A New Tax To Consider: Transit





Just when Fort Lauderdale’s The Wave streetcar got The White House’s support, here comes the New York Times to ruin everything.

In an article last month, The Times warned that the recent boom in new streetcar systems is wavering.

Arlington, Va ditched its streetcar program. The plans were so solid that developers had already started building along the route.

Washington, D.C. is rethinking its proposed trolley. San Antonio, Tx dumped theirs.

Other cities are continuing to develop streetcar systems, including Atlanta, Tucson, Salt Lake City and Fort Lauderdale.

Just last month, the Obama Administration included $50 million in its transportation budget for The Wave.

So with the mixed reviews of streetcars, is Fort Lauderdale wise to continuing pushing The Wave?

City Manager Lee Feldman is convinced The Wave will spark a huge redevelopment of Fort Lauderdale, enabling more people to live and work downtown.

Yet the downtown is redeveloping fine without The Wave.

Then there is the warning from William S. Lind, director of the pro-streetcar American Conservative Center for Public Transportation about streetcar “blunders.”

The blunders “include, he said, building short lines ‘that don’t go anywhere,’ infrequent service and excessive and widely varying costs per mile, from $5.1 million in Kenosha, Wis., to $67.5 million in Washington,” Lind is quoted by The Times.

The Wave has been estimated to cost roughly $53 million-a-mile for the initial 2.7 miles…but those figures are old.  Expect cost overruns. (Those figures don’t include operating costs, which increases as the frequency of the service does.)

Whether The Wave really serves a need or doesn’t go anywhere as Lind warned against is up to you.

But there is no doubt – NO DOUBT – that The Wave and any other fixed rail transit systems will require new taxes that will go on indefinitely. The downtown business community is preparing to ask voters to approve a hike in the sales tax to fund transportation as early as next year.

That is a tax for everybody, not just those in the downtown who might use The Wave.

The development industry is pushing this tax hard. It will allow them to develop higher buildings with more people in them along the route of the system (Watch out South Andrews Avenue!).

Be very skeptical of the Sun-Sentinel on this one. Once they were watchdogs, but they have become lapdogs for the business community and the development industry in particular.

Distrust The Wave’s own consultants and government studies. If the history of transit construction has a constant, it is that predictions of passenger use, costs and operating expenses have been wildly inaccurate across many systems.

Believe your own instincts and do your own research from various sources.

Is transit good for Broward County? Maybe it is necessary.

You will get a chance to decide that question in a referendum.

Embrace fixed rail transit only with the understanding that it is going to cost you. Only one thing is for sure:

If fixed rail transit gets built, Broward’s residents will be paying for it forever and ever and ever.


The planned route of The Wave:

 The Wave


The New York Times story on trolley’s can be found here. 




9 Responses to “A New Tax To Consider: Transit”

  1. WestDavieResident says:

    Who would not be in favor of another mass transit system that costs more to provide than revenues it generates? Thus requiring taxes from all citizens to make up the difference.

    Especially a system with a very short route that most people could probably walk while waiting for the next Wave? Seriously? We are talking less than 10 blocks for the initial phase. Considering the next phase will not likely be built, we will be spending tens of millions to save people a few pairs of shoes from walking all of 10 or less blocks.

    Yes, I know mass transit saves carbon pollution from the cars it replaces. Oh, I forgot, most systems run on electricity that causes more pollution from the electricity plant than from the cars being replaced.

    I would suggest the City of Fort Lauderdale simply runs an old fashioned trolley car like is done in West Palm Beach to gauge how much demand there will even be for this ridiculously short system.

    But Buddy said it best – it is all about the development community which will again profit at the taxpayer trough from building this project.

  2. Kevin says:

    Why is it necessary to build an expensive streetcar system when we now have busses? Streetcars are 19th century technology. A bus does everything a streetcar does but you don’t have pay for the track.


    The reason is that new development depends on fixed rail, which can not be moved. You can’t base new construction on buses, which can be moved to other routes at the whim of the county directors.

  3. Sam the Sham says:

    Let’s see….$53 million per mile at 2.7 miles equals $143 million. I have an idea! Spend $1 million and buy ten very nice trollies and give me the remaining $142 million.

    Problem solved!

  4. Ha Ha Ha says:

    If there’s anything downtown Fort Lauderdale DOESN’T need, it’s MORE development…

    And if there’s anything Broward taxpayers would be FAR better off without, it’s “The Wave” (goodbye to your money)…

  5. WELL SAID says:

    Look, the voters in this County were dumb enough to give the inept school board 800 mill. to piss away, they will surely approve this public transit disaster….so very sad…so very true….

  6. tell the truth says:

    “…we will be spending tens of millions…”
    No. How about hundreds of millions of dollars?
    But you are correct about the trolleys. They have Sun Trolleys in Coral Gables that are buses dressed up to look like trolleys.

    silly fort lauderdale is trying to be Portland OR. Not. It won’t even be Charlotte NC because the decision makers are so clueless and self-serving, which spells failure.
    And a transit tax put to county voters will fail.

  7. Looped says:

    Buddy, your map is not correct, but that is okay, because the CIty Commission didn’t have accurate information when they voted on this item.
    At the Oct. 21, 2014 Fort Lauderdale City Commission meeting, an extension to the WAVE was proposed and approved. Tomorrow the debt will be approved. Public discussion on this City funded extension was limited to about 90 days. The WAVE Loop will extend the WAVE two blocks west on Sistrunk and along Andrews from SIstrunk to 4th Street. The LOOP will allow the streetcar to go in circles in Flagler VIllage. Users will have to walk 1-1/2 blocks to the line, instead of the three blocks as originally planned. At the public hearing, then CRA Director Al Battle advised the CIty Commission that this year’s $3+mm CRA Operating Budget was an anomaly. He indicated that CRA operating costs would revert to their prior historical range $1.5-$2mm per year thus freeing up an additional $1m per year that could cover the debt service. The Commssion voted to encumber $7.5m with payments of approx. $900K per year for 11 years to pay for the WAVE Loop. The following day, Mr. Battle told the CRA Advisory Board that he had provided incorrect information to the CIty Commission. He now states that he expects future operating budgets to remain in the $2.5-$3mm range thus leaving about $1mm per year less in available funds for other capital projects. Surprising lapse, as all this information is part of the Five Year Plan prepared by the Director.

    The maps provided in Commission backup reflected a shorter extension than the maps the DDA is using to publicize the LOOP. The CRA board is still not sure which route has been approved. The route represented by the DDA is about three blocks longer.

    Rest assured, the WAVE has no plan to cross the tracks. City Staff reports “no amount of money in the world” will allow for a rubber tire trolley to service the Sistrunk/Midtown business district. That route is already receiving adequate service via Broward County Bus.

    According to CIty Staff, a trolley or streetcar in Flagler VIllage is called “an amenity”. On Sistrunk Blvd. it is called “a duplication of service” and will not be allowed- ever.


    That map was taken from The Wave’s own website on the day I wrote the piece. If it is inaccurate, it doesn’t give me great confidence in the ability of those folks to operate a transit system and spend money wisely.

  8. No Train says:

    Nobody is talking about losing at least a lane of traffic along Andrews Avenue. It is already jammed packed so how can a lane be dedicated for The Wave. Our “wise” city fathers forget that a great deal of the traffic downtown is trucks, which can not be transferred to The Wave.

  9. Barack Obama says:

    This streetcar doesn’t go anywhere. It goes to the courthouse and the part of Las Olas that no one goes to. The part of sistrunk that it’s trying to service is already being built up, no need to invest millions there. For what? No one is using a streetcar to get to work. No one. It’s too unreliable, will service too few people.