Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Davidson supports massive rail transit tax increase...

Brian Jenest and John Woods
Davidson Commissioners held an hour long meeting with CATS CEO John Lewis on Tuesday afternoon to hear the sales pitch for a new rail transit study of the North Corridor.

For nearly two decades the North Corridor has been envisioned as commuter rail on the existing Norfolk Southern rail line that runs through the LKN towns.  However, Lewis explained that last year the railroad made clear in no uncertain terms that it would not be entertaining any more shared projects with passenger rail on its lines.

The above screen shot was taken at the exact moment Lewis was explaining this failure to reach an agreement with the railroad for the so called Red Line. Commissioner Brian Jenest and in particular Mayor John Woods have taken the lead in promoting the Red Line over the years.  Their position has always been something like "Oh, the railroad will eventually come around."  Clearly, that has turned out not to be the case and the above picture says it all.

So, what does Davidson's board decide to do when CATS has its hand out for more rail transit study money?  They did what they always do.  Ask softball questions before going along.

Commissioner Beth Cashion took the lead in asking Lewis a series of leading questions.  Really, her questions were more like requests for the CATS talking points on how to respond to citizens who oppose throwing good money after bad when it comes to pursuing rail transit.  Commissioner Fuller raised what seemed like might be opposition to the study by pointing out it was dependent on $6 billion in funding falling out of the sky.  Unfortunately, he failed to call Mr Lewis on the obvious flaw in his answer.

After spending a good bit of time explaining why CATS needed to re-study rail transit in the North Corridor, Lewis explained the financing in response to Commissioner Fuller's question.  In the past, rail transit projects were funded with the following formula - 50% Federal, 25% State, and 25% Local.  However, the State has since put a 10% cap on its spending towards these projects.  Lewis described this reduction in State money as a "15% gap" - minimizing the financial hole as much as possible.

The truth is that it is more like a 40% gap.

That's because the local 25% portion can not be funded out of the existing 1/2 cent transit tax here in Mecklenburg County.  There is no capacity in the existing tax to fund more rail lines.  That's the giant elephant in the room, and every single person sitting at the dias in Davidson on Tuesday knows it.

Instead of calling Mr Lewis on that misinformation, they let it slide.

The end result of the Davidson Board supporting CATS in its continuing endeavor to build more rail lines is the acceptance of higher taxes and/or gutting Davidson's tax base to support it.

That's what Davidson's Board really did by continuing to support CATS.


  1. I think the 50% Federal portion has generally been unlikely to materialize, given the low ridership projections. That is why TIFs and other unlikely-to-work funding schemes come up every so often. The Red Line has always seemed like a way to continue stringing along the northern towns while Charlotte collects and spends the half cent tax revenue, even more so now that Norfolk Southern is not on board.

    1. Exactly. The illusion (delusion?) that we will eventually get something for the millions North Meck pays in transit taxes is busted. I wonder if Private Citizen Woods regrets is support for giving away the rights to our only transit corridor? Naah!

  2. Pull up a map of Northern Mecklenburg County and look at where all current development and necessary roads are located, and try to imagine cutting a 25 mile slice through the region that connects Davidson to Charlotte without using the Norfolk Southern rail line. Any child in grade school would quickly determine that to place a rail anywhere else will not only make it inconvenient for the vast majority of existing commercial and high density development, but also add many many hundreds of millions in costs for acquiring real estate, demolition or moving of existing structures, rezoning of giant swaths of land, and creating incredible turmoil in land values and displacement of families..most of which would be conditional on using eminent domain to forcefully take properties.

    So....what is it the Davidson elected officials expect to gain from a multi-million study that wasn't just explained?

  3. Nils, not a good idea to outline their plan like that

  4. North Meck is like Charlie Brown trying to kick the football held by Lucy.....Predictably she always pulls away the football at the last second. Mayor Woods was so sure that N&S Railroad was going to let the Red Line use their rail that he turned his back on the majority of citizens and supported the corrupt toll lane project. The result: We get no additional general purpose lanes, no Red Line, but we do get 50 years of toll lanes that will reduce travel times for only the wealthy. And now Charlotte wants more money from North Meck; and even crazier, Mayor Woods and his Commissioners want to give it to them. Really??\ I have never seen a train on the tracks from Huntersville to Mooresville. Don't the city, county and state have any leverage to use in negotiations with N&S RR? The railroad must need cooperation to build and operate the inter-modal facility at the airport and they must use state-owned rail lines somewhere. We have trusted Charlotte and MUMPO/CRTPO previously and we see the results.
    Bain Black