Wendell, You're Stuck in the 20th Century

(Based on an unpublished rebuttal to an op-ed article in the Orange County Register written by anti-rail activist Wendell Cox.)

Wendell Cox believes that his having been a member of the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission qualifies him as an expert. He may have been right 15 years ago, when he was on the LACTC, but he is hopelessly out of touch with today's realities.

Cox says (practically screams, actually) that the Metro Blue Line cost more to build than originally estimated, but he was one of the commissioners who approved the original budget for it, which would theoretically make him partially responsible for the estimate being wrong. And, given that the Metro Blue Line turned out to be the most successful light rail line in the U.S., does anyone besides him care anymore how much it cost?

He also takes every opportunity to point out that the Metro Red Line has lower ridership than what was originally estimated, but again, he was a commissioner when those estimates were made, and he knows perfectly well that those estimates included the never-built extension down Wilshire Blvd.

In any event, why he is using them as comparisons to the California High Speed Rail project is beyond me. The Blue and Red Lines are rapid transit, while the High Speed Rail is intercity operation (like Amtrak). I also get a sad laugh out of his frequent comparison of rail to Boston's underground freeway project; I have absolutely no idea how those are supposed to relate to each other, but then the only thing I understand about Wendell Cox is that he will grasp at any straw of an argument if it allows him to condemn rail construction.

The comparison of decade-old apples against a modern-day orange is so silly, words cannot completely convey my reaction. High Speed Rail has the potential to improve the travel experiences of Californians. Compared to airline flight, it may not have been needed in 1990, but it certainly is needed today.

Update: The Register still hasn't learned its lesson about Cox, as evidenced by this 2008 op-ed article opposing Proposition 1A.

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