The first thing you will notice is that Councilor Benton engages in a bit of revisionist history that would make Lennon proud, claiming "on Nov. 6, after much debate and public comment, on a 6-3 vote we approved the proposal to fund the streetcar project..." The "much debate and public comment" Councilor Benton is referring to is a series of presentations made by Transportation Director Payne intended to sell the trolley not to solicit public input.
The other thing to remember is that there was a hotly contested national election taking place the day after the council took up the question of the Transportation Infrastructure Tax extension. Railroading a $270 MILLION project through the City Council the day before that particular election was a great strategy for proponents, but hardly provided for large public participation, much less debate. (Talk about politics.)
Benton makes clear that his opinion is that the 19th Century Streetcar is inevitable which makes any "taskforce" created to "study" the issue suspect to say the very least.
"[R]oad building will not by itself take us though the 21st century without other multimodal options. We have an aging and more-transit-dependent population, global warming, air pollution, diminishing fossil fuel supplies and limited river crossings to contend with."The simple fact is a 19th Century Streetcar will not make any discernible difference in any of the talking point justifications listed above. Streetcars operate on electricity. Electricity is generated largely by burning fossil fuels. All we're doing is moving pollution, and energy use.
"Multimodal options" sounds good, but this study is designed to support just ONE mode... rail. Not having a 19th Century Streetcar does not take away options like buses, bikes, cars, or good old fashioned shoe leather. Further, adding a 19th Century Streetcar does not help the majority of those aging in our city, and being able to get to Atrisco Plaza from Nob Hill doesn't count as a river crossing, because there's already a river crossing in place.
We've said it before... Albuquerque is primarily a suburban city, which is why forms of mass transit struggle here. The only areas of town that are even close to being dense enough to make mass transit work as a means of reducing traffic is the Central Nob Hill to Downtown corridor. What possible justification is there to spend $270 MILLION on a 19th Century Streetcar for that single corridor? Transportation money would be better spent on bikeways, trails, roads, and upon improving our bus system.
It's about the efficient use of our tax dollars. It's about efficient mass-transportation. It's about time proponents of the trolley stop pursuing it as the only solution to our transportation problem. With this "Letter to the Editor," Councilor Benton has gone from selling streetcar snake oil to selling a product that is most often transported with a shovel.