Debunking Cato (again)

In an October 16 commentary titled Lightrail in Portland Is Successful, Notwithstanding CATO Criticism & FTA Lack of Support, Free Congress Foundation Chairman & CEO Paul M. Weyrich offers another perspective on Randal O'Toole's recent CATO Institute attack on land use and transportation policies in the Portland area. (See Debunking Cato for more background.) Weyrich stresses that light rail, unlike the bus systems favored by O'Toole and others, moves more passengers and offers much greater potential for private transit oriented development.

Let us be clear. No one in Portland officialdom seeks to force people from their automobiles. Rather the idea in Portland is to offer commuters a choice. It is amusing to me that Mr. O’Toole is a strong proponent of school choice. Yet most libertarians would leave the resident with only his automobile.

The great thing about Portland is that residents are offered a choice. Many use their public transportation system. Whereas some large cities are losing population, Portland actually has witnessed people moving into the city. Some walk to work or on good days bicycle. An increasing number take the Portland Streetcar...

Mr. O’Toole and other critics of Portland always suggest that the transit system can be run more cheaply with buses. Putting aside the fact that Americans greatly prefer trains to buses, the streetcar has done something which I guarantee no bus system would do. The streetcar, with its permanence of routing, has attracted almost $3 billion in new and rehabbed development. It has turned what was acknowledged as a shabby, rundown and declining area into a vibrant remarkable area where people are returning to live. Such development is able to be taxed, thus paying for the operation of the streetcar...

According to PORTLAND OREGONIAN reporter Dylan Riverta, a clash in Washington, D.C. is occurring between cities such as Portland with their transit programs and the FTA position articulated by Mr. O’Toole. Which will prevail? In the long run, I believe it will be cities such as Portland. The facts are clear and compelling as long as the premises to an evaluation factually are accurate and proportional.


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