First off, I'm not against mass transit. I'm not even against a commuter train. However, my number one basis of support is that it must pay for itself, else it becomes the Detroit People Mover all over again.
The Argus and Dan Meisler does a good job giving budget figures here.
The state has guaranteed another $1.4 million for a proposed Howell-to-Ann-Arbor commuter train line that supporters say is necessary to combat congestion on U.S. 23.
The new grant from the Michigan Department of Trans-portation was announced Monday at a meeting where supporters were talking about receiving a $150,000 contribution from the Livingston County Board of Commissioners.
Washtenaw County has already committed $150,000, but Living-ston officials raised concerns about the viability of the service and its funding.
Commissioner David Domas asked whether expecting people to shift from cars to trains is realistic.
“Isn’t that a major change in thinking?” he said.
“That’s why we surveyed everybody,” replied Mike Cicchella, supervisor of Washtenaw County’s Northfield Township, one of the plan’s big boosters.
The estimated budget seems way too low to me.
The tentative budget presented to the county board predicted a capital outlay of $2.9 million and an operating budget of $4.9 million in the first year.
The budget also predicts that the rail service will prevent the need for city of Ann Arbor to build 800 parking spaces, at a cost savings of $35,000 for each spot. Commissioner Jack LaBelle asked Cicchella if those figures were correct, and on hearing they were, calculated that the city would save more than $28 million.
4.9 million will cover what? You have salaries, security, normal wear and tear, energy costs, and runs. 2.9 for startup? Between the trains, parking lot construction, training, etc? I'm skeptical. Even using that number, will you get a profit on that. 15,000 people (estimated number of commuters from Livingston to Ann Arbor at $225 a month (rumored price) will get you 3.37 Million a month - that's if EVERY commuter in the county uses it and pays that amount. I'm guessing most of the commuters to Ann Arbor are in Brighton, Hartland, and Hamburg. Hamburg has 20,000 people. I'll guess that 4000 of them commute to Ann Arbor, with 1000 in Howell (city has 10000 people) commuting. That'll give 5000 of the areas covered from the train. 5000 * 225 - 1.125 million a month - if all commute on the train. Anyone familiar with Hamburg knows how spread out it is. Part of it is "Brighton", most of it is "Pinckney", part of it is "Lakeland", and part of it is "Whitmore Lake". I'll be shocked if most of the commuters are going to drive a few miles to wait for the train. This area is spread out. Howell is denser, but has much less population - and it too is spread out a bit in its eastern and northern most areas near 59 - and forget about getting much help from Genoa (even with the Chilson stop - that area is flat out country), Marion, Howell Twp, and Oceola.
In order to cover the estimated operation costs from regular commuters - you need 408,334 a month - 1814 commuters a day (including weekends, so weekend warriors are very important). That leaves 2.9 million in debt from startup costs which can be paid for over a few years with good profit.
Can you get 15-20% of county's Ann Arbor commuters to use the train EVERY DAY - despite cutting out Brighton and Hartland from the route? If you can, then I'll cook up some fried crow.
Unless this pays for itself, I'm considering it the lite version of the Bridge to Nowhere - Jurassic Pork. I'm not against Mass Transit, and if convienent for me I'll consider using it. I am however against reckless spending of government's tax money on longshot proposals.