPEN COMMUNITY DISCUSSION of this TRANSIT ISSUE — I will
concentrate on the following PARAGRAPH — from your interesting e-mail.
Hope you won’t mind as I’ve take the liberty to separate it a bit.
Specifically:

———- “Given the regional and local context, I think you attempt to
put an unfortunate frame around the discussion by focusing only on the cost,
the cost, the cost.”

———- “That is a major element to the conversation, perhaps THE major
element, but is by no means the only one, and if you are going to fixate on
that element, we ought to apply that to the other option, which right now
is building more roads.”

———- “We’ve essentially dedicated a generation’s worth of funding
(the $1 billion plan) to that option, and I don’t recall you seeking a
referendum on that as you seek on mass transit options.”

[P] Transit proponents had ADEQUATE TIME to get involved in this
debate — prior to COLLECTIVE APPROVAL of the $1-Billion Comprehensive
Mobility Plan. The initial DEBATE which took place over a long period of
time — that allowed decision makers to arrive at that $1-Billion Plan —
started as far back as public hearings in 2004, maybe even before. That
initial discussion involved tolls — and deciding if this Community would
SEEK TO PARTICIPATE in the State’s Mobility Fund. There were five public
hearings — and I attended the one on September 7, 2004 at Montwood High
School.

[P] Those meetings resulted in an MPO MEETING — which was held in the
YISD Board Room — and that date, I believe, was September 24, 2004. That
meeting was WELL ATTENDED — in fact wall-to-wall people — and I had to
stand against the wall at the front of the room. The community response to
tolls — was “NOT ONLY NO, BUT HELL NO.” The only REASONABLE COMPROMISE —
in order to at least PUT A CLAIM on approximately $82-Million in potential
Mobility Fund monies — was submission of the NORTHEAST PARKWAY Project.
That was acceptable because everyone could see — that any new construction
from Railroad Drive and Loop 375 in the NorthEast thru Anthony Gap to I-10
— would be all new roadway. Because of at least submitting A CLAIM on
those State Mobility Funds — that initial $82-Million GREW to approximately
$132-Million — when El Paso finally approved its $1-Billion Plan. If I’ve
understood the facts correctly — that is $132-Million El Paso now has —
but wouldn’t have had — if it had not submitted a project in late 2004.

[P] Right now I can’t find that El Paso TIMES article — dated the
following day of that big MPO meeting — but here is one that can get you
started — should you be interested in the history and progression of this
debate. One article I found — was El Paso TIMES, September 24, 2004, page
1-B, by David Crowder — entitled “Toll road vote today.”

[P] SOME PEOPLE that can fill you in on this long, winding journey are
— Chuck Berry, Eduardo Calvo and Marty Boyd of TxDOT — and Roy Gilyard of
the MPO. Mr. Gilyard was a guest on your old talk radio program on the
other station.

[P] I reasonably believe that if you check the PUBLIC RECORDS — of
meetings for the MPO and the Mayor’s Transportation Cabinet — you will see
some of people who voted for this current $1-Billion Plan — are also
pushing for transit which has equally BIG DOLLAR COSTS. So for me the
debate reference that $1-Billion Plan HAS BEEN SETTLED — and plenty of
people had a chance to participate. In addition, I REASONABLY QUESTION —
if the MPO has been appraised of the full costs of these TRANSIT VISIONS.
That I believe is to finally take place at the March MPO meeting. So again,
where is the Community going to get all these transit big bucks???

[P] I guess if you wanted to get some big bucks — you might consider
substituting that downtown portion of the Border Highway that will jump
across down town??? Some of the folks now pushing transit — want to use
the downtown rail lines for a light rail commuter line into Juarez. If you
combined that downtown light rail project — and decided not to do that
$100-Million MESA BRT — possibly those light rail lines could be extended
up Mesa??? That presents another dilemma — do you complete that Downtown
to UTEP SMART ROUTE 101 — or just RE-DIRECT that initially proposed SMART
ROUTE 101 — TOWARDS the Thomason/Texas Tech/Medical Center of the Americas
area???

[P] But would it really BE PRUDENT — to now change that currently
approved highway extension project — that jumps across downtown at the
Border Highway??? From what I’ve seen — that project will open up the
downtown area to greater economic developments opportunities — plus it
allowing greater mobility and access to Thomason Hospital and the Medical
Center of the Americas, plus to UTEP. It also flows traffic out of Mexico
— gives inter-connectivity advantages — and provides a valuable public
safety value by opening that dangerous bottleneck on I-10 just West of the
downtown area.

[P] In addition, IF YOU SUBSTITUTE at this last date — do you
PENALIZE EVERYONE ELSE in our the City and County — who participated “in
good faith,” plus compromised — to move that $1-Billion Comprehensive
Mobility Plan forward???

[P] If you go back to that September 2004 MPO decision — the
Northeast Parkway was the SELECTED PRIORITY. I reasonably think, if you
check with supporters of that project — you will find they have made major
compromises to assist in moving the $1-Billion Comprehensive Mobility Plan
forward.

[P] BOTTOM LINE — TRANSIT will cost BIG BUCKS — and this Community
MERITS knowing the FULL VISION and the TOTAL COSTS! In addition, I was
told, along with others at an MPO meeting — that it will go before voters.

[P] If you are truly interested in assisting our Community in this
transit debate — I hope the above comments may be helpful.
———————- Sincerely, Mike Rooney.

———————————————

From: “Sito Negron”
To: “Mike Rooney”
Sent: Monday, March 02, 2009 11:22 AM
Subject: Re: Follow-up comments — On “Beer, Pizza, Dreamers, Get Real” e-mail — on TRANSIT

Here’s my take on it, which I tried to explain when we talked on air
(remember, 920 AM from 12-1 🙂

— I’m sure the elements of the $1 Billion Plan were vetted in public
discussion following appropriate protocol. I never said or thought
otherwise. Some meetings probably well-attended, others probably not.

— The PACKAGE is what I am referring to when I say that it was
presented a week or two before Council was to vote on it. As a
package, the impact, and the implications, become a different thing.

— The debate as to whether or not the $1 Billion Plan is moving ahead
certainly is settled. The debate over the implications, well, we’ll
know in a generation. May well be a great thing. Or, may simply be
more roads that get filled with traffic and we’re back to square one,
behind all our other peer cities in terms of mobility OPTIONS. I hope
we’re here to continue the debate.

— Your comments are always helpful!

Advertisements

Written by newspapertreeelpaso

March 8, 2009 at 1:41 am

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Unfortunately, Mike Rooney is like most people in this country, and would rather we build more roads than look to alternate forms of transportation. That’s the bottom line. He can try to disguise this philosophy around his concerns for cost and such, but the more roads we build, the more sprawl we have, the more congestion we create to the future, and the less we learn to sacrifice a little and use mass transit, our feet or our bikes.

    We need to think about new types of transportation for the masses instead of continuing to cater to people who want to rely on cars, cars, cars.

    Edie

    March 8, 2009 at 12:37 pm


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: